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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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5 April 2008


40 killed by Israeli cluster bombs in Lebanon
Middle East Online 4/5/2008
BEIRUT - Forty people have been killed and 252 wounded by Israeli cluster bombs dropped during the 2006 war in Lebanon, the UN demining organisation said on Friday. "Twenty-seven civilians have been killed and 218 wounded by the explosion of these devices since the end of the war on August 14, 2006," said Mine Action Coordination Centre spokeswoman Dahlia Farran, adding that "the majority of the wounded have been permanently disabled. " "Among demining personnel, 13 people have been killed and 34 wounded, including Lebanese soldiers and members of international organisations and the UN Interim Force in Lebanon," she added. Farran said that so far deminers had managed to clear 42 percent of the estimated 39 million square metres (420 million square feet) of south Lebanon that had been littered with cluster bomb submunitions.

Palestinians protest West Bank wall, settlements, settler-only roads in Friday’s nonviolent actions
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – 130 Palestinians staged a nonviolent demonstration against Israel’s separation wall in the West Bank village of Al-Khadr, near Bethlehem, on Friday, facing down as many as 20 heavily-armed Israeli soldiers and snipers who blocked the protesters from reaching the construction site of the concrete barrier, witnesses said. Al-Khadr’s Popular Committee has been organizing a weekly protest against the wall every week since January. Organizers say that the planned construction of the wall will result in the de facto annexation to Israel of more than 73,000 dunams, or 18,000 acres, of Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area alone. 20,000 dunams of this land belongs to the farmers of Al-Khadr, who stand to lose their whole livelihoods. Friday’s demonstration also marked Palestinian Children’s day.

Israeli forces kill Palestinian farmer in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli forces shot and killed a 35-year-old Palestinian farmer named Ra’fat Mansour and injured another Palestinian man during an ongoing attack on the area near the cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip, medics said. Medical sources added that Mansour was dead when he arrived at Al-Awda hospital. The other man, Muhammad Mansour, is reported to be injured mildly. Mansour is the second farmer, and the third unarmed Palestinian civilian to be killed by Israeli forces near Gaza’s border wall. The Israeli military recently enlarged the "Buffer Zone" inside the Strip along the border with Israel. Palestinians are now forbidden from approaching within 800 meters of the border. Israeli soldiers routinely shoot at Palestinians, including farmers tending their land, who enter the border zone.

Border Police let settlers retake illegal W. Bank outpost
Meron Rapoport, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
The Border Police last week allowed settlers to return to an illegal outpost on Palestinian land in the West Bank and force out leftist activists who had been authorized to guard the place. Officials at the Yesh Din human rights group say they had warned authorities of the settlers’ plans ahead of time. The Border Police say their forces were unable to gain control over the settlers due to "numerical inferiority. "The incident occurred Wednesday on the Shvut Ami outpost, near Kedumim. According to Israel Defense Forces records, the structure is on land owned by Badriya Amar of the village of Qadum. The outpost has been evacuated nine times, but each time settlers return, preventing the legal owners from reaching the land. Right-wing activist Datia Yitzhaki, a settler leader in the area, said the structure is "abandoned property" that therefore belongs to the state.

Demonstration against apartheid road 443
International Solidarity Movement 4/5/2008
Ramallah Region - Photos - On 4th April around 200 Palestinians, joined by Israelis and internationals, held a non-violent demonstration on Road 443 following the recent decision made by the Israeli High Court that effectively approves the prohibition of Palestinian movement on the road and it’s reservation for exclusive Israeli use. Protesters marched from Khartabth Al-Misbah towards the road waving Palestinian flags, before being blocked by the Israeli army. Speeches were then made by prominent figures within the community denouncing the apartheid system within the West Bank that this road enforces and insisting that demonstrations against the Israeli only road would continue until full, equal access is granted to all Palestinians. Despite initially being built for Palestinian use, as of 2002 all Palestinians were denied access to the road, despite this decision never being supported by a military order or any legal means. -- See also: High Court ruling

U.S. supervising training of elite PA unit in Jordan
Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
About three weeks ago, the Palestinian interior minister, General Abdel Razak al-Yahya, arrived in the Jordanian village of Giftlik to visit the training camp of the "special second battalion" of the Palestinian National Security force. Yahya gathered all 620 soldiers and officers belonging to the first PNS battalion to undergo training under an American program and Jordanian guidance - the first supposedly elite unit of what used to be viewed as the Palestinian Authority’s army. "Your duty is not to any organization or party, but only to the Palestinian Authority," Yahya told them. The old general, a veteran of numerous battles and wars with Israel as a member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s military wing, the Palestinian Liberation Army, and even the Syrian army, did not hide his opinion about clashing with Israel.

Erekat: Abbas, Olmert to meet Monday to review negotiations
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Israeli and Palestinian leaders will resume their regular meetings on Monday with talks to review progress in U. S. -backed efforts to work out a peace deal by year’s end, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Saturday. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had called off his meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the beginning of March in response to an Israeli anti-rocket raid on the Gaza Strip that killed 120 people, dozens of them civilians. The leaders had committed to meet every two weeks, but last met February 19. Abbas and Olmert will talk in the meeting about how much each side has done to meet its peace obligations, Erekat said. An Israeli official said he expected the leaders to meet at the beginning of the week. He said Olmert had wanted to resume the talks earlier, but Abbas had refused.

Min. Ben-Eliezer: Israel only holding virtual negotiations
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer on Saturday said that if Israel was interested in achieving peace, it had no choice but to free jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti. "Current negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinian Authority] are only virtual negotiations," Ben-Eliezer said, adding "only the release of Barghouti could change things around. " Asked about the current Palestinian leadership, Ben-Eliezer said "I have great respect for [Mahmoud] Abbas and Salam Fayad, but everything is now in the hands of Hamas. At this rate Hamas will soon take over the West Bank. The only person who could put a stop to that is Barghouti. "The minister then responded to questions regarding Labor Chairman Ehud Barak’s leadership, saying Barak lacked necessary support for his political decisions.

Palestinian rocket accidentally kills local farmer in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Palestinian sources say man killed, another wounded from Israeli artillery fire in northern Gaza - but local residents say cause of explosion was Palestinian rocket which failed to reach its destination across the border. IDF denies any shells fired - Medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Saturday afternoon that a Palestinian farmer was killed and another wounded in an IDF artillery strike in northern Gaza. However local residents say the farmer was killed after a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists toward Israel fell short and hit him. The army said that while troops patrolling the border earlier in the afternoon did indeed come under Palestinian fire, they did not respond to the anti-tank missile launched at them. No soldiers were wounded. Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter’s personal assistant was lightly-to-moderately wounded by gunfire on Friday. . .

Israeli forces raid Qabatiya
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the West Bank town of Qabatiya, south of Jenin, on Saturday, raiding houses and searching for "wanted" Palestinains, local sources said. A source in the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed that it confronted the Israeli soldiers, throwing homemade bombs at their vehicles. Israeli forces invaded at dawn todaythe vallage of Qabatia, south of Jenin, where it raided and thoroughlysearched houses under the name of searching for wanted citizens. Witnesses added that Israeli forces wrecked the interiors of several houses while shooting and detonating sonic bombs. No arrests or injuries were reported. [end]

Arab Home Razed in Jerusalem
Karin Laub, MIFTAH 4/5/2008
An Israeli wrecking crew knocked down Shadi Hamdan’s home in an Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem in just a couple of hours, reducing the upholsterer’s savings to a pile of gray rubble. The demolition of the home, which Israel claims was illegally built, vividly illustrate the toughest issue facing negotiators in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks: conflicting claims over Jerusalem. Agreeing on how to divide the ancient city, home to 476,000 Jews and 250,000 Arabs, is on the table but has yet to be resolved in talks launched at a U. S. -hosted Mideast peace conference last November. The Palestinians want to establish a capital in east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast War. Israel claims the whole city but has signaled willingness to cede some Arab neighborhoods. Since 2004, Israel has leveled more than 300 homes in Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, citing a lack of building permits.

An-Nasser Brigades ’shell Israeli position’
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The An-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed responsibility on Saturday morning for shelling an Israeli military position east of Gaza’s Al-Bureij refugee camp. The Brigades announced, in a statement, that "the shelling comes in response to the crimes that the occupation commits daily against the Palestinian people also as a response to the siege of Gaza. " Separately, the An-Nasser Brigafes claimed to have attacked an Israeli military jeep near a cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday morning. They said the attack took place at 10:40am, and that the jeep was damaged, causing the Israeli soldiers to call for support.

DFLP fighters launch projectile at Israeli kibbutz
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), claimed responsibility for launching a homemade projectile at the Israeli kibbutz Nir’am, near the Gaza Strip, on Saturday afternoon. The group said the attack was an act of resistance against ongoing occupation. [end]

Report: Barghouti’s son lightly injured from IDF fire in Ramallah
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Palestinians say IDF force opened fire on vehicle carrying five al-Aqsa Brigades militants; Israeli army denies report - A number of militants, including the son of jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, were injured during an incident involving IDF soldiers in Ramallah, Palestinian sources reported Friday night. Israeli army officials have denied the report, saying the militants were injured in an accident between two Palestinian vehicles. According to the Palestinian sources, during the incident, which occurred at around midnight, IDF soldiers patrolling the West Bank town by jeep ordered a Palestinian vehicle carrying five gunmen belonging to the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, Fatah’s armed wing, to pull over. When the Palestinians refused, the soldiers opened fire and crashed into the vehicle, the sources said.

2 rockets land outside Ashkelon
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Two Palestinian rockets launched from Gaza land in open areas near southern Israeli city early Saturday evening, shortly after alert sirens sounded. No injuries reported -Two Palestinian rockets landed in open areas on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon on Saturday evening, no injuries have been reported and no damage was caused. Residents reported rocket alert sirens sounded throughout their streets a short while before two loud explosions were heard. Earlier in the day a Palestinian farmer was reported killed near the Gaza border by an errant shell fired by terror groups towards Israel. Medical officials in the Strip initially claimed the man had been struck by IDF artillery but local eyewitnesses said the explosion was the result of an unsuccessful launch attempt. The army said that while troops patrolling the border earlier in the afternoon. . .

News in Brief
Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
A Qassam rocket was fired at Ashkelon yesterday from the Gaza Strip, and landed in an open field south of the city’s industrial zone. No damage was reported. Ashkelon went into a state of alert as sirens sounded for the first time since the last escalation between Israel and Hamas. A spokesperson for the Ashkelon municipality said the sirens should not have been activated, because of the area where the rocket was headed. (Amos Harel and News Agencies) Egyptian security forces were searching yesterday for two Sudanese men suspected of planning to attack tourist targets in Sinai Peninsula. They were thought to be carrying explosives in their truck. Egyptian security sources said the police had set up additional roadblocks to search for the men, thought to have entered Egypt through its southern border with Sudan. (Avi Issacharoff and News Agencies)Israeli and Palestinian leaders. . .

A sitting duck situation
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
In October 2001, Palestinian terror scored its greatest success to date when militants belonging to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine assassinated Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem. In a surprising announcement, a few hours after the murder, the then chief of the Shin Bet security services, Avi Dichter, said the organization he headed was responsible for the security failure. Even though Dichter had been warned by his aides that such an admission would be offering his head on a platter to the committee that would investigate the attack, he insisted on making the statement. His decision turned out to be correct: His symbolic gesture was well-received by the public, and the assassination did not cost the well-respected Shin Bet officer his career. The investigation showed that Ze’evi regularly refused a security detail and made it difficult for the Shin Bet to protect him properly.

Israeli fire kills Palestinian farmer
Middle East Online 4/5/2008
GAZA CITY - A Palestinian farmer was killed by an Israeli artillery round on Saturday as he worked in his fields near the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel, Palestinian medics said. The strike near the northern town of Jabaliya killed Rafaat Mansur, a 35-year-old farmer, and wounded another person, they said. An Israeli army spokeswoman claimed Palestinians had opened fire and launched an anti-tank missile at an Israeli border patrol along the northern perimeter fencem, but that the patrol did not return fire. Since Israel and the Palestinians formally relaunched peace talks in November at least 367 people have been killed, most of them Palestinians. At least 6,330 people have been killed overall, the vast majority of them Palestinians, since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Mazuz moves to limit racial profiling at Ben-Gurion Airport
Zohar Blumenkrantz, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz recently instructed the Israel Airports Authority "to implement visible equality" between Arabs and Jews in security checks at Ben-Gurion Airport. In a petition to the High Court of Justice, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel and the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel had alleged discriminatory treatment of Israeli Arabs in airport security checks. The Shin Bet security service and the IAA thus reached an agreement on the state’s response to the petition, in accordance with guidelines issued by Mazuz. Mazuz’s guidelines specify equal treatment in the examination of passengers’ checked and carry-on baggage as well as the markings made on the baggage. For checked baggage, the current policy will remain in effect: The bags are machine-screened in front of the passenger.

Protests take place in Bil’in and Umm Salamona
Eyad Bornat, International Solidarity Movement 4/5/2008
Ten non-violent protesters were reported injured during the weekly Anti-Wall protest at the village of Bil’in located near the West Bank city of Ramallah on midday Friday. As the case each week, villagers from Bil’in along with Israeli and international activists marched towards the location of the Wall which is separating the village from its land. As soon as the protest reached the gate of the Wall soldiers showered the protesters with tear gas and rubber coated steel bullets. Medical sources reported that ten protesters suffered gas inhalation. The village of Bil’in has been protesting the construction of the wall on the village’s land for over three years. Umm Salamona: The weekly demonstration against the wall in Umm salamuna gathered around 50 Palestinians and internationals on the 4th of april. The peaceful demonstration marched down the main street until it reached the entrance to the town where the Israeli military stopped the demonstrators using marble barbed wire.

Nonviolent resistance moves forward as Israeli forces injure 2 children and arrest supporters
Palestine News Network 4/5/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag -- The Palestinian nonviolent resistance continued yesterday around the time of Friday prayers in southern Bethlehem’s Umm Salamuna. This is a weekly event. Israeli forces met the demonstrators with Billy clubs and rolls of barbed wire blocking the roads. Soldiers attacked the nonviolent crowd which called for an end to occupation, the Wall, settlement expansion and land confiscation. The children injured were just 9 and 11 years old. Two children are injured: 11 year old Ali Mohamad Abu Shakra and the 9 year old son of one of the local organizers. Israeli forces also arrested two foreign supporters who were taken to a police station in the Kiryat Arba Settlement, north of Hebron City. The Friday demonstration began with Palestinian flags and residents and supporters alike walking through the streets, calling for an end to the Wall which "eats the land and destroys crops without mercy.

IOA bars 67 Palestinian patients from receiving treatment abroad in March
Palestinian Information Center 4/5/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA health ministry in Gaza stated that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) barred 67 Palestinian patients in Gaza from traveling abroad to receive medical treatment and did not respond to travel requests submitted by 411 others during the past month of March. In this regard, two Palestinian patients were proclaimed dead on Thursday and Friday after they tried more than once to travel abroad for treatment but to no avail. The patients’ families added that the lack of medicines in Gaza also contributed to their death. For its part, the popular committee against the siege said that the death of the two patients raised the number of the siege victims to 123 Palestinians including 24 children, 43 women in addition to 32 patients who died at the crossings. The Israeli siege also killed a Palestinian infant called Mohamed Haneyya on Friday evening after the IOA refused. . .

Palestinian prisoners go on hunger strike in solidarity with Hashlamon
Palestinian Information Center 4/5/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The number of Palestinian prisoners, who are going on hunger strike in solidarity with the Palestinian detainee Nora Al-Hashlamon, is on the rise, according to a Palestinian legal center. The director of the prisoners’ studies center, Ra’fat Hamdona, said in a press release that the Israeli prisons authority (IPA) was concerned over the expanding number of those joining Hashlamon’s hunger strike that started 12/3/2008 in protest over her unjustified administrative detention. He said that the IPA moved a number of prisoners from Negev jail to other prisons fearing expansion of the strike in Negev, where Hashlamon’s husband is incarcerated. Hamdona quoted a prisoner in Negev as saying that the husband along with four others was transferred from the jail a couple of days ago for starting an open-ended hunger strike and for instigating others to join the strike.

Israel, U.S. plan to release details on Syria attack
Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Israel and the United States are coordinating the release of details on the air force strike in Syria last September, which foreign reports claim targeted a nuclear installation Syria was constructing withe North Korean assistance. American officials may reveal details of the strike later this month during congressional hearings. Even though the defense establishment in Israel is opposed to any publication of details of the attack, the Prime Minister’s Bureau and the Bush administration are of the opinion that it is now possible to reveal details because there is little chance of a conflagration as a result of a Syrian decision to avenge the attack. Details of the attack are likely to be revealed by senior Bush administration officials during hearings before Congress.

Israel Claims to Remove 50 Roadblocks in West Bank
Reuters, MIFTAH 4/5/2008
Israel on Thursday saidit had removed 50 roadblocks in the West Bank as part of promises made to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, but US and Palestinian officials could not confirm their removal. A senior US official said "it is hard to assess" the impact of the roadblocks’ removal, let alone confirm they were scrapped, because Israel had yet to give Washington or the Palestinians a map showing where the dirt-mound obstacles were. Saeb Erekat, a senior Palestinian peace negotiator, said "nothing has changed on the ground", comments echoed by four senior Palestinian security officials who monitor Israeli operations in the West Bank. On Sunday, after talks Rice held with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on bolstering peace negotiations, Israel said it would remove 50 roadblocks, ease travel for Palestinian businessmen and increase the number of entry permits for Palestinian workers.

Israeli forces did not remove roadblocks in West Bank: Abbas and Olmert to meet Monday
Palestine News Network 4/5/2008
Beirut / PNN - The head of the Negotiations Affairs Department in the Palestine Liberation Organization, Dr. Sa’eb Erekat told the press on Saturday that President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Monday. It was also noted in Beirut that Israeli claims that it removed 50 dirt road blocks within the West Bank is untrue. The Americans will push Israel to honor its commitments, while Dr. Erekat says that Israel is engaging the world in wide-spread deception. Dr. Erekat called the United States General John Fraser, charged with overseeing the implementation of the first part of the Road Map, to see what has been removed. Dr. Erekat also denies Israeli claims that it removed the barriers and walls dirt. He said, "We demand of General Fraser to examine the accuracy and credibility of Israeli statements on the ground and declare the truth of the matter as the world is being engaged in deception.

Ramon: Jerusalem not for negotiations, wall our borders
Palestinian Information Center 4/5/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Haim Ramon, the Israeli deputy premier, has affirmed that public and secret talks with PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and his team do not include Jerusalem, "which all knows is not for negotiations". Ramon in a statement carried by the Hebrew media said that the Israeli government had annexed 28 Palestinian villages to Jerusalem, which were never before part of Jerusalem. He explained that negotiations with the Palestinians would be around those villages and not eastern Jerusalem, which was occupied by IOF troops in the 1967 war. The deputy premier also underlined that borders with the PA would be the separation wall currently being built in the West Bank, which has confiscated thousands of dunums of West Bank lands. Ramon hoped that an agreement would be reached with the PA leadership in the current year that would be coupled with passing a law for compensating. . .

Barghouthi: Negotiations are Meaningless until Israel Stops Settlement Expansion, Halts Construction of Apartheid Wall, and Ends Siege on Gaza
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 4/5/2008
Ramallah, 03-04-08: PNI Secretary General Mustafa Barghouthi MP said today that negotiations with Israel are meaningless until it meets basic conditions that reflect a genuine commitment towards peace. The MP made the statement at a press conference held in Ramallah today, one day after Israel announced that it was planning to build a further 1,900 settlement housing units in addition to a staggering 9,432 settlement housing units that have been approved since the Annapolis meeting on 27 November 2007. "Israel claimed at Annapolis that it wanted peace, and yet settlements are now growing 20 times faster than they were before Annapolis. In the meantime, it continues constructing its Apartheid Wall. There is simply no explanation for this other than that Israel is using the peace process as a guise to further its expansionist project, through which it intends to leave Palestinians with. . .

Fayyad: No solution to Qassam issue
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Palestinian prime minister says does not believe solution to Qassam attacks exists. Laments detachment of West Bank from Gaza: ’All we can do is transfer funds’ - "There is no solution for the troubles in Gaza, or for the rockets being fired from it," Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said in an interview for Kuwaiti journal al-Rai on Saturday. "All we can do is transfer funds to the Gaza Strip. "Fayyad was referring to the detachment of the West Bank from Gaza following the hostile takeover of the coastal territory by Hamas, and to his authority’s helplessness in remedying the situation. "We can do nothing but transfer the clerks’ salaries and relief funds through the banks. We have tried numerous times to resolve this issue," he said. Regarding the economic situation of the Palestinian Authority, Fayyad, the former finance minister of the PA,. . .

Minister Ben-Eliezer: Israel-PA peace process is virtual
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Infrastructure minister says only Barghouti’s release can jumpstart peace process, prevent Hamas takeover of West Bank and establishment of binational state in Israel -Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Saturday cast doubt over the negotiationsIsrael is conducting with the Palestinian Authority and called for the release of jailed Fatah leaderMarwan Barghouti. Speaking to a cultural forum in Haifa, Ben-Eliezer said "the negotiations being conducted today are virtual. Only the release of Barghouti can change the situation. I respect (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas and (Prime Minister Salam) Fayyad); they are good people? But what happened to the 60,000 weapons that we handed over to them? Everything is under Hamas’ control now. I’m looking for someone with whom we can seal a deal.

’No changes’ made to Yemeni initiative for Hamas-Fatah dialogue, says MK
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Ahmad At-Tibi, an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset, denied reports that Yemeni President Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh intends to amend his proposal for Palestinian unity on Saturday. The Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper reported earlier on Saturday that At-Tibi met with the Yemeni president this week to discuss his proposal for dialogue between the rival Fatah and Hamas movments. Al-Quds also reported that Saleh intends to change the proposal to make it "more effective. " Representatives of Fatah and Hamas signed the agreement, which calls for the resumption of direct talks between them, two weeks ago. At-Tibi, a member of the Ra’am Ta’al (Arab Movement for Renewal) party, who has long been involved in both Palestinian and Israeli politics, said that no changes were made to the proposal.

’Hamas won’t let Palestinians starve’
Jerusalem Post 4/5/2008
Hamas will devote all political and diplomatic measures possible to lifting the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip, Hamas official Halil al-Haya said Friday at a rally in Gaza in honor of Hamas’s founder, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin. "The Palestinian people will throw off the siege. . . All the nations in the region know that Hamas won’t allow the Palestinian people to die of hunger," Haya declared. According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, Haya also warned Israel not to believe that Hamas and other "resistance factions" would offer a unilateral ceasefire. [end]

Hamas: Olmert is gambling with Gilad Shalit’s life
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Palestinian Parliament Member Mushir al Masri on Saturday blamed Israel and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for failing to reach a compromise that would free abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit. Al Masri, a parliament member on behalf of Hamas, told a Palestinian news agency "I want to turn to the Shalit family and say: ’Olmert and his associates are gambling with your son’s life. ’"Al Masri further said that another Israeli insistence would make Hamas seal off the possibility for Shalit’s release. "Shalit will never see the light of day, or his parents, if the Palestinian prisoners will not see theirs," he declared. Al Masri claimed Hamas was beginning to question Egypt’s ability to help solve the burning issues at stake, including Shalit, the Israeli-Palestinian situation, as well the sour relations between Hamas and Fatah within the Palestinian Authority.

Jibril: IOF invasion of Gaza within weeks in coordination with Abbas
Palestinian Information Center 4/5/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Israel is planning a large scale incursion into the Gaza Strip in coordination with the PA chief Mahmoud Abbas, Ahmed Jibril, the secretary general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, asserted. Jibril speaking to Quds Press quoted western sources as saying that Israel would invade the Strip within the coming few weeks and would assassinate senior political and military leaders of Hamas. He added that Abbas would be allowed to condemn the incursion. The western sources, which refused to disclose their identity, said that the aggression would take place within 20 days at the most, the PFLP-GC leader underlined. He said that Egyptian and international forces would then enter Gaza to protect Abbas, and added that the Israelis hope that such an act would terrorize Syria and Hizbullah.

Barak tries to calm Syrian nerves over Israeli drill
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/5/2008
’Israel has no intentions of launching any such operation," says defense minister in public bid to allay Damascus concerns scheduled nationwide exercise foretelling of aggressive Israeli intent - "The home front drill commencing tomorrow is an exercise that has been in the works for several months. Israel has no intentions to launch any such operation or any others. Messages of reassurance have beencommunicated across to all relevant parties," so reiterated officials in the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday night after several days of exacerbated tensions with Damascus. "The sole objective of the exercise is to drill the home front," said the sources in PM Ehud Olmert’s office, who added that the simulation of chemical and other attacks on Israeli cities was part of the lessons being implemented after the Second Lebanon War.

Lebanon PM wary of Israeli manoeuvres
Middle East Online 4/5/2008
BEIRUT - Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora warned on Friday that Israel could exploit major military exercises to exacerbate tensions along the volatile border between the two countries. Siniora asked UN peacekeepers tasked with monitoring the border, "to be careful" that Israel will not use the manoeuvres "to launch operations capable of increasing tension," a statement from his office said. He also urged the Lebanese army to "be extremely vigilant and take the necessary measures to protect Lebanese civilians and face up to any Israeli violation" of Lebanese territory. Siniora expressed concern that Israel could violate the terms of UN Security Council Resolution 1701 which was adopted to end the month-long war between the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Israel in south Lebanon in 2006. According to Siniora’s office, General Claudio Graziano, the commander of the United. . .

Hezbollah: IDF drill borne of ’frustration and despair’
Haaretz Service and DPA, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Hezbollah’s southern Lebanon commander on Saturday was quoted as saying the militant group will "follow closely" Israel Defense Forces drills planned for Sunday. "Israel’s military drill is not a testament of its strength but of its frustration and despair following its defeat in the Second Lebanon War," Hezbollah television al-Manar quoted Nabil Kauk as saying. According to Lebanese security sources, Hezbollah has put its militants in a state of full alert ahead of Sunday’s maneuvers. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora on Friday called on the Lebanese army to raise its alert level, fearing that Israel may exploit an upcoming major military exercise to violate his country’s sovereignty, Israel Radio reported Saturday. A widespread, week-long civil defense drill will begin in Israel on Sunday, starting at the weekly cabinet. . .

Min. Ayalon warns tensions with Syria ’could lead to mistakes’
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Labor Party Minister and former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon on Saturday said Israel had no intention of attacking Syria, but said that "tensions on the northern border could lead to mistakes on both sides. " During a cultural event taking place in Be’er Sheva, Ayalon stated that Syria still holds Israel accountable for September’s air strikein its territory, as well as for the assassination in February of Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Imad Mughniyah in a car bomb in Damascus. Ayalon also referred to Israel’s civil defense drill set for Sunday, which hascaused Lebanon to raise its army’s alert Ayalon said the drill was planned over two months ago, and was not in any way related to the growing tensions in Syria. "Still," he warned, "we must act in a specific way so as not to cause the Syrians to reach the wrong decisions.

What’s behind the masks?
Uzi Benziman, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Matan Vilnai admitted once that there is a technologically advanced bomb shelter in his home, equipped and ready for any eventuality - which reflects a high level of security awareness. Five days ago it was reported that Vilnai is spreading his security awareness to the general public: At his initiative, the cabinet decided to reissue gas masks to every civilian. The head of the National Emergency Administration, Brigadier General (res. ) Ze’ev Tzuk-Ram, explained on Israel Radio that "there is no reason to panic because this is a purely technical move about which a decision was made earlier. "Really? On March 19, 2007, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh told the Knesset that "the defense establishment has decided to collect the gas masks from civilians, refurbish them -and place them in central storage holding areas that will be established near large urban centers.

Ready for everything but peace
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Two important headlines appeared in the official Syrian press last Thursday. A day after the big scare that engulfed the Israeli media, which reported on the possibility of war with Syria, the calling up of armored divisions and the movement of large military units that could not be explained, Bashar Assad had different worries: He issued an important decree on the supervision of construction irregularities in Syria. Another report dealt with the great success of the Arab League summit in Damascus. Editorials in Syria discussed peace between Israel and the Palestinians, U. S. policy in the Middle East, and the need for an Arab embargo on Israel, which is not willing to adopt the Arab peace initiative. War between Syria and Israel? An Israeli attack on Syria? Readiness for a conflagration this summer? Not a word.

Minister: Not in Israel’s interests to attack Syria
Yonat Atlas, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Ami Ayalon says current tensions with Damascus stem from an ’unsettled score over the operation in September and the assassination of Imad Mugniyah,’ warns explosive atmosphere demands more caution in decision-making process. "There are indeed tensions that stem from unsettled scores over the operation in Septmember and the assassination of Imad Mugniyah," Minister Ami Ayalon said on Saturday at a public event in Beersheba while addressing the current situation with Syria. The minister said however that media reports indicating Damascus was amassing troops were unsubstantiated. Ayalon urged the government to exert caution in its decision making due to the sensitive situation on the border. The Syrians, he said, believe Israel has something to gain by attacking them - "when in reality the government has no interest in starting a war.

Dr. Al Barghouthi: Israeli attacks up 300 percent since Annapolis
Palestine News Network 4/5/2008
Ramallah / PNN- Palestinian Legislative Council member and former presidential candidate, Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, pointed out today that Israeli attacks have increased by 300 percent since Annapolis. That conference was held in the United States in November during which the Israeli government swore it would tone-down, at the least, its illegal actions against the Palestinian population and their lands. The Israelis were not even asked to abide all facets of international law; instead to simply not increase settlements and to stop the killings. The opposite has happened, reports Dr. Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative. His position is supported by many others, and indeed, by fact. On Saturday in the central West Bank’s Ramallah the Palestinian official explained the reality of the situation to a parliamentary delegation from the German Democratic Socialist Party.

Canadian FM condemns attack on group in Israel
AFP, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Palestinian sniper attack on Canadian civilians visiting observation point in Sderot ’unacceptable,’ Maxime Bernier says - OTTAWA -Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier on Friday blasted a sniper attack on Canadian civilians who were visiting the Qassam-battered town of Sderot in southern Israel with Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, who personal assistant sustained mild to moderate wounds in the incident. The Canada-Israel Committee (CIC) was in Sderot to "familiarize" themselves with goings-on in the region when an unidentified shooter fired at them, Bernier said. "Canada strongly condemns today’s attack on a delegation visiting an observation point near Sderot," Bernier said in a statement. "These attacks targeting civilians are unacceptable, and I wish a full recovery to Mati Gill, the bureau chief of the Israeli Public Safety Minister, who was wounded in the attack.

Iran cleric says Israel behind anti-Islam Dutch film
AFP, YNetNews 4/5/2008
’Behind these satanic acts can be found the oppressive powers and the Zionist regime,’ Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami says of Geert Wilders’ film, adding that it is a reaction against the ’blossoming of Islam’ in the world - TEHRAN - Israel and unidentified "oppressive powers" are behind the production of an anti-Islamic film by right-wing Dutch MP Geert Wilders, a prominent conservative Iranian cleric claimed on Friday. "Behind these satanic acts can be found the oppressive powers and the Zionist regime," Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said during a Friday prayer sermon in the capital broadcast by state radio. "This poor Dutch deputy has made 40 trips to Israel over the past 25 years," Khatami said. "He has himself said he is close to (Israeli President). . "

Zubaidi: Our leaders in Fatah and the PA are liars
Palestinian Information Center 4/5/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Zakaria Al-Zubaidi, a former prominent commander of the Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the dissolved armed wing of Fatah, lashed out at the Fatah leaders and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and described them as liars, warning if a Palestinian state was not established by the end of 2008, the Palestinians in the West Bank would definitely overthrow the PA leadership. In an interview with the Israeli Ha’aretz newspaper, Zubaidi said that Abbas’s authority and the IOA lied to the Brigades’ cadres after they promised to give them amnesties and jobs if they renounced resistance against the occupation but nothing of that happened. Commenting on a speech delivered during a festival by one of the Fatah leaders, the Aqsa leader said: "At that time, when one of the Fatah leaders spoke out saying, ’we are moving on the path of martyrs and we will continue the resistance,’ I approached him saying, ’you are a liar and stop lying to the people.

Hayya: The caretaker gov’t is to expand its cabinet soon
Palestinian Information Center 4/5/2008
JABALIA, (PIC)-- Dr. Khalil Al-Hayya, a prominent Hamas leader, stated that the PA caretaker government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya is working on expanding its cabinet to promote and facilitate its administrative duties, stressing at the same time the unity of Hamas positions inside and outside Palestine and the failure of the Israeli siege to eliminate it. During a festival organized by Hamas on Friday in honor of its assassinated leaders, Hayya underlined in a speech that the Palestinian security apparatuses in Gaza have opened the file of spies and brought them to justice after interrogating them, pointing out that the interior ministry will publish soon this black file in public.   The Hamas leader highlighted the unity of Hamas, saying whoever thinks that Hamas is divided is delusional because its positions are one inside or outside Palestine and those who dealt and deal with the Movement realize this fact well.

Teachers’ union outraged at Fayyad’s punishment of strikers
Ma’an News Agency 4/5/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Palestinian Teachers Union in the Nablus region expressed outrage on Saturday at a decision made by Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s decision to penalize striking teachers. On Thursday Fayyad announced that he would refuse to pay teachers for the days that they are on strike. The union argues that the right to strike is enshrined in the fourth paragraph of Article 25 of the Palestinian Basic Law, making Fayyad’s action a violation of the law. Palestinian teachers have held a series of strikes in the West Bank since January demanding increased pay to match the rising prices of consumer goods, food, and transportation. The teachers also noted that that Palestine is a full member in the Arab League and the Arab Labor Organization and an observer member of the International Labor Organization, and is therefore obligated to guarantee union rights, especially the right to strike.

’Barak is wrong, Olmert is right’
Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
On Tuesday morning, exactly 30 years after the 24-year-old student Yuli Tamir set out from her Jerusalem home for the first Peace Now demonstration at Malchei Yisrael Square (today’s Rabin Square), Education Minister Yuli Tamir set out from her home in Ramat Aviv, accompanied by two bodyguards, for the President’s Residence to attend a meeting on projects for youth. A large headline in the newspaper that lay on the backseat of her official vehicle stated that a new report, distributed by Peace Now, shows that despite the commitments made by the government - to which she belongs - to freeze construction in the Jewish settlements in the territories, thousands of new apartments are sprouting up in 101 settlements across the West Bank. An even larger headline reported on a stormy meeting of the Labor Party Knesset faction, due to the increasing feeling that the party’s chairman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, is planning to resign from the government.

Peretz: I never thought Barak was fit to lead Labor Party
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Former Defense Minister Amir Peretz on Saturday blasted Defense Minister Ehud Barak, saying "nobody knows what Barak wants. ""Our relations have been sour for years," the former Labor Party chair said in interview with Israel’s Channel 2. "I never thought Barak was fit to lead the party. " Peretz’s statements came following tensions within the Labor Party, and his public bickering with Barak, in which he said the defense minister was "pathetic" and "detached from reality. "Barak fired back, telling Peretz "When it comes to being pathetic, there’s no competing with you. "After being harshly criticized for his role in the Second Lebanon War, Peretz went on a long vacation in the United States. "There were a few indecisions, I had to weigh my position in the political arena, but finally decided that I had no right to get up and leave," he said.

David Grossman: I had a wish my book would protect my son Uri
Shiri Lev-Ari, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
"My son Uri spent most of his army service in the occupied territories, on patrols, lookouts, stakeouts, and at checkpoints, and every once in a while he would share with me the things he experienced there," author David Grossman writes in the afterward to his new novel, "Isha Borahat Mibesora" ("Woman flees tidings"). "I had a hunch - or more precisely, a wish - that the book I was writing would protect him. On August 12, 2006, in the final hours of the Second Lebanon War, Uri was killed in South Lebanon. . . . After the Shiva I returned to the book. Most of it was already written. What changed, more than anything, is the sounding box of the reality in which the final version was written. "Grossman’s new book tells the story of Ora and her husband Ilan, who have two sons - Adam, 24, and Ofer, a 21-year-old soldier.

As drought nears, Southern landscape browns
Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Izhar Raz moved to Kibbutz Nahal Oz from Tel Aviv in 1958. He has been a farmer ever since, and currently oversees field crops for the kibbutz. "We grow potatoes, carrots, sunflowers, wheat, watermelon, cabbage and peppers," Raz says in his office shortly before heading out for a tour of the fields, which are next to the border with the Gaza Strip. Raz expects profits from wheat sales this year to fall 30 percent from last year. By next month, what is currently termed low rainfall could turn into a drought year. The lack of water, which has hit agriculture in the south of the country particularly hard, is stinging farmers’ profits and is liable to force up prices of fresh produce. The finance minister can declare a drought year based on crop yields. At Nahal Oz, the farmers say, the lack of rain means a 70-percent decline in wheat yields this year.

Gov’t study: Water usage from natural sources down since 1967
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Contrary to established opinion, water consumption from natural sources in Israel has actually decreased since the Six-Day War, even though the population more than doubled, a recent study found. The state Water Authority conducted the study, among other reasons, to refute a claim made by international water experts that Israel launched the 1967 war to increase its water pumping capacity. The main factor in the study’s findings is the major increase in use of purified wastewater for agricultural irrigation. Half of the consumption in recent years has been met also through two large desalination plants. Despite this, Israel is in a severe crisis because several cycles of draught years over the past two decades created steep drops in the level of Lake Kinneret and groundwater reservoirs, even though overall water consumption did not go up.

The Economist: Israeli economy stable but has shaky foundation
TheMarker Staff, Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
The Economist, arguably the most important economic magazine in the world, has devoted a special section in this week’s edition to the Israeli economy in honor of Israel’s upcoming 60th birthday - and what is has to say is not all good, to put it mildly. Israel may have an astonishing economy despite having so many wars, writes the Economist in classic British understatement, but then continues to draw much less complimentary conclusions: The economic miracle and high growth is mostly based on a one-time opportunity in high tech, and the country is not prepared for the future. It praises the Israeli economy for growing by more than 3% per year over the last four years, well above the average for developed nations, despite the second intifada, the costs of the Gaza disengagement and the Second Lebanon War.

Business in Brief
Ha’aretz 4/6/2008
Thousands of high tech workers will be disappointed to discover that they lost out in the U. S. government’s annual lottery for H1B work visas. These so-called high tech visas are in huge demand among technology companies all over the world, including Israel, and amount to a total of 65,000 a year. Israeli experts differ as to whether the number of Israeli applicants who won’t receive the visa this year will be a mere few hundred - or up to 5,000. The lottery process officially opened last week, and the visas are intended for college-educated workers with a degree in a sought-after profession in U. S. industry. The visas mainly serve high-tech firms looking to hire engineers. (Guy Grimland) No it isn’t your imagination: Basic foodstuffs are getting more expensive. Fresh agricultural produce was up by 4% in February, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics and the Agriculture Ministry.

Secret history of capitalist world exposed in new book
Jim Miles, Middle East Online 4/5/2008
Book review of:“Bad Samaritans – The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism” by Ha-Joon Chang (Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2008). Every now and then a ‘prize’ of a book comes along that includes all the elements of good writing. Bad Samaritans is one of them. Using straightforward language that generally avoids using the lexicon of economists, and explains it well when it is used, Ha-Joon Chang writes a strong narrative about the ills of the capitalist world. It is a combination of anecdotal history and comparative history that uses many good statistical elements to support his common sense arguments. Most chapters begin with an interesting anecdotal tale that illustrates the theme of that chapter, and all chapters end with an effective summary of his arguments. His title is most appropriate as he readily supports his position that free trade is. . .

British soldiers back in Basra as hundreds of Iraqi troops desert
The Independent 4/5/2008
British troops have returned to Basra, in a major change of policy, six months after withdrawing from the city because their presence was said to be provoking violence from the militias. Around 150 UK military personnel with Mastiff and Warrior armoured vehicles have been deployed in the past few days alongside Iraqi government forces in the aftermath of fierce fighting against the Mehdi Army. The Ministry of Defence described the move as "a logical extension of our training role that will provide additional mentoring and monitoring to the Iraqi army". However, British troops have until now been kept strictly outside the city limits, with officials saying that stepping back into the quagmire of Basra would set back the exit strategy from Iraq. The Americans have been pressing for UK forces, who are now stationed at the airport, to be more actively involved in operations in the city.

Egypt hunts men suspected of plotting terror attack in Sinai
Reuters and DPA, Ha’aretz 4/5/2008
CAIRO - Egyptian security forces were searching on Saturday for two Sudanese men suspected of planning to attack tourist targets in the Sinai peninsula, and who might be carrying explosives in their truck, security sources said. They added that the police, who already run security checkpoints on Sinai’s main roads, had set up additional roadblocks on tracks and back roads to search for the men, thought to have entered Egypt through its southern border with Sudan. "The police distributed notices to security departments in Sinai and Suez Canal provinces describing a small truck suspected of carrying quantities of explosives," one security source said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Police believed the two men were in the truck and were "resolved to carry out terror attacks against tourist establishments in Sinai," the source said.

Iran rejects economic incentives to halt uranium enrichment
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Tehran says it hopes to offer ’good news’ regarding its nuclear program later this week as the country celebrates it National Day of Nuclear Technology, dismisses EU offer of benefits in exchange for termination of uranium enrichment efforts. ’The Islamic Republic doesn’t need incentives from Europe to obtain its rights,’ says government spokesman Gholam Elham -Iran rejected recent European overtures to halt its uranium enrichment program in return for incentives, saying it will continue to expand, not halt, its nuclear program, the government spokesman told reporters Saturday. The European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said last month that his bloc was open for further talks with Tehran to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions despite UN Security Council approval of a third round of sanctions.

Israeli diamond dealer killed in Angola, apparently by robbers
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/5/2008
Businessman shot to death apparently by locals who tried to steal his briefcase; Foreign Ministry working to bring his body to Israel for burial - An Israeli national was shot to death Friday in the Angolan capital of Luanda, apparently by local robbers who tried to steal his briefcase as he was leaving a building belonging to a Russian diamond company he was working for. The Israeli businessman, who also held Russian citizenship, apparently entered the African country using his Russian passport. The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, which was informed of the incident Friday night, is arranging to have his body flown to Israel for burial. Several diamond mines in Angola are being operated by Israeli businessmen. In January five Israeli diamond merchants were killed in Namibia when their chartered plane crashed near the capital Windhoek.

The Late M.L. King Still Silenced
Jeff Cohen, Middle East Online 4/5/2008
Soon after Martin Luther King Jr. ’s birthday became a federal holiday in 1986, I began prodding mainstream media to cover the dramatic story of King’s last year as he campaigned militantly against US foreign and economic policy. Most of his last speeches were recorded. But year after year, corporate networks have refused to air the tapes. Last night, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams enthused over new color footage of King that adorned its coverage of the 40th anniversary of the assassination. The report focused on the last phase of King’s life. But the same old blinders were in place. NBC showed young working-class whites in Chicago taunting King. But there was no mention of how elite media had taunted King in his last year. In 1967 and ‘68, mainstream media saw Rev. King a bit like they now see Rev. Jeremiah Wright.


Access to health services for Palestinian people - Case studies of five patients in critical conditions who died while waiting to exit the Gaza Strip
World Health Organization, ReliefWeb 4/1/2008
      Collective punishment of the weakest: the urgent patients
     The Jewish German philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that ’the very substance of violent action is ruled by the question of means and ends, whose chief characteristic, if applied to human affairs, has always been that the end is in danger of being overwhelmed by the means, which it both justifies and needs. (1)
     Concerning the Gaza strip situation, there are a lot of means which overwhelms ends. One of these is the quasi total closure of Gaza, since June 2007 by the Israeli authorities for security reasons. The closure is causing physical, psychological and economic isolation of Gaza citizens. ’An affront to the dignity of the people’ as it was recently defined by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. (2)
     In this publication we would like to focus public attention on the deterioration of access for health patients who need to be referred outside of the Gaza Strip to receive the appropriate medical treatment.

Political poison

Eric Walberg, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/3/2008
      Western politics is infected with a lethal virus.
     This year’s sixth international Cairo Conference against imperialism and Zionism continued the same themes as last year: dialogue between the left and Muslims, the struggle against Islamophobia, press censorship, torture and dictatorship, and the chance for Western peace groups to network on Middle East issues. The most inspiring project was the growing campaign to boycott Israel in the West and plans to coordinate this on an international level with the long- standing Arab and Muslim boycott campaign.
     Otherwise, there was little to gladden activists, for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue apace, not to mention the increased brutality of Israel against the Palestinian people. There are changes going on in Western countries, with increased activism of students and trade unionists. But the political scene is dismal, despite the overwhelming unpopularity of US-NATO/Israeli wars, as governments continue to bow to Zionist pressures -- both internal and external.

Pressure mounts on companies involved with illegal tramway

Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada 4/3/2008
      Recently the French engineering and consulting company Egis Rail joined European companies Veolia Transport and Alstom in their tramway project being built on Palestinian land in Jerusalem. Alstom won the construction bid in 2000 and two years later Veolia Transport obtained the operating rights. The tramway will connect the ring of illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank with Jerusalem, for which Palestinian land is being confiscated, on top of other violations of international law.
     On 13 February 2008 The French-Israeli chamber of commerce reported on its website that Egis Rail won a 11.9 million euro contract with Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan (JTMP). A public body, the JTMP team is managed and funded in cooperation with the Israeli Ministry of Transport and the Jerusalem municipality and operates through the Association for Urban Development, Preservation and Planning in Jerusalem with the mayor of Jerusalem as its director. Egis Rail will assist in the project management of the construction of three tramway lines. The contract includes support to a seven-kilometer extension to the north and the south of a line that is already under construction, and a branch of one and a half kilometers towards the Old City. A team of six Egis Rail specialists is currently based in Jerusalem to manage the project.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Mitri I. Musleh, MIFTAH 4/2/2008
      As events in the Middle East unfold pointing to the eminent failure of peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis,more and more intellectuals, scholars, politicians and common people, look into the future as they search for a permanent and peaceful resolution to the existing conditions that sadly affect the innocent and helpless in Israel and Palestine.
     On Sunday, March 20, 2008, the Arab Summit, once again, offered its commitment to peace in the region. The Arab countries renewed their previous offer to normalize relations with Israel. All Israel has to do is withdraw its forces from all Arab land they illegally occupied in 1967.
     Unfortunately, Israel continues with its military aggression against the young and the restless within the Palestinian population in Gaza. Also, Israel is turning a blind eye to all offers of peace and security. If Israel can fool one or more people sometimes, can Israel fool all the people all the time? How long can Israel maintain turning a deaf ear to the cries of the people for justice and freedom?

House of cards

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 4/3/2008
      Washington may be pushing the Palestinians and Israelis to negotiate, but is the peace process really still alive, asks in Ramallah No sooner had US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice left Israel on Monday, wrapping up a three-day visit to the region, than Israel began preparatory construction work on thousands of settler units across the occupied West Bank.
     The new settlement expansion drive, described by an Israeli official as "phenomenal", includes more than 600 settler units that are to be built on confiscated Arab land in East Jerusalem. The Israeli government also approved the building of additional 800 settler units in the Beitar Illit colony, an ultra-orthodox settlement in the West Bank while Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak last week agreed to the construction of an undisclosed number of prefabs in small settlements in the southern Hebron region to be allocated to new immigrants.
     "There are settler units on the way," Roi Lachmanovitch, a spokesman for the Shas Party, a key coalition partner in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government, said on Monday. Other sources within Shas were quoted as saying that Olmert had promised the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, that Israel would authorise construction all over Jerusalem, irrespective of talks with the Palestinians.

Swindler’s List

Gilad Atzmon, Middle East Online 4/4/2008
      It is a common trend amongst rabid Zionists and notorious Islamophobes to quote some isolated and mistranslated verses from the Qur’an for the purpose of collectively libeling Muslims and presenting Islam as a regressive and violent belief system.
     Needless to say, so far, such repetitive attempts have been found futile if not actually counter-effective. Not a single Western politician, Zionist campaigner or Neocon think tank has managed to establish a comprehensive case against Islam. The reason is rather simple, in spite of the clear fact that some devastating atrocities have been committed in the name of Islam and in the name of Jihad, these acts were performed by sporadic radicalized and isolated cells. As at it seems, in the eyes of the Western masses, it takes more than just a few random acts of a very few to undermine a humanist universal belief system and implicate its one billion followers.

Dr. Joel Kovel on Zionism: Legitimize violence by suggesting those you are conquering are inferior

Palestine News Network 4/5/2008
      "It is necessarily a racist ideology if you think about it, but most people aren’t allowed to think about it thanks to powerful Zionist repression. Typically, when you gain such a state through violence and illegal means, you then have to make it seem legitimate..the best way of doing that is to claim that you are conquering an inferior people who weren’t entitled to full human rights, or who are barbarians, who are not civilized, or who are terrorists by involves imposing a kind of degraded human nature to the people you are displacing and conquering, and that’s the essence of racism. Racism plays out in the entire history of the state of Israel, which entails a continuous project of ethic cleansing..."
     The following is an interview between Revolution Magazine and Dr. Joel Kovel, the author of, "Overcoming Zionism," which created a censorship struggle when the University of Michigan Press temporarily banned its distribution.

No Checkpoints in Heaven

Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Online 4/5/2008
      I still vividly remember my father’s face - wrinkled, apprehensive, warm - as he last wished me farewell fourteen years ago. He stood outside the rusty door of my family’s home in a Gaza refugee camp wearing old yellow pyjamas and a seemingly ancient robe. As I hauled my one small suitcase into a taxi that would take me to an Israeli airport an hour away, my father stood still. I wished he would go back inside; it was cold and the soldiers could pop up at any moment. As my car moved on, my father eventually faded into the distance, along with the graveyard, the water tower and the camp. It never occurred to me that I would never see him again.
     I think of my father now as he was that day. His tears and his frantic last words: “Do you have your money? Your passport? A jacket? Call me the moment you get there. Are you sure you have your passport? Just check, one last time…”
     My father was a man who always defied the notion that one can only be the outcome of his circumstance. Expelled from his village at the age of 10, running barefoot behind his parents, he was instantly transferred from the son of a landowning farmer to a penniless refugee in a blue tent provided by the United Nations in Gaza. Thus, his life of hunger, pain, homelessness, freedom-fighting, love, marriage and loss commenced.