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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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4 April 2008


Hamas claims responsibility after Gaza gunmen shoot aide to Israeli minister
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 4/5/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Hamas said its gunmen wounded an aide to Israeli Interior Security Minister Avi Dichter on Friday when they opened fire from the Gaza Strip on an Israeli kibbutz that the minister was visiting. Mati Gil was shot and lightly wounded at the Nir-Am kibbutz and taken to hospital, Israeli rescue service official Magen David Adom said. There were conflicting reports about where the was hit: Some reports said the hip, while others indicated the abdomen and pelvis. Initial reports said a bullet struck him in the buttocks. A Hamas official said the Islamist movement carried out the attack together with a hitherto unknown group. "Our fighters targeted the Israeli Minister Avi Dichter in a joint operation with the Protectors of Al-Aqsa," said Abu Obeidah, spokesman of Hamas’ military wing. "We severely injured his assistant.

13 prisoners escape PA prison again
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Group of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades operatives wanted by Israel flees Nablus jail using grenades to blow up gates. PA officer says escape could undermine amnesty deal with Israel - Thirteen prisoners, all member of Fatah’s military wing al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, escaped a Palestinian Authority prison in Nablus Friday night. All the men are wanted by Israel for involvement in terrorist activity. The group included senior Brigades commander Mahdi Abu Razala. One of the operatives who escaped told Ynet that they decided to flee the jail after Palestinian authorities failed to address their problems. The same group fled the prison a month ago, but agreed to turn itself in two days later. A Palestinian officer said that the prisoners blew up the prison gates using hand grenades, and also hurled grenades at PA security forces.

Palestinian Security Services arrest 10 Hamas supporters in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Hamas said that Palestinian security services arrested ten supporters of the movement in the West Bank on Thursday evening. They told Ma’an that in Bethlehem, Ahmed Sami and Mahmoud Dweib and Yasser Ali, Hussein Abu Rmis and Sami Abu Rmis and Muhamad Zaghl and Ken’an Abu Ideh and Sakher Dweib and Ziyad ’Ibedat were arrested by the security services. In the province of Tulkarem, security agencies arrested Ehab Musa Ka’adan from Deir Al-Ghusun for the third time. [end]

Orphans Day: Tulkarem thriving, Hebron facing closures by Israeli forces
Palestine News Network 4/4/2008
Tulkarem / PNN -- Friday marks "Orphan Day" in Tulkarem, which runs one of the oldest and most important institutions. The Orphans Society House was established in 1961, but shut down for a time in 1967 under the pretext of "helping the children of martyrs. " The children receive food, clothes, housing, social and educational studies, and love and care. A group of women began this project and it is thriving. In the southern West Bank’s Hebron Israeli forces continue to threaten to close several orphanages, with one given a notice until 1 May. Students and children who live in the cities orphanages are protesting via nonviolent sit-ins on a daily basis. Public offices are calling for international help against the Israeli interference in this Palestinian city. President of the Orphans Society House in the northern West Bank’s Tulkarem, Abu Bakr Attaf, says, "We have been more than 45 years strengthening the spirit of homeless children.

CPT: Hebron orphanages and schools for 7,000 children ordered closed
International Solidarity Movement 4/2/2008
Hebron Region - Last night (April 1st 2008) approximately 300 women, including teachers, mothers and students, protested the shut down of their school and orphanages by the Israeli government. This is one of several schools and orphanages serving 7,000 orphans and students in the Hebron area. Internationals, including Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), members of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and others committed to non-violence, slept in the school expecting armed Israeli soldiers to come and seal up the doors. The Israeli High Court have just extended the order by one week. This evening internationals have arrived to stay in the school for the night because no one has seen a copy of the written order. There’s also a presence at one of the boys schools by the men and boys of the community. Sixteen year-old American-born Rabiha Abu Sneineh, an articulate defender of her school and friends who will become homeless, joined her classmates in last night’s protest. Her descriptive letter to Oprah is below.

Did the Israelis remove 10 of the 600 road blocks they promised to remove?
Palestine News Network 4/4/2008
Jerusalem / PNN -- The Israeli military claims to have removed 10 dirt road blocks throughout the West Bank. There are hundreds of these that block freedom of movement, simple passage, in between West Bank cities and villages. This is in addition to checkpoints. The Israelis pledged to remove 600 of these barriers, but the Hamas government said on Friday that they did not remove even one. These barriers allegedly removed were near to the cities of Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqilia and Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. Earlier in the week the Israeli military announced that it removed a checkpoint in northeast Ramallah. According to statistics provided by the United Nations in February, "the Israeli army maintains 580 barriers and obstacles" in the West Bank. That figure has increased dramatically since the Annapolis Conference held in the United States in November.

US boycotts anti-racism conference over Israel
Middle East Online 4/4/2008
WASHINGTON - The United States said Thursday it saw "no reason at this point" to attend the 2009 UN conference on racism in South Africa amid fears that it will become a platform for criticising Israeli policies. The UN’s first World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, held in 2001 in Durban, was condemned by the United States, Canada and Israel for descending into what they claim “anti-Semitism”, a term observes say has been abused to mean any criticism of Israel, while it used to strictly refer to anti-Jewish sentiments in the past. "Unfortunately, some bad ideas don’t ever seem to die," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters. "So there are now plans afoot to hold a Durban II conference that is tentatively scheduled for 2009. "Casey said preparations for the conference were launched in August.

Palestinian researchers find creative solutions to Israeli obstacles in wastewater management
Palestine News Network 4/4/2008
Mohamad Khalid / PNN -- Israel’s long-standing control of water resources is leading not only to major shortages for Palestinians, with this summer predicted to be the worst yet, but it is also wreaking havoc on wastewater treatment. Dr. Maher Abu Madi, of the Institute of Environmental Studies and Water at Ramallah’s Birzeit University says that the Israeli political strategy of controlling water in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip is making it even more difficult for the Palestinian Authority to implement its sewage treatment projects. "Various Palestinian institutions, including the Water Authority and the Ministry of Agriculture, must find alternatives to cope with the political situation. " The PA, and several of its organs, wait up to 10 years for Israeli-issued permits for sewage treatment in cities such as Ramallah.

Two Palestinians injured in mysterious explosion
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Two people were injured in a mysterious explosion, east of the town of Al-Qarara in the southern the Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources announced on Friday morning. The sources told Ma’an that the injured were taken to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis where one of them is said to be in a serious condition. It is believed the explosion was caused by an object left behind by invading Israeli forces. Isareli forces overran the area east Al-Qarara on Thursday, leaving seven civilians injured. [end]

Israeli forces seize four Palestinians in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Nablus – Ma’an - Israeli forces arrested four Palestinian citizens from central Nablus at dawn on Friday after storming their homes. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an’s Nablus correspondent that Israeli forces stormed the city shortly after midnight, raiding dozens of homes in several areas of the city. Palestinian security sources confirmed that 24-year-old Ihab Wasef Isteta, 26 year-old Said Mu’ayed Al- Habash, 19 year-old Firas Kalbona and 20 year-old Fadi Omar Abdel Nabi Kalbona. [end]

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades activist injured in clashes
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, announced on Friday that one of their fighters was injured on Thursday in clashes with Israeli special forces east of the town of Al-Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip. The brigades told Ma’an that they will continue to resist Israeli occupation and respond to Israeli troops in the sector. [end]

Palestinian shot and injured by Israeli army
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – An 18-year-old boy was shot by the Israeli forces in the Jabal Johar area of the West Bank city of Hebron on Friday. Safwat Al-Ajlony was taken to Al-Ahli hospital for treatment. According to medical sources he was shot in the knee. For their part, the Israeli army said that Al-Ajlony had tried to grab a weapon from one of the soldiers in the area. [end]

Israeli forces detain 2 Palestinians at checkpoint near Qalqilia
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Israeli press sources said that Israeli soldiers arrested two Palestinians at a military checkpoint near Qalqilia, north of the West Bank on Friday morning. The sources said that the Palestinians were carrying 9 centimetre knives, which were confiscated. The Palestinians were taken away for further investigation. [end]

A little tale about donkeys
Boaz Kitain, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
On Purim, I accompanied friends who set out to visit acquaintances in the Land of Israel, beyond the border of the state. We drove to the southern Hebron Hills, a beautiful area during this season despite the winter’s drought and we arrived, via a bumpy road, at a modest pioneer-style building. We were greeted by an amiable family. The men had gone to pray and we spoke with the women, among them two who had completed or were completing degrees in education and social work. The soaring homes of the settlement of Carmel, near which we sat, afford a feeling of power and optimism to the chosen people and quite a lot of frustration to those who were not chosen. Our hosts cannot receive permits to build on their land, a connection to the nearby electricity pylon or a connection to running water. All of this is because the Jewish settlement happens to have been built just a few meters away from their lands, which they own legally.

Mizan: Israel’s decision of reducing fuel supplies to Gaza unprecedented
Palestinian Information Center 4/4/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Gaza-based Mizan l center for human rights has strongly condemned on Friday the Israeli policy of reducing fuel supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip, adding that such policy constitutes flagrant violation of the international law, and that it widely affects the daily life of the 1. 5 million Palestinian civilians living in the tiny Strip. In a press statement it released and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, the human rights center underlined that the allegation of the Israeli occupation government that it was meeting the minimum fuel needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza Strip breach international laws and conventions that sanctioned the right of the people under occupation to have their basic needs sufficiently met. The center, in this regard, considered the Israeli decision as a "new invention" that has no leg to stand on in international laws and conventions.

Settler arrested for throwing dung at Palestinians
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Police detain for questioning man who fired into air next to Palestinian farmers working near illegal outpost. ’He came over with a jug, told us it was tea and poured urine,’ human rights group volunteer recounts - A settler from an illegal outpost iswas questioned by the Hebron Police on Friday, after firing into the air and hurling dung and urine at Palestinian farmers and human rights activists who were working in the area. A police official told Ynet that additional arrests may take place. The incident took place Thursday, when Palestinian farmers, accompanied by volunteers from the Rabbis for Human Rights organization, began to plow their fields south of the West Bank settlement of Susya. According to the volunteers, a settler wearing a prayer shawl emerged from the nearby illegal outpost of Ma’aleh Asael and began to fire shots into the air.

Tree planting in Beita
International Solidarity Movement 4/4/2008
Nablus Region Photos Today approximately twenty residents from the village of Beita near Nablus, as well as international human rights workers (HRWs), took to the mountain of Jabal al Arma to plant 200 trees in order to prevent the encroachment of nearby settlement Itamar. The project of planting the 200 conifers was a collaboration between the municipality of Beita, the Union of Agricultural Work Committee and Norwegian People’s Aid. The Beita municipality have reasons to believe that the mountain of Jabal al Arma on the outskirts of the village of Beita is planned as a potential site for a new outpost from the Itamar settlement, with the surrounding mountain-tops already covered with illegal settlement outposts. To prevent such a theft of land, the council is undertaking a program of caring for the site, which is already planted with olive trees, fig trees and grapes.

Egyptian police block international action in solidarity with Gaza
Photos, International Solidarity Movement 4/4/2008
International Actions - Gaza Region - On March 31st, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, comprising around 30 international activists from the Basque country, Austria, Scotland, Norway, Italy, Netherlands, France, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, America and India attempted to get in to Gaza. The group left Cairo around 8 in the morning after a small demonstration on a bus plastered with Palestinian flags and posters about the continuing siege on Gaza. They made it over the Suez Canal, but were stopped at a checkpoint about 170 km from Rafah. There the Egyptian police refused to let them pass. The activists then left the bus and held a demonstration against the siege, but specifically against the complicity of European governments and the Egyptian government in continuing the siege.

U.K. Foreign Sec.: Israel’s future depends on Palestinian statehood
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday praised Israel’s achievements over the 60 years of its existence, but said the "small country’s" future depends above all on "the creation of a new and viable Palestinian state, alongside a secure Israel. " Addressing the annual Easter Banquet at Mansion House, London on Wednesday, the foreign secretary said that Israel’s 60th anniversary was "an opportunity for us all to recognize the achievements - in democratic governance, science, culture and business. " He added that 2008 "is also an opportunity for us to acknowledge once again that true security for the people of Israel can only be realized when the Palestinians’ own legitimate aspirations for statehood are met in their turn. " He went on to say that "Israel’s future depends on it having normal relations with its neighbors,". . .

Israeli forces remove 10 roadblocks in the northern West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - The Israeli army removed 10 dirt mound roadblocks at the entrances to a number of Palestinian villages near Nablus, Tulkarem and Qalqilia in the northern West Bank on Friday, according to Israeli sources. The sources added that it has been decided that if the removal of the roadblocks leads to any attacks on Israeli targets, they will be re-instated. The Israeli army has said that the decision to remove a number of roadblocks is part of a decision by the Israeli Government to facilitate the movement of Palestinian civilians between areas of the West Bank. On Tuesday one Israeli military checkpoint was been removed from a road near the West Bank city of Jericho, following a pledge from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says. . .

The occupation lies about removal of roadblocks
Palestinian Information Center 4/4/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation authority informed the Palestinian Authority and the United States that it has completed the removal of 50 roadblocks as promised by the occupation and announced by Condoleezza Rice. What has actually taken place was that one roadblock at Rimunim east of Rammallah was removed, in addition to 50 heaps of dirt blocking some village roads in the West Bank and a promise to give special permits to Palestinian officials and businessmen to facilitate their movement within the West Bank. Commenting on the news one Palestinian commuter named Ali Muhammad from Nablus said he did not feel that there was a relaxation of measures at roadblocks as alleged saying that he used to wait one hour at the Hawwara roadblock and yesterday he had to wait 3 hours to cross. Another commuter, Sajed Mahmoud, from Ramallah says it is all a big lie, they remove one permanent roadblock and they set up ten flying roadblocks in its place.

Israel, U.S. to coordinate on Durban II boycott
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
Israel and the U. S. decided a few weeks ago to boycott the Durban II conference - scheduled for early 2009 and likely to harshly criticize Israel’s human rights record - unless they receive firm guarantees that the event will not turn into anti-Israel festival. According to a senior government official, the joint decision was made after discussions among senior U. S. State Department and local Foreign Ministry officials, and after being raised in talks between Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Israel and the U. S. decided to make their participation in the conference conditional on guarantees the event would not become a rerun of the previous United Nations rights conference in Durban in 2001. "The burden of proof will be on the UN and the organizers," a Jerusalem source stated.

Israel army dismantles 10 West Bank roadblocks
Agence France-Presse, ReliefWeb 4/3/2008
JERUSALEM, April 3, 2008 (AFP) - The Israeli army dismantled on Thursday 10 roadblocks in the West Bank, as part of a pledge to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to remove 50 in the occupied region, an army spokeswoman said. The roadblocks were removed from areas near the towns of Ramallah, Nablus, Qalqilya and Tulkarem in the north of the West Bank, the spokeswoman said. The army had said on Monday that it had removed a roadblock northeast of Ramallah. That announcement came a day after Rice secured a pledge from Israel to dismantle 50 West Bank checkpoint to improve the daily lives of Palestinians in order to bolster faltering peace talks formally revived in November. But Israel’s decision was deemed insufficient by the Palestinian Authority. "We welcome the removal of any checkpoint but what the Israelis have declared is nonsense and not useful," Hussein. . .

Olmert to mull bringing Meretz into coalition
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Prime minister plans to hold discussions next week on possibility of having Left-wing party join government, but Meretz chairman, other senior officials say joining coalition ’not on the agenda’ - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will hold a discussion next week on the possibility of offering the Meretz party to join the government, officials in the Prime Minister’s Office said Friday. Olmert will also look into the option of bringing the United Torah Judaism party into the coalition. The prime minister’s aides have been negotiating with the haredi party in recent months, but United Torah Judaism’s officials have already stressed that they do not plan to join the government at this stage. " If it turns out that there is no chance to bring United Torah Judaism in, Olmert will discuss with the Labor Party and the other coalition. . .

Bill: MK hopefuls can’t visit enemy states
Jack Khoury, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
A bill approved in committee Tuesday would ban anyone who has visited a hostile state for running for the Knesset for seven years after the visit. The bill, sponsored by National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev and MK Esterina Tartman (Yisrael Beiteinu), creates an exception for people who can prove their visit was not to express support for an armed struggle by that state or by a terror organization against Israel. Now that the Knesset House Committee has approved the bill, it will be sent to the Knesset plenum for a first reading. The bill originally stated that anyone visiting a hostile state would be considered to be supporting an armed conflict against Israel and therefore ineligible for the Knesset. The language was softened after Deputy Attorney General Yehoshua Schoffman argued that this was unconstitutional.

12 Palestinian prisoners break out of Nablus jail
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
A group of 12 Palestinian prisoners wanted by Israel claimed Friday that they have escaped from a prison in the West Bank city of Nablus. The twelve militants of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades fled after masked wardens at the Jneid prison began to beat them with clubs following a fight that broke out among the detainees, Mahdi Abu Ghazaleh, their leader, said by telephone. The escapees were part of a group of militants who turned themselves in three months ago rather than be detained by Israel. As part of a deal, the members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a violent group linked to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement, were to serve time in return for an Israeli agreement to eventually take them off the wanted list. The group is responsible for killing more than 1,100 Israelis since 2001.

Israeli aide hit by Gaza gunfire
Al Jazeera 4/4/2008
An aide to Israel’s internal security minister has been shot and wounded by a Palestinian fighter as he and the minister toured an observation point overlooking the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military said that one person was moderately injured after shots were fired from Gaza on Friday, but did not identify the victim. Witnesses identified the injured man as Matti Gil, the chief aide to Avi Dichter, the internal security minister. Mazal Baba, a hospital spokeswoman, said he was shot in the groin and was in a stable condition. Dichter was unhurt in the incident. Israel Radio said Dichter and Gil had taken a group of Canadian Jews to the overlook near the town of Sderot to familiarise them with the situation in southern Israeli communities bordering Gaza, which have come under frequent Palestinian rocket fire. A member of the group told Israel Radio that while Dichter was speaking, a volley of gunfire burst forth for about 30 seconds, wounding Gil.

Hamas: Gaza sniper aimed for Public Security Min. Dichter
Amos Harel and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida announced Friday that sniper fire from Hamas’ military wing, which wounded Public Security Minister Avi Dichter’s bureau chief near Gaza, was in fact aimed at the minister himself. Dichter’s senior aide Mati Gil sustained moderate wounds in the attack, but the minister himself was not hurt. The military wing of Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement claimed responsibility for the shooting shortly after the attack. Several additional militant groups also claimed responsibility, including the militant offshoot of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah Party, and two little-known radical Islamic groups inspired by Al-Qaida, the Army of the Nation and Protectors of the Homeland. The gunfire erupted while Gil and Dichter were touring the Givat Nazmit observation point overlooking the Gaza Strip and adjacent to the security fence.

’People didn’t understand what was happening’
Ze''ev Trachtman, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Eddie Azran, who accompanied 70 Canadian tourists on tour with Minister Dichter Friday, describes confusion following shooting attack on minister’s entourage. ’These people never experienced terror before,’ he says - "There were about 70 people from abroad there, who’ve never experienced terror before. They stood there looking around, not understanding what’s going on. Suddenly we heard screams," described Eddie Azran, who was present during the shooting attack at Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter on Friday. Dichter’s personal assistant was lightly to moderately injured by gunshots fired by Palestinians at the minister’s entourage visiting the Nizmit hill near Kibbutz Nir Am in southern Israel. Azran is the local representative of the Canada-Israel Committee (CIC) in Sderot. He accompanied a group of tourists who visited the area with Dichter, and. . .

Palestinian sources: Israel planted 144 settlements in W. Bank since 1967
Palestinian Information Center 4/4/2008
RAMALLAH, PIC-- A report issued by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) stated that According to 2006 data, the Israeli occupation government built around 144 settlements throughout the West Bank since it fell under the Israeli occupation in 1967. Most of the settlements (26 settlements) were in Jerusalem Governorate then Ramallah and Al-Bireh Governorate with (24 settlements). According to the report, the Israeli occupation government annexed 16 of those colonies with the aim to expand the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1948, on which it established the Hebrew state. The report also revealed that there were 475,760 Israeli settlers living in those colonies, the bulk of them were settling in the occupied city of Jerusalem. The report further indicated that the governorate of Jerusalem suffered the biggest burden of the Israeli settlements construction. . .

Al-Quds Brigades say they photographed blood of injured Israeli soldiers
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, say they found traces of blood from Israeli soldiers who were injured in an incursion east of Khan Younis on Thursday. The brigades told Ma’an that they had photographed the blood of the soldiers who were injured after being targeted by dozens of mortar shells in the incursion. The brigades sent the following message to the Israeli forces, "any aggression against the Palestinian people, especially the resistance in Gaza and the West Bank will bring woe to their soldiers and towns. " [end]

Protest in Petah Tikva: Let Ethiopians attend other schools
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Parents’ associations ofthree major state religious schools inPetah Tikva announce school closings next week to protest fact Ethiopian immigrants are only sent to their schools - Four months after harrowing accounts of discrimination against Ethiopian students, Ynet has reported that the parents’ associations of the three largest state religious schools in Petah Tikva plan to shut down these aforementioned institutions next week to protest what they call "outright discrimination by private schools in the city as well as the Petah Tikva municipality. "  Other state religious schools might also join in this boycott. On Sunday, the school day at the city’s three major state religious schools will begin at 10am, and starting Tuesday, the Petah Tikva Parents’ Association has announced that it would suspend studies indefinitely to protest the fact that religious private. . .

Middle East: Appeal No. MAA81001 Final Report 2006 - 2007
International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies, ReliefWeb 4/3/2008
This report covers the period of 01/01/06 to 31/12/07 of a two-year planning and appeal process. In brief Programme summary:Throughout 2006-2007, the geopolitical environment in Middle East region continued to be complex and unstable, due to the protracted conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Lebanon crisis, and the Iraq crisis; all which deteriorated the humanitarian conditions and increased vulnerability. Under such an environment, the International Federation’s Middle East regional programmes continued focusing on strengthening the capacities of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies through activating and using the regional thematic networks in order to promote knowledge sharing, coordination and cooperation among the National Societies in the three sub regions - Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 19-25 Mar 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb 3/25/2008
Of note this week Gaza Strip:- Three Palestinians were killed, including a 61-year-old farmer and an Islamic Jihad member who died of wounds sustained during an IAF missile attack on 18 March. In addition, the IDF injured a member of the Palestinian Resistance Committees during clashes in Rafah and a four-year-old girl when the IDF opened fire at a group of people living adjacent to the border in Central Gaza. - Three Palestinians were killed and three injured when four tunnels collapsed along the Gaza-Egypt border. - On three occasions, the IDF carried out levelling and excavation operations in the Gaza and Central Gaza governorates. - 20 March: Palestinians holding Egyptian residency who have been stuck in the Gaza Strip began a hunger strike inside the Rafah Youth and Sports Centre, demanding that they be allowed to return to Egypt.

With friends like these
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, has called for non-cooperation with the Christian Zionists, a movement of millions of Americans who ardently support Israel. Yoffie represents a movement that supports Israel for very different reasons from those of the Christian Zionists, who identify largely with the most right-wing sectors of Israeli society. His call on Wednesday reawakens the controversy over Israel’s practical approach toward its supporters in the United States. The first concern pertains to the involvement of one country’s citizens in the policy of another. Americans, including those who could come to Israel and become Israeli citizens under the Law of Return but haven not chosen to do so, are trying to influence decisions in Jerusalem.

Obama, Clinton, McCain to co-Chair Israel 60th committee
Shlomo Shamir, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
U. S. Democratic senators and presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are scheduled to join Arizona senator and Republican presidential hopeful John McCain as vice-chairmen of the National Committee for Israel 60th, according to a statement released by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (CoP) on Friday. The National Committee for Israel’s 60th, the planning committee overseeing Israel’s 60th anniversary festivities, was organized by the CoP in order to give official sponsorship to the dozens of events and ceremonies planned to take place throughout the United States in honor of the anniversary. Serving on the planning committee is often seen within the U. S. Jewish community as a public sign of support for Israel.

Syrian foreign minister: We’re ready to defend ourselves
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/4/2008
In meeting with EU representatives in Damascus, Walid Moallem says his country chose peace as a strategic choice but will respond to ’Israeli aggressiveness’. Al-Hayat reports Israel, Syria exchange peaceful messages - Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Thursday that his country has chosen peace as a strategic choice, but must remain alert in case of any act of aggression on Israel’s part. " Syria is ready to defense itself against any aggressiveness," he told European Union ambassadors during a dinner in Damascus, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported. Heightened AlertReport: Syrian reservists called up for fear of Israeli strike/ Roee Nahmias London-based al-Quds al-Arabi newspaper quotes sources in Damascus as saying Syria views Israeli media reports, IDF commanders’ statements as incitement, attempt to prepare public opinion for war.

Masri to Israeli settlers: Olmert, Barak put your lives at risk
Palestinian Information Center 4/4/2008
GAZA, PIC-- The prominent Hamas political leader in Gaza Strip Mushir Al-Masri said on Thursday that all options will be open before the Palestinian resistance if the IOF atrocities against the Palestinian people persisted. In a press statement he issued in Gaza city, Masri asserted that the IOF military escalation against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would put the lives of tens of thousands of Israeli settlers at risk. In a warning message to the Israeli settlers, Masri said that Israeli premier Ehud Olmert and war minister Ehud Barak were "gambling" with settlers’ lives for their (Olmert and Barak) "personal political interest". He also added that facts on the ground, including the persisting IOF aggressions on the Gaza Strip and the arrest campaigns against Hamas’s supporters in the West Bank among other repressive Israeli measures prove that "The. . .

Shalit’s parents receive his staff sergeant ranks
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Aviva and Noam Shalit take part in military ceremony honoring kidnapped soldier’s friends, who will be released from IDF this summer - Several months before their release from the Israel Defense Forces, the friends of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit received their staff sergeant ranks this week. Shalit’s parents, Aviva and Noam, received the ranks on behalf of their son. Shalit has been held in captivity in the Gaza Strip since July 25, 2006. The moving ceremony honoring the soldiers of the armored forces’ 71st regiment, enlisted in July 2005, was held in Latrun. Shalit was a corporal when he was kidnapped by Hamas in a terrorist attack. After the kidnapping, his fellow soldiers were granted sergeant ranks. At the time, IDF officials believed that Shalit would be freed from captivity shortly afterwards, but since then the negotiations. . .

Dahalan’s preventive security spied on Hizbullah for Israel
Palestinian Information Center 4/4/2008
GAZA, PIC-- Authenticated documents seized from the defunct infamous PA preventive security apparatus under Fatah’s man Mohammed Dahalan affirmed that the said apparatus spied on the military preparations of the Lebanese Hizbullah party in favor of Israel. Furthermore, the documents which were seized from the offices of the said apparatuses that were abolished after Hamas Movement took control of security in Gaza Strip in the middle of June of last year revealed that elements and agents of the said apparatus gathered intelligence information on the military movements of Hizbullah in southern Lebanon, and on the volume of weapons the party has before passing such information to the Israeli intelligence departments. Moreover, the documents revealed that the Dahalan’s defunct apparatus informed the Israeli spying agencies on the whereabouts of Hizbullah’s weaponry depots and the routes. . .

Former terrorist at Israel’s service
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Walid Shoebat, former member of PLO’s military wing who attempted to lynch Israeli soldier in 1970s, is today one of Jewish state’s best PR people in war against Palestinian terror. In exclusive interview, he tells Ynet he was educated to hate Jews from his infancy, became an Israel supporter after reading Bible - WASHINGTON- "As a child I was a brainwash victim. I was taught songs about killing Jews. Now I see millions of other children who are also the victims of a fascist ideology," Walid Shoebat tells Ynet. Shoebat, a former Palestinian terrorist from the town of Beit Sahour, who almost lynched an Israeli soldier and planted explosive devices, is now one of the State of Israel’s best PR people in the United States. Shoebat is a one-man PR machine. He gives interviews to TV channels and radio stations, delivers speeches across the US, and has even written four. . .

Israeli organisation accuses Ma’an of using "hate language"
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – An Israeli organization that claims to be a watchdog for Palestinian media is to release a report accusing Ma’an News Agency of "glorifying terrorists" and using "hate language. " An article published in Friday’s English-language Israeli daily newspaper The Jerusalem Post reveals that Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) is leveling a number of accusations at Ma’an, including that Ma’an "repeatedly honored murderers as ’martyrs’ and referred to areas of pre-1967 Israel as ’occupied Palestine. ’"Extract from the PMW reportThe following is an extract from the PMW report, written by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook –"Ma’an has glorified the recent Palestinian murderer of eight Israeli yeshiva students, the Dimona suicide terrorist, the killers of the two Israeli hikers and the terrorists who attacked a boys’ high school with the very highest Islamic status. . .

Israeli army: Hamas would sweep any democratic elections in W. Bank
Palestinian Information Center 4/4/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- A security document prepared by the Israeli occupation army warned the Israeli occupation government that Hamas Movement will win any democratic and fair elections that might take place in the West Bank, which serves as an implicit call on the IOA not to allow any democratic elections in the West Bank. Hebrew media sources indicated that the Israeli army’s document was prepared on request of the US administration where they asserted that Hamas Movement would control the West Bank through democratic election process if a permanent deal between the Israeli occupation government and the PA leadership of Mahmoud Abbas is reached. In this concern, the Israeli army opined that the Israeli negotiating team should press the PA leadership for closer and stronger stern security coordination so as to ensure that the West Bank won’t be transformed into a launching. . .

Hamas Political Bureau head: no dialogue with Israel until it honors the law
Palestine News Network 4/4/2008
Damascus / PNN -- Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Khalid Mashaal denied any direct contacts with the Israelis. He said that they have tried to initiate some contacts with all parties, not just Hamas. However, Mashaal said that their attempts are entirely denounced as they are part of the divide and conquer technique. "The Israeli behavior is well known: it tries to pollute each group and drains the energies as it plays with the time factor and we reject it," Mashaal told an Italian news agency. Mashaal added that Israel knows what is required; knows that it must end its illegal occupation and to recognize Palestinian rights, particularly that of the state being on the 1967 boundaries. He denied accusations that he addressed President Mahmoud Abbas to open channels with Israel, saying, "Bring proof if you are going to accuse us of something.

Israel remains tense, but does not expect war
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
A day after tensions sharpened with Syria with media play on the subject, Israel did an about-face and began broadcasting soothing messages. The rapid zigzag was reminiscent of the contradictory statements of last spring and summer - before the Air Force’s attack on northern Syria on September 6. This week’s contradictory statements give the impression that the tension still exists, especially regarding Hezbollah’s intention to avenge Imad Mughniyah’s assassination. The fear of war appears, for the moment, somewhat exaggerated. Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad said in radio interviews yesterday that Israel and Syria have no interest in attacking each other, and that the Arab media’s reports of mobilizing Syrian reserves were mistaken. Minister Haim Ramon made similar statements. Military sources said they saw no "clear signs of war" on the Syrian front.

Putin: Moscow committed to hosting Mideast peace meet
Omer Barak, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia was committed to promoting a Middle East peace conference in Moscow, meant to act as a follow-up to the U. S. -hosted Annapolis conference held last November. "We have discussed this with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during his visit to Russia last week," Putin said. "Many preparations are required, but as far as we understand, the Americans and our friends in the Arab world all support the gathering. " "We are speaking with Israel about it, and when the circumstances ripen, we will make an announcement," Putin added. Speaking at a press conference following the final day of a NATO summit in Bucharest on Friday, Putin stressed that Moscow "does not want to lead the [peace] process, but rather mediate between the two sides, so that each one of them can make a small step forward.

Shin Bet fears attack on Israeli plane
Alex Fishman, YNetNews 4/4/2008
Number of security guards on flights boosted, helicopters escort takeoffs and arrivals in several airports worldwide for fear of missile launching. Defense source: Threat concrete and we are doing everything possible - The security measures on aircraft belonging to Israeli airlines and around them during takeoffs and arrivals abroad have been significantly boosted over the past few days for fear that Hizbullah would act on its promise to avenge the February assassination of its top commander Imad Mugniyah. The number of armed security guards on some of the flights to several destinations has been increased, as was the number of guards surrounding the plane after the landing and before the takeoff.

Critical months
Al-Ahram Weekly 4/3/2008
In Syrian, the strategic choice of negotiations over resistance prevailed, but not as unchallenged as hitherto - This week, in the Syrian capital Damascus, the Arab summit declared that this year is make or break, not just for the chances of a Palestinian-Israeli settlement, but also for the fate of the Arab Peace Initiative and the entire Arab-Israeli struggle. " The next few months will be critical -- very critical," announced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas before the Arab summit Saturday. The speech of Abbas, delivered to the inaugural session of the summit, came against the backdrop of the dismal failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to herald a breakthrough under the patronage of the United States whose president has committed to achieving a framework for Palestinian-Israeli peace before leaving office at the end of the year.

Shas minister: We must get rid of court like chametz
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
Minister of Religious Services Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) announced yesterday that he plans to appeal a Jerusalem court decision allowing grocery stores, restaurants and pizzerias to sell chametz (leavened bread) on Passover. "The court must rule on what it knows, and not halakha (Jewish religious law). The court’s ruling points a gun to the head of the Jewish people," he said. We must get rid of the court like we get rid of chametz, he added. Jerusalem Municipal Court Judge Tamar Bar Asher-Zaban had ruled that it is permissible to sell chametz in grocery stores and restaurantsduring Passover, when Jewish law forbids the consumption or possession of leavened bread products. She ruled that these businesses are not legally considered "public" places, and therefore they may sell chametz without violating the "matzot" law that prohibits selling chametz in public over Passover.

Civil defense drill starts Sun.; to include mock chemical attack
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
A widespread, week-long civil defense drill will begin on Sunday, starting at the weekly cabinet meeting with a briefing by the commander of the exercise, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai. The operative part of the drill commences on Monday. It will include, among other scenarios, a simulated missile attack on civilian areas - some with chemical warheads. Participating in the drill will be the Home Front Command, the national emergency authority, government ministries and emergency services. At 10 A. M. on Tuesday a siren will be sounded throughout the country and children from kindergarten up will practice emergency procedures. State employees are also expected to drill emergency procedures at their workplaces. Immediately afterward, local governments will join the exercise, following instructions that will be distributed on the spot.

State owes Gush Katif evacuees more compensation
Amiram Cohen, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
The state is expected to pay out hundreds of million of shekels more to farmers and business owners who were evacuated from Gush Katif and northern Samaria in the summer of 2005. It seems that the state used an incorrect policy for calculating the linkage to the consumer price index for the compensation payments due the evacuees. Judge Anat Singer, of the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court, accepted an appeal this week from a Gush Katif hothouse owner, claiming that he was under-compensated by the state. Business owners were allowed to choose one of two tracks for compensation, based on assets or on financial potential based on past profits. In this particular case, the financial track profits from past years were incorrectly adjusted for inflation, and the judge ordered the state to recalculate the payments and make up the difference.

Gerald Cromer, religious peace camp leader and professor, 63
Daphna Berman, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
Bar Ilan University Gerald Cromer, a sociologist and social activist best known for his leadership of Netivot Shalom, Israel’s religious peace movement, passed away this week after a battle with cancer. He was 63. Friends and colleagues this week recalled a man who believed passionately in social justice, peace, pluralism and the importance of a religious voice in countering rising extremism in Israeli society. "He really saw his life as one of giving to society and people around him," said Richard (Yerachmiel) Cohen, a Hebrew University professor and close personal friend. "He was a foot soldier in many ways-he did all the work and never felt he needed to be the person getting the prestige and honor. "A professor at Bar Ilan University in the criminology department, he was among the founders of two institutional pillars in the capital: Yedidya, a progressive Orthodox synagogue, and the Efrata School in the Baka neighborhood.

Anglos join ex-politico on ’apolitical’ tour of Sderot
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
If the dozens of Anglos touring Sderot last Friday panicked when Uzi Landau told them Palestinian Qassam launchers were busy aiming directly at them, then their demeanor did not betray it. The visitors belonged to the first English-language tour run by Eretz Nehederet, a nonprofit headed by the former Likud minister. Founded in the weeks following the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Eretz Nehederet - or "wonderful country" - organizes weekly Hebrew-language subsidized bus tours around the country in an effort to "preserve a sense of entitlement among Jews to the Land of Israel," according to Landau. To achieve that aim, the ex-MK brought the 100-strong Anglo group to the Black Arrow compound overlooking Gaza to explain the area’s topography. But he had to cut short when the commander of the nearby military outpost came over to warn him that balloon-mounted. . .

4,000 Israelis coming home, but only 80 from Russia
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 4/4/2008
Last November, the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption launched a campaign to encourage Israelis living abroad to return. Israeli expatriates are known by the derogatory term "yordim" - those who descend, in contrast to the "olim" who "ascend" to Israel - and a politically correct Hebrew term has yet to be found. In preparation for the NIS 140 million campaign, the ministry defined its target audiences and conducted research to learn why Israelis leave, and what might bring them back. It selected popular Israeli Web sites as advertising venues, and decided to target people in North America, Europe and, above all, the Commonwealth of Independent States. Five months later, the operation already can be considered a success. About 4,000 Israelis living abroad have registered to return, and 1,800 are already here. The Russians, however, are not coming back.

First Arab Muslim female joins elite Israeli Air Force unit
Ma’an News Agency 4/4/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - An Arab Muslim woman from a village in northern Israel enrolled in the Israeli army and was mistakenly appointed to the elite Rescue Unit 669 of the air force despite, despite being assessed as a potential security risk. According to an article in the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot published on Friday, the unit commander decided to allow the woman to remain in the unit. Rescue Unit 669 is one of the most important units of the Israeli army. The Arab female soldier will be entrusted with treating the wounded during military operations. She is the first Arab to become a member of the unit. [end]

Gazans eat endangered turtle termed ’as good as Viagra’
Reuters, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
GAZA - A rare giant sea turtle caught on a beach near Gaza City was slaughtered and eaten by Palestinian fishermen who said its blood was an aphrodisiac, among other therapeutic qualities. As the turtle’s throat was slit on Thursday night in front of a crowd, one fisherman said a sip of its blood was "as good as Viagra", referring to the popular drug used to fight erectile dysfunction and impotence. Children were later seen using a part of the shell as a surfboard. Based on a description of the turtle’s size and shell, Yaniv Levy, an Israeli expert on sea turtles, said he believed it was the endangered Leatherback turtle. Leatherbacks normally weigh between 300-500 kilograms (661-1,102 pounds), he said. "It’s very rare. We don’t know a lot about the Leatherback’s population in the Mediterranean.

IRAQ-JORDAN: Top UN official highlights "gravity" of humanitarian situation
Julius Mwelu/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/5/2008
UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes AMMAN, 4 April 2008 (IRIN) - UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes has told a press conference in Amman: "I want to highlight the gravity of the humanitarian situation in Iraq. " The gradual degradation in health services that began during the international sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s as well as more recent insecurity and instability had helped aggravate the suffering of civilians, he said. At least four million people do not have enough food while around 40 percent of the 27. 5 million population do not have access to clean drinking water, and 30 percent do not have access to reasonable health services. Most of theincreasing number of internally displaced people have little or no access to proper health care, food assistance, sanitation and other services, he said.

IRAQ: New report highlights growing number of IDPs
IRCS, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 4/5/2008
Iraqi Red Cresent Society staff hand out supplies to displaced families in Babil Province. A new report says there are now 2,778,305 IDPs in IraqBAGHDAD, 3 April 2008 (IRIN) - A new international report says that on 20 March there were some 2,778,305 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Iraq. Hitherto the figure of 2. 2 million IDPs in Iraq had been widely publicised. The21-page report - produced by IDP Working Group members consisting of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), other UN Agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - is based on data gathered by the IDP Working Group, and information from the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Migration, the Kurdistan Regional Government, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other NGOs. It said 1,212,108 had been displaced between the fall of Saddam’s regime. . .

Sadr calls for mass protest in Baghdad against US occupation
Hassan Abdul Zahra, Daily Star 4/5/2008
Agence France Presse - NAJAF: Muqtada al-Sadr Friday called a mass rally for April 9 in Baghdad against US forces in Iraq, as Premier Nuri al-Maliki ordered his troops to halt raids on the Shiite cleric’s militiamen. The venue for the protest had earlier been set as the central shrine city of Najaf but a Sadr spokesman said having it in the capital would allow more people to take part. April 9 marks the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime following the US-led invasion of March 20, 2003. "The Sadr movement has decided to change the venue of the demonstration that had been announced for Najaf on April 9," said Salah al-Obeidi, spokesman for Sadr’s Najaf office. "A protest in Baghdad will be more effective because it is in the capital, and secondly, a protest there will allow people of other sects to participate," Obeidi told AFP.

Building a Legal Framework for Torture
Jason Leopold, Middle East Online 4/4/2008
On Jan. 17, 2003, Mary Walker, the Air Force general counsel, received an urgent memo from the Pentagon’s top attorney. Attached to the classified document was a set of directives drafted two days earlier by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. "Establish a working group within the Department of Defense to assess the legal, policy and operational issues relating to the interrogations of detainees held by the US Armed Forces in the war on terrorism," the directives said. Among the issues to be addressed were “policy considerations with respect to the choice of interrogation techniques, including contribution to intelligence collection, effect on treatment of captured US military personnel, effect on detainee prosecutions, historical role of US armed forces in conducting interrogations, recommendations for employment of particular interrogation techniques by [Defense Department] interrogators.

US renews Blackwater’s Iraq license
Al Jazeera 4/4/2008
The US state department has renewed the license for controversial private security firm Blackwater to protect diplomats in Iraq for another year, according to officials. The department said there was no reason to refuse the license while the FBI investigates a fatal shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad which involved Blackwater personnel. "I have requested and received approval to have Task Order 6, which Blackwater has to provide personal protective services in Baghdad, renewed for one year," Gregory Starr, assistant secretary of state, said on Friday. The company currently has five-year deal to provide personal protection for diplomats, which is re-authorised each year. Ongoing investigationThe state department uses Blackwater to guard diplomats in Baghdad where they act as bodyguards. . .


I am Bassam Aramin
Rami Elhanan, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
      One evening last month, my family was invited to dinner at the home of Bassam Aramin, in Anata. An Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem, Anata is a 20-minute ride from where we live in Motza, and 20 light-years from Jerusalem.
     We ate a mountain of maklubeh, with almonds and yogurt. Bassam told us about his meeting with Israeli actor Shlomo Vishinski, who is slated to portray him in a new play. And my wife, Nurit, gave his wife, Salwa, a gift: a silver pendant inscribed with the name of her daughter Abir, may she rest in peace, made by a Jerusalem silversmith.
     We laughed. It was fun. It was emotional. And then, on television, we saw scenes of the attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. And again, a cold hand seizes your heart, the blood freezes in your veins, and that sword twists inside you, as you know there will be no rest until the blood is avenged. And indeed, the TV brings stark updates from Gaza: eight Palestinians dead in one hour.

What we must do

Azmi Bishara, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/3/2008
      Arab democratisation and development are at the heart of resisting Israel’s strategic choice of permanent war against the Arab nation.
     The floundering negotiations between the Palestinian Authority (under the heading of the Palestine Liberation Organisation) and Israel may eventually produce an agreement that leads to the creation of a Palestinian state. Perhaps even now, an intensive secret parallel negotiating process is in progress, unaffected by reactions from the Israeli right or Arab public opinion. Perhaps, too, negotiations are much deeper and further along than the impression given by the media. Whatever the case, US and Israeli decision-makers clearly believe that the production of a Palestinian state will be all it takes to bring peace to the region, regardless of those conditions of theirs that the new state will have to meet, such as not extending up to pre-June 1967 borders, not having East Jerusalem as its capital and relinquishing the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Israel and the Bush administration have worked hard to fit the Palestinian demand for statehood into a package that clips, trims and essentially eliminates all Palestinian national rights.

Refugee: we thought it would be a week, but it has been 60 years

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 4/4/2008
      Al Nakba and Israeli settlements; these are in the news lately. They are a fitting combination as they link to Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land and the ethnic cleansing of the population. US Secretary of State was in town again, and once again she told the Israelis to lay-off as the settlements contravene the Road Map, which is not a document complimentary to the Palestinians. Rice’s concern was not international law or the United Nations. A refugee says ironically of the American posturing, "You think Bush wants to come with us to see Beit Jabrin?"
     Preparations are underway for the memorial of Al Nakba, the Catasrophe, with several calls going out for boycotts against Israel’s "celebration of its 60th birthday," including to the remaining members of the Beatles who were asked to play and to Bono. An elderly woman in Bethlehem’s Al Azzeh Refugee Camp says that she remembers everything.

Nothing to laugh at here

Sousan Hammad, Electronic Intifada 4/4/2008
      Four comedians with recently came together in Houston, Texas "to promote peace through comedy" under the banner of the Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour. However, rather than promoting a just end to the conflict, their material exploits it in a disturbing manner.
     "We rely on the conflict; peace would ruin our show," co-founder Ray Hanania said in an interview. When asked by the author if they considered performing for an audience in the West Bank, Hanania joked that he doesn’t want to get shot at by Palestinians angry at him for performing with Israelis.
     Ray Hanania, a Palestinian-American journalist and Charles Warady, an American Jew who moved to Israel 12 years ago, say the group breaks the taboo of Palestinians refusing to appear and perform with Israelis. However, there are numerous artistic and non-profit organizatins (for example, the Freedom Theatre and the Palestinian Circus School) in the West Bank which have culturally collaborated with Israelis while taking a stance against the occupation, unlike how Hanania’s xenophobic image of Palesitnians would lead one to believe.

Israel’s oil refineries privatized: the Palestinian economy perspective

Shir Hever, The Alternative Information Center, Electronic Intifada 4/4/2008
      Over a year has passed since Israel privatized its oil refineries in Haifa and Ashdod to private companies. The Haifa refineries were bought by a group of investors lead by the Ofer brothers, two of Israel’s richest capitalists through their company Israel Corp. The Ashdod refineries were bought by the Paz petrol company owned by Zadik Bino.
     The privatization, one of the biggest in Israel’s history, has transformed the petrol market in Israel at a time when oil prices are soaring and affect every aspect of the Israeli (and the Palestinian) economy -- through increase in transportation costs, in heating costs in the winter, in the price of electricity and even in the costs of basic foodstuffs (which require oil products as part of their production system).
     A privatization process that raises many questions Throughout the privatization process the Israeli government was accused by Israeli non-governmental organizations that the privatization is handled in a poor fashion, with little regards to issues of proper conduct, to issues of environmental safety and to ensuring that the proper price is paid for the refineries. A smell of corruption was hanging in the air when it was published that one of the main government officials involved in the privatization process was later hired by the Ofer Brothers to occupy a high-paying prestigious position in Israel Corp.

Apocalypse Now

Joshua Davis, MIFTAH 4/3/2008
      Yitzhaq Hayutman holds the key to peace on Earth - it’s on a floppy disk in his pants pocket. With his full white beard, bald pate, and well-pressed khakis, the 61-year-old Israeli cybernetics expert and tech investor looks like Moses done over for a Banana Republic ad. Right now, he’s showing me how he wants to position an airborne hologram over the Dome of the Rock, a gold-capped shrine that’s one of the most holy sites in Islam. "The blimp will go there," Hayutman says pointing into the blue. "And eventually the Messiah will come."
     Hayutman is excited by the prospect - perhaps too excited. Twenty yards away, two flak-jacketed Israeli police officers finger their machine guns while four plainclothes members of the Islamic Trust - the Muslim force that protects Islam’s holy sites - move cautiously toward us. Violence has a habit of erupting here on the Temple Mount, the world’s most explosive plot of land.
     For 1,500 years, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have fought for control of this 35-acre plateau in the heart of Jerusalem. The dispute remains one of the main obstacles to peace in the Middle East. Jewish teachings say that a temple must be built here - many say on the exact spot where the Dome now stands - in order to induce the arrival of the Messiah and the coming of peace on Earth. Fundamentalist Christians interpret this to mean the Second Coming of Christ and actively encourage Jewish building efforts. Muslims categorically oppose any encroachment on their holy site, from which they believe Mohammed ascended to heaven to receive the Koran.

There is a Clear Alternative

Ghassan Khatib, MIFTAH 4/2/2008
      Since the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza some nine months ago, the US, Israel and the Palestinian Authority have all seemed to follow roughly the same strategy to reverse both Hamas’ control over Gaza and the parliamentary election results of two years ago. This strategy has simultaneously sought to weaken Hamas and empower the Palestinian "peace camp" led by Fateh and President Mahmoud Abbas.
     The strategy has been articulated in different statements and speeches by US President George W. Bush, advocated verbally by Israel and pursued by both the US and Israel as well as the PA. It comprises several components. Overall, the strategy seeks to make the "West Bank model" more attractive to Palestinians than the "Gaza model". The idea is to do this by imposing political and economic sanctions on Hamas in Gaza and at the same time providing increased economic aid to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and, possibly, through the PA to Gaza. Finally, the strategy is to re-launch a political process of the kind that would empower Abbas politically, partly by reducing Israeli restrictions in the West Bank to improve the conditions for Palestinians there.

Twilight Zone / Taxi driver

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 4/3/2008
      This happened after the car was officially confiscated from its owner by Israeli security forces, who transferred it to the custody of a military base. This happened after soldiers fired at the vehicle for no reason, when the members of a family - including a three-month-old infant - were riding inside, returning from a family gathering.
     After a car has been shot at, you have to investigate, of course, even if the passengers have not done anything at all. You also have to confiscate the vehicle for "investigation," and then apparently someone has to vent his anger on it and destroy it. A destroyed taxi inside an army base. Nobody takes responsibility. A case of vandalism for its own sake and nobody gets excited.
     "Concerning the purported damage, the driver is allowed to report it to the military authorities, who will deal with it accordingly," says the spokesman of the Judea and Samaria Police District, Superintendent Danny Poleg.
     That’s nice.
     It was the first wedding anniversary of Sahar al-Adam, 29 and her husband Firas al-Adam, 30, a young couple with an infant son named Ahmed. Sahar is a teacher, Firas has been working for the past two years as a taxi driver between Hebron and his village, Beit Ula, west of the city. With his family’s savings he bought the luxurious 2002 Mercedes, at a cost of NIS 145,000, and began to work as an incidental driver, since the gates of Israel were closed and his source of income as a construction worker disappeared. He is a handsome young man, wearing a black leather jacket, with no interest in anything related to politics.

Land Day: What began in 1976 continues today

Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign,, Stop The Wall 4/1/2008
      In 1976, Palestinians protested a massive expropriation of land in the Galilee region.In 2008 the protests continue to mark March 30th, while Occupation forces continue to occupy land and expand the settlements that creep across Palestine.
     These settlement practices, which are official Occupation policy, come at a time when the military is intensifying a fierce campaign of home destruction and land confiscation.Recently, more than 35 homes have demolished leaving more than 176 people homeless.Thousands of dunums have been confiscated across the West Bank.
     The West Bank and Jerusalem have witnessed a period of widespread settlement construction. What follows is a summary of the settlement work that is being carried out in three different areas: East Jerusalem as well as east and west of the Apartheid Wall.

Dancing for Palestine

Serene Assir, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/3/2008
      The AUC’s Al-Quds Club celebrated Palestinian Land Day with an evening of cultural events and a display of the famous Palestinian dabke dance.
     The American University in Cairo’s Al-Quds Club celebrated Palestinian Land Day on 30 March with cultural events designed to "bring Palestinian culture to the fore," in the words of Yasmine al-Khodary, the club’s president.
     Based in part on a bid to overcome political differences among the participants, the events were designed to stress that despite disagreements Palestine continues to unite its people. "We have one culture, one history, and one identity," al-Khodary said. "Celebrating our culture, more than discussing political positions, reminds us of that."
     However, there was nothing strained about this bid for unity, and the events showed off Palestinian culture in all its diversity, with poetry, music, embroidery, painting, Palestinian dabke dancing and traditional food representing mutually enforcing symbols of Palestine.