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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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8 April 2008


Israeli tanks kill one Palestinian fighter in Gaza incursion
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli tanks killed a 35-year-old member of the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, Awad Tahrawi, during an incursion in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. Palestinian fighters fought Israeli forces who had entered the area on Tuesday morning. The director of Kamal Udwan hospital said that Tahrawi’s dead body appeared to have wounds resulting from a tank shell. Another fighter was mildly injured in the battle. The military wing of Hamas, the Al-Qassam Brigades, claimed to have fired 19 mortar rounds at invading Israeli forces in Jabalia and the Tuffah neighborhood of Gaza city. Earlier on Tuesday, Thirty Israeli military vehicles advanced towards Jabalia, stopping 100 meters from a Palestinian residential neighborhood, witnesses said. Jabalia residents said the Israeli forces have fired heavily towards the Palestinian houses.

Israel to deny UN official entry for comparing Israel to Nazis
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
The Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that it will not allow the United Nations official appointed to investigate Israeli-Palestinian human rights to enter the country, after he stood by comments comparing Israelis to Nazis. Richard Falk is scheduled to take up his post with the UN Human Rights Council in May, but the Foreign Ministry said it will deny Falk a visa to enter Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, at least until a September meeting of the council. At that meeting, Israel intends to ask the council to expand the envoy’s mission to include investigating Palestinian human rights abuses against Israelis. The mandate currently allows him to monitor only human rights violations by Israel in the Palestinian territories. Israel will also express its displeasure with the council’s choice of Falk as investigator.

Hamas threatens to storm Gaza borders again
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
GAZA CITY - Hamas threatened on Tuesday to storm the Gaza Strip’s borders in a repeat of a breach in January that allowed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to pour into Egypt. "All options are open to break the siege" by Israel, Khalil al-Hayya, a senior leader of the Islamist movement told a Gaza City news conference when asked if the border could be breached again. "I expect that what will happen next will be greater than what happened before, not only against the Egyptian border, but against all the crossings," he added. Israel has sealed off Gaza from all but vital goods since Hamas seized power there last June, in a bid to halt rocket attacks from the territory and to put pressure on the Islamist-run government. "We call parties to move urgently and immediately to end the siege and warn of an unprecedented explosion if it continues," Hayya said.

West Bank security crackdown masks growing bitterness
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
NABLUS, West Bank - After seven years of hiding from the Israeli army in the narrow streets of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, Abu Islam has traded his rifle and mask for an oven and an apron. The 39-year-old veteran of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, a group loosely tied to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party, now runs a bakery in the centre of town thanks to an amnesty agreement. But like many in Nablus, which saw fierce fighting during the intifada, Abu Islam doubts that the latest Palestinian-led security crackdown will pave the way for peace with Israel. He asked that his full name not be used. "The day the Israelis withdraw from the West Bank Hamas will take over. . . The people are under so much pressure now that the situation could explode at any time," he says, handing bags of warm flatbread to customers. It will be the kids, the 18- to 20-year-old guys who have no work," he adds. "No one will be able to control it when it happens, not the security forces, not anyone. "

Khudari: More dangers looming in Gaza due to the acute shortage of fuel
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- MP Jamal Al-Khudari, the head of the popular committee against the siege, warned Tuesday that the coming days will witness further escalation and dangers due to the acute shortage of fuel which increases everyday, pointing out that million and a half citizens are living in Gaza under comprehensive siege and in complete paralysis. In a press conference, Khudari stated that the Israeli occupation is violating international laws and does not heed appeals calling for lifting the siege whether issued by the EU parliament or human rights organizations. The lawmaker explained that only 30 percent of diesel fuel needs and seven percent of gasoline are allowed into Gaza. In the same context, the agriculture ministry in Gaza warned that the agricultural and fishing sector is coming to a standstill because of the acute shortage of fuel, adding that this will result in turn in sharp food shortage in Gaza.

Israeli forces seize 17 Palestinians in West Bank raids
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized 17 Palestinians during raids across the West Bank early on Tuesday morning, Palestinian and Israeli sources reported. Palestinian witnesses said Israeli troops invaded the city of Nablus and the nearby village of Burqa, ransacking several houses before arresting six teenagers and a 30-year-old man. Israeli media reported that Israeli forces raided Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Bethlehem, and Hebron, detaining Palestinians in each location. [end]

Palestinian journalists urge Hamas and Fatah to ease restrictions on media
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – A coalition of independent Palestinian journalists released a new proposal on Tuesday asking both Fatah and Hamas to allow the Palestinian media to operate more freely in Palestine. Associated Press reporter Muhammad Daraghmah, one of the journalists behind the initiative, says it is aimed easing restrictions on press freedom imposed after Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007. The proposal demands that Hamas allow the Al-Ayyam newspaper distributed in Gaza and to allow Palestine TV to operate there. The initiative also asks the Palestinian Authority to allow Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV to cover events in the West Bank. The proposal also asks Hamas and Fatah media to cease using loaded terminology such as "Abbas’ gangs" or "the mutineers in Gaza. " Daraghmah says that the initiative was submitted to exiled Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al during the Arab League summit in Damascus over a week ago.

Hamas leader Mash’al to meet with Jimmy Carter in mid-April, Palestinian sources say
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – A plan is coalescing to arrange a meeting between exiled senior Hamas leader Khalid Mash’al and former US President Jimmy Carter in Damascus on 18 April, Palestinian sources told the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat on Tuesday. According to Al-Hayat, Carter’s aides will arrive in Syria soon to make arrangements for the meeting. If the meeting is held, Carter will become the highest-ranking American official ever to publicly meet with Hamas leaders. Hamas officials did meet with representatives of President Bill Clinton’s administration in the 1990s. During the proposed meeting, Carter will be presented as the chair of the Carter Center, rather than as a former US president. A Hamas official said that that the meeting would show that Hamas is a power that can’t be ignored in addressing the Palestinian question.

US evangelicals march through occupied Jerusalem
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
American televangelist John Hagee led several hundred flag-waving followers across Jerusalem on Monday, a colorful display of the growing alliance between Christian evangelicals and Israel. Hagee, who calls himself a Christian Zionist, pledged his unconditional backing for the Jewish state. He also vehemently denied he is anti-Catholic, telling reporters that comments attributed to him were either false or mischaracterized. Presidential candidate John McCain recently distanced himself from a Hagee endorsement because of what Catholics alleged were disparaging remarks by the pastor, including suggestions that Catholic anti-Semitism shaped Adolf Hitler. Some dovish Israelis are equally uncomfortable with Hagee and other evangelists because of their support for West Bank Jewish settlements and criticism of peace efforts with the Palestinians.

IDF begins clearing out West Bank settlements’ armories
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
The Israel Defense Forces has begun collecting weapons from the armories of West Bank settlements - even personal weapons the army provided to settlers for self-defense, said Mate Binyamin regional council deputy head Moti Yogev. "These steps are being carried out, surprisingly, at the same time that unprecedented steps are being taken to ease the security restrictions on Palestinians, including lifting roadblocks and other impediments that undermine the security of the residents of Judea and Samaria," Yesha Council of settlements head Dani Daya wrote to GOC Central Command Major General Gadi Shamni in a letter. A source from Central Command said the decision to collect the arms was made because several break-ins occurred at armories over the past few years. "Several dozen weapons were stolen, and therefore it was decided to remove the armories from the settlements and transfer. . . "

Israeli military collecting weapons from settlers near Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Israeli army has been collecting hundreds of weapons over the last few weeks which they had distributed to Israeli settlers living near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Voice of Israel radio reported on Tuesday morning. According to Voice of Israel, the army is allowing only security guards in settlements in the area to carry weapons. Settlers living in those communities complained that the measure would endanger their security. The Israeli military spokesperson has not issued any comment on the matter.

VIDEO - Sanctions force Gazans to wait in line for days for a bit of fuel
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 news roundup for April 8, 2008. Where there is a gas station in the Gaza Strip, there is an inevitable line of cars several kilometers long, comprised of drivers who wait days and nights for a bit of fuel. Israel restricted fuel supplies to the Strip late last year, in an attempt to pressure Palestinian militants into halting rocket fire at neighboring Israeli communities. Gaza now receives roughly one-third of the diesel that Israel used to transfer. The rocket fire hasn’t abated, but civilians certainly are feeling the heat. Some drivers have been waiting an entire week in order to come away with a maximum of 20 liters of diesel fuel. [end]

8 wounded as PA, al-Aqsa gunmen exchange fire in Nablus
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Palestinian security forces clash with fugitive members of al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades who fled prison. Mother, son passing by caught in crossfire - Palestinian security forces in pursuit of 13 members of the al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades - the military wing of Fatah - came under fire in the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday afternoon after the fugitives ambushed them in the Kasbah area of the Old City. The men, who escaped from a Palestinian Authority prison facility last week, denied they had opened fire first and said they were attacked by the security troops. Latest reports tally the casualties from the exchange of fire at eight - five of which are PA security officers, one an al-Aqsa gunman and the remaining two were civilians, a mother and son who were caught in the crossfire. Palestinian officials said troops were searching the Old City for the 13 fugitives when they were fired upon.

Report: Gunman killed by IDF fire in Gaza
Ali Waked, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Palestinian sources say one gunman killed, three others injured in gunfight with army force near northern Gaza town of Jabalya -Palestinian sources in Gaza reported that one man was killed and three other people injured in clashes with IDF soldiers near the town of Jabalya in northern Gaza. The gunmen apparently belonged to the Popular Resistance Committees’ Salah al-Din Brigades. According to witnesses, an IDF force has been operating in the area since the morning hours. The IDF confirmed that soldiers have engaged in a gunfight with Palestinian gunmen. A spokesman for the army said that two gunmen had been bit and that none of the soldiers was wounded. Earlier Tuesday, Palestinians fired three rockets from northern Gaza at southernIsrael. Two rockets landed near the entrance to Sderot and the third hit an open field outside town.

Tunnel meant for terrorist infiltration found in N. Gaza
Yuval Azoulay and Mijal Grinberg, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
Israel Defense Forces troops operating overnight Tuesday outside the northern Gaza Strip town of Jebaliya uncovered an opening to a tunnel into Israel. The opening was discovered during a Givati infantry raid some 700 meters inside the border fence. The tunnel was in its preliminary stages, and military sources believe that it was dug to serve as a pathway for suicide bombers into Israel. A similar tunnel was used by Gaza terror groups to enter Israel and kidnap IDF corporal Gilad Shalit near kibbutz Kerem Shalom in June 2006. Two armed militants were killed in an exchange of fire that erupted during the raid. The militants were apparently equipped with an RPG rocket launcher and Kalashnikov rifles. The IDF force sustained no casualties. The IDF said that the raid, which concluded Tuesday afternoon, was a routine defense operation aimed at foiling terror infrastructure in the area.

IDF uncovers tunnel in Palestinian house
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Joint IDF-Shin Bet operation reveals 11. 5-feet tunnel not far from Israeli community of Kfar Aza; one gunman killed, three injured during raid - A 3. 5-meter (11. 5-feet) tunnel dug inside a Palestinian house was uncovered Tuesday during an IDF operation in the northern Gaza Strip. The tunnel was revealed some 700 meters (2,296 feet) away from the Israeli community of Kfar Aza. Military sources estimated that this was another attempt by terror organizations to cross into Israel in order to carry out a terror attack, by moving under the fence or planting explosives under an Israeli target, such as a military post. The forces, belonging to the Givati Brigade and the armor and engineering corps, operated as part of a joint IDF-Shin Bet raid aimed at uncovering terror infrastructures near the border fence.

Sderot rocket sirens blare during visit by Turkish MPs
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/9/2008
Turkish parliamentarians tour rocket-battered town in southern Israel, experience difficult reality first-hand. ’They looked more alert but they were understanding about it,’ said officials who were escorting them. Delegation met later with president, foreign minister -Eight members of the Turkish Foreign Affairs Committee paid a unique visit to southern Israel on Tuesday, the first such delegation from Ankara to tour Israel that was not part of an entourage for a visiting prime minister or other top legislator. The ’Color Red’ rocket alert sirens blared throughout the streets of Sderot while the group was there, warning of an incoming Qassam barrage from Gaza. The delegation seemed unfazed by the incident, said Israeli officials who accompanied the group. "They seemed a little more alert but seemed to be understanding of the situation.

Boy killed in hit-and-run on Israeli only road, Nablus
International Solidarity Movement 4/8/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - Photos by Nedal Ishtayeh - At approximately 5pm on Monday 7th April, a Palestinian shepherd boy was killed in a hit-and-run incident by an Israeli settler bus near the city of Nablus. The 15 year old boy, Sharif Badjas Ishtayeh, from the nearby village of Salim, was struck by the bus on road 557 - an Israeli-only road that connects Huwarra checkpoint with the illegal Israeli settlement of Elon Moreh. Seven of his sheep and one donkey were also killed, as the shepherd attempted to lead them across the road. Witnesses report that the driver, heading towards the settlement Elon Moreh, hit the boy deliberately, and sped off afterwards, leaving him to die. Indeed, from the location of the bodies, it is evident that the boy and his flock were visible from at least 150 metres away, giving the driver plenty of time to avoid a collision.

RAM-FM’s Jerusalem Office Raided
Marian Houk, Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - The Jerusalem office of the Ramallah-based English-language radio station RAM-FM was raided by Jerusalem Police and officials of the Israeli Ministry of Communications on Monday afternoon, and its staff members were detained, and equipment confiscated, on charges that it has been operating a small transmitter in Jerusalem “without the necessary broadcasting permit in Jerusalem”. Seven of its staff members have spent the night in jail, and are still awaiting a court appearance, RAM-FM reported in the second story on its 11 am regular news bulletin (the top news story concerned the 10:00 am alarm sounded as part of a country-wide test of Israel’s civil defense preparedness). The detained staff include the station manager, Maysoun Odeh-Gangat, a Palestinian, as well as three other Palestinian staff plus three internationals.

Palestinian Olympic runner receives exit permit
Zadok Yehezkeli, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Following article in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israeli authorities grant permission for runner and fellow teammate to leave Gaza, Jenin to train for Beijing Olympics - In a rare move defined by Israeli authorities as a ’humanitarian gesture’, officials decided to permit two members of the Palestinian Olympic team to cross the borders from Gaza and the West Bank in order to train in Jericho and Jerusalem, so that they can prepare themselves for the 2008 events in Beijing. "Thank God," a relieved Nader Masri said on Monday. Since the Hamas took over the Gaza Strip he has been trapped inside Gaza, unable to leave in order to train with his coach in the West Bank city of Jericho. "I was beginning to think my dream (of representing Palestine in the Olympics) would never come true. "The decision to allow Masri to cross the border followed months of refusal by authorities. . .

Barghouti peace overture to be read at Peace Now rally
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, jailed in Israeli for his part in terror attacks during the second intifada, wrote a letter set to be read out at a Peace Now rally in Rabin Square Tuesday. In the letter, he calls for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. "I, Marwan Barghouti, am telling you that I and the majority of the Palestinian people are ready for a historic agreement based on international decisions that will allow a Palestinian and Israeli state to coexist, side by side, in peace and stability," Barghouti wrote in the letter. The letter will be read by former PA official Kadura Fares at the peace rally commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Peace Now movement.

Meshal: Hamas Backs Palestinian State in ’67 Borders
Avi Issacharoff, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
Hamas supports the united Palestinian position calling for the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem, and the right of return for refugees, Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal told the Palestinian daily Al-Ayam. In a special interview with Wednesday’s edition of the paper, Meshal said the Palestinian position had received a vote of consensus during the national accords of 2006 and that this position is considered acceptable to the Arab world at large. Meshal was asked about the claims by Israel and the United States that Hamas is seeking to destroy Israel. He said Hamas has committed itself to a political plan, which it follows, and called on the Americans, the Europeans and other international entities to conduct themselves in accordance with this political truth, and to judge Hamas based on its political plan, not based on what people may imagine.

Hamas: Gaza will not stay passive towards the ongoing oppression and siege
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Khalil Al-Hayya, a prominent Hamas leader, warned Tuesday that the Palestinian people will not stay passive towards the continuing Israeli oppression and siege and all options are open before them to break the siege, calling on the international community to assume its responsibilities in this regard. In a press conference, Hayya held the Israeli occupation fully responsible for the consequences of the ongoing siege on the Gaza people, asserting that Israel will never enjoy calm as long as there is siege on Gaza. The Hamas leader underlined that the Gaza inhabitants’ suffering because of the siege became more intolerable than the suffering caused by the Israeli crimes and their daily lives became tragic.   The Hamas leader called on the Arab and Islamic peoples to revolt in solidarity with the besieged Gaza people and to express their outrage through holding and organizing activities and events which call for breaking the siege.

Newspaper: Israeli drill delays Mugniyah report
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 4/8/1920
London-based Arabic publication reports that Syria, Lebanon delaying publication of report on assassination of Hizbullah commander due to tension generated by Israel’s wide-scale Home Front Command drill - The London based Arabic publication, al-Quds al-Arabi, reported Tuesday that Syria is delaying the publication of its report on the assassination of Hizbullah leader Imad Mugniyah, which was scheduled for Sunday, due to tension and fears generated in both Syria and Lebanon by the wide-scale Home Front Command drill taking place in Israel. Publication of this report, senior Damascus officials have indicated, could do serious damage to Syria as it would expose the involvement of Arab intelligence officials, as well as that of Syrian, Palestinian and Lebanese personnel in the Mugniyah assassination. Publication of this report, senior Damascus officials have indicated, could do serious damage to Syria as it would expose the involvement of Arab intelligence officials, as well as that of Syrian, Palestinian and

Livni to discuss Shalit deal in Qatar
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Foreign minister to leave for Doha on Sunday for meetings with senior Arab officials, in bid to advance deal for kidnapped soldier’s release. Foreign Ministry refuses to discuss visit despite reports in Arab media - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will leave Sunday for a three-day visit to Qatar in a bid to advance the deal for the release of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. As part of the visit, Livni will work to strengthen the Gulf states’ front against the Iranian nuclear program. Contrary to a report by the Qatar-based al-Jarida newspaper on Tuesday, the foreign minister is not expected to meet with Syrian officials during her visit. The Foreign Ministry has so far refrained from discussing the issue for security reasons, but reports in the Arab media Tuesday revealed the upcoming visit. During her visit to Doha, Livni is expected to hold a series of personal meetings with Arab foreign ministers and parliament members attending a convention in the Qatari capital.

US left-wing bloggers to visit Sderot
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Prominent writers, members of progressive American organizations known for their heavy criticism of Israel will tour the country, meet with top officials. ’We want to provide them with an eye-opening experience that will help them better understand the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict,’ says trip organizer Ira Forman - WASHINGTON -A group of influential bloggers from the left of the US Democratic party’s spectrum will land in Israel on Thursday for a six-day visit. The Foreign Affairs Ministry has long since been exerting considerable efforts to bring the prominent writers for an extensive tour of the country, in recognizing the influence many of the writers wield and the fact some of them represent websites that are less-than-friendly towards the Israel. While Israel enjoys relatively balanced coverage in American mainstream media, there. . .

Peace Now: Our views are now mainstream but peace still elusive
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
Israel’s largest peace group marked what it called a bittersweet milestone Tuesday, 30 years since its foundation. Peace Now’s call for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel has largely been embraced by the Israeli mainstream, but peace itself remains painfully elusive, representatives of the movement said. For the anniversary, the group pitched a large white tent in Tel Aviv’s central square, site of Israel’s largest peace rallies, but also the spot where Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down in 1995 by an ultranationalist zealot trying to sabotage Rabin’s attempt to trade land for peace with the Palestinians. In a side tent, an exhibition of posters documented Peace Now’s history, from its founding in 1978 by several hundred army reserve officers, to the present.

Olmert told Abbas: Settlement expansion to continue
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli government announced few hours after its premier Ehud Olmert’s meeting with PA chief Mahmoud Abbas that construction in occupied Jerusalem and major settlement blocs in the West Bank would continue. Mark Regev, the Israeli premier’s spokesman, said that Olmert had clearly stated to Abbas that Israel would continue building in occupied Jerusalem and other major blocs in the West Bank. He said that Olmert explained to Abbas that those areas would be part of any future agreement between Israel and the PA. Meanwhile, American diplomatic sources said that the head of the national security council and the special security coordinator between Israel and the PA are to arrive in Israel next week to meet senior officials in Israel and the PA. They would prepare for American president George Bush’s visit to Israel in mid May to participate in Israel’s. . .

Israeli FM to attend Doha democracy forum
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
JERUSALEM - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will fly to the Gulf Arab state of Qatar at the weekend to attend the Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade, a top Israeli official said on Tuesday. Livni will leave on Sunday for Doha, where she will also address delegates at the forum, said the Israeli official who requested anonymity. She will stay in Qatar for the duration of the meeting which ends next Tuesday, April 15. Livni is expected to push for the release of Israeli conscript Gilad Shalit who was seized in a June 2006 cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip by militants including members of the Islamist Hamas, the Ynet website reported. It said she would also raise the issue of Iran’s controversial nuclear programme. Qatar, like most Arab countries, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Caretaker gov’t warns of consequences and implications of Israeli siege
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The caretaker government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya warned Monday of the implications and consequences of the suffocating siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, charging that the PA leadership is colluding with Israel in tightening the siege in order to prompt Gaza people to overthrow Hamas.  In a press conference, Taher Al-Nunu stated on Monday that the statements of a number of PA officials in Ramallah which call for not lifting the siege as long as there is a government headed by premier Ismail Haneyya unequivocally prove the PA’s involvement in the Israeli siege on Gaza. Nunu added that there is also confirmed information that officials in Ramallah incited the Israeli government not to supply Gaza with its fuel needs in an attempt to make the citizens revolt and topple the democratically-elected government.

Jihad: We warned Egypt that any explosion in Gaza would be in its direction
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Mohammed Al-Hindi, one of the Islamic Jihad Movement leaders in Gaza, on Tuesday said that his Movement’s delegation had warned the Egyptian authorities, during a recent visit, that any future explosion in Gaza due to the tightened siege on it would be in the direction of Egypt. He told reporters that Egypt because of its historical relationship with Palestine would not fire at the Palestinians if they crossed the borders. "Egypt has to double its efforts to solve the problem of Gaza siege," he elaborated. Asked on his Movement’s position regarding the current division in the Palestinian arena, he said that Fatah and Hamas should sit and negotiate together with no pre conditions attached. He ruled out, in this regard, an Egyptian invitation for both movements to have dialogue in Cairo in the near future.

Palestinian factions will not plead for ceasefire with Israel says Islamic Jihad leader
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Palestinian military groups will not plead for a ceasefire with Israel while it continues to operate in the West Bank in tandem with stipulating that the Palestinian military groups stop firing homemade projectiles at Israeli towns, senior Islamic Jihad leader Muhammad Al-Hindi said on Tuesday. He told journalists in Gaza City that Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip has failed as did Israel’s attacks on the Gaza Strip in March. He added that Israel will not invade the Strip as they realize that an invasion will not stop Palestinian homemade projectiles being fired at Israeli towns. The only choice Israel has is to consider the Egyptian suggestions for a ceasefire, he added. He said that Egypt is facing a very embarrassing situation with the continuation of the crippling siege on the Gaza Strip.

Olmert: Easing restrictions important
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Prime minister says he views relieving restrictions on Palestinians as way to build trust with pragmatic elements among them - Easing restrictions on the Palestinians is one of the ways to build trust with the pragmatic elements among them, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday during a tour of the Hebron area. Olmert, who toured the Central Command’s southern district together with IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Gabi Ashkenazi, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and Central Command chief Major-General Gadi Shamni, was briefed on the progress made in the separation fence construction, on the warnings and terror threats in the area and on the actions aimed at relieving the Palestinians’ lives. The prime minister later met with IDF soldiers stationed in the area. "This is one of the most sensitive places, and your actions are the key for processes which will take place in the future. I support you in your war on terror and highly appreciate your activities," Olmert told the troops.

Hamas: All options open before the Gaza people to end the siege
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated that it made vigorous political efforts to reopen the Rafah border crossing and break the siege, but unfortunately these efforts did not succeed, adding that it can no longer tolerate seeing the Gaza people’s suffering increase everyday and all options became now open before the Gaza people to end the siege. In a press release, Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, underlined that his Movement’s efforts were not appreciated by the Egyptian side, expressing hope that the Egyptian leadership would re-evaluate its positions and open the Rafah crossing. Abu Zuhri called on the Egyptian authorities to release the Palestinian detainees in their jails, noting that the Palestinian side received promises from Egypt to release the detainees, but nothing came true. In another context, the spokesman charged that PA chief Mahmoud Abbas buried the Yemeni. . .

Beitawi advises Abbas to open talks with Hamas rather than with occupation
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- MP Sheikh Hamed Al-Beitawi, who is currently imprisoned in Israeli occupation jails, addressed a message to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas asking him to open national reconciliation talks with Hamas. The MP, in the message leaked by a recently released prisoner from Megiddo jail, said that all prisoners wanted Abbas and his entourage to end the rift with "their brothers in Gaza". He expressed surprise at Abbas’s negotiations with the Israeli occupation while closing the door before dialogue with Hamas. "Strength lies in unity and weakness lies in division," he said, and appealed to all not to bow to USA and Israel’s pressures. Beitawi also asked the Arab countries and the international platforms to accord more concern to the issue of the Palestinian MPs who are held in Israeli occupation jails and to the question of Palestinian prisoners in general.

Naim holds WHO responsible for worsening conditions in Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The health ministry in the PA caretaker government has held the World Health Organization (WHO) and other international institutions, which hoist slogans of a hygienic environment on the world health day, responsible for worsening health conditions in the Gaza Strip as a result of the siege. Addressing a press conference held in front of the Shifa hospital in Gaza city on Monday, Naim questioned the credibility of such slogans at a time the health services were collapsing in Gaza before the very eyes of the world. He described the health conditions in Gaza as "catastrophic", and the sewage water is about to submerge the Strip because of the Zionist inhuman practices. He added that Gaza beaches are polluted and sewage networks are out of work due to the siege. The minister pointed out that 55 types of medicines in Gaza were out of stock and a big number of medical. . .

Israel threatens Iran with ‘destruction’
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
TEL AVIV - An Israeli government minister warned on Monday that Israel would respond to any Iranian attack by destroying that country, public radio reported. "An Iranian attack against Israel would trigger a tough reaction that would lead to the destruction of the Iranian nation," National Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer said in remarks of rare virulence. "Iranians are aware of our strength but continue to provoke us by arming their Syrian allies and Hezbollah," he said during a meeting at his ministry. Ben-Eliezer, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security cabinet, stressed however that the Iranians were unlikely to attack as "they understand the meaning of such an act. "Last month, Defence Minister Ehud Barak told visiting US Vice President Dick Cheney that "no option" would be ruled out in Israel’s bid to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear power.

Damascus, Ramallah or Tehran
Amir Oren, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
In September 1984, when he became defense minister, Yitzhak Rabin summoned the American ambassador, Samuel Lewis, and surprised him with a message for Washington: a request to begin examining secretly to what extent, and under which conditions, Syria was prepared for peace with Israel. Rabin’s initiative had no follow-up. The administration of Ronald Reagan and the regime of Hafez Assad were in direct confrontation, the Israel Defense Forces had not yet withdrawn from central Lebanon and Syria was clinging to its "strategic support," the Soviet Union. This season’s tension between Israel and Syria serves to bring home the extent of the missed opportunity of those years, as of subsequent decades, following the American display of prowess in Iraq in 1991 and 2003. It would have been possible to make peace with Syria, to prevent the horrors of war and to save hundreds of fallen in Lebanon.

ADL: Switzerland financing terrorism
Associated Press, YNetNews 4/8/1920
US-based Anti-Defamation League slams multibillion dollar deal Geneva struck with Iran for supply of natural gas. Full-page ads in major newspapers proclaim Switzerland world’s ’newest financier of terrorism’ - A major US Jewish organization on Tuesday stepped up opposition to a multibillion-dollar Swiss-Iranian natural gas deal by claiming it makes Switzerland ’’the world’s newest financier of terrorism. ’’ ’’When you finance a terrorist state, you finance terrorism,’’ said the New York-based Anti-Defamation League in full-page advertisements in major Swiss newspapers and in similar ads in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Wall Street Journal. The US government and the World Jewish Congress have criticized Switzerland for the deal, saying it gives encouragement to Tehran’s hard-liners.

Nazzal rules out solution for inter-Palestinian discord during this year
Palestinian Information Center 4/8/2008
DOHA, (PIC)-- Mohamed Nazzal, a member of the Hamas political bureau, ruled out a rapprochement between his Movement and the Fatah faction during the current year, attributing this to the Zio-American veto imposed on any dialog between the two movements and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas’s fear to lose his relations with US and Israel. In an interview with Al-Jazeera Net website published on Tuesday, Nazzal underlined that Hamas is adherent to its special vision which would end the status of internal division, reform the PLO and the security apparatuses and eliminate the corruption inside the PA body. In a reply to a question about the PA chief’s position towards resistance, the Hamas leader opined that since the beginning of the occupation, there has been no Palestinian leader who used the worst labels against the Palestinian resistance as Abbas has because he never believed one day in the armed resistance and announced that publicly more than once.

Israeli civil defence drill a "fiasco" Israeli media says
Ma’an News Agency 4/8/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – As Israel staged the largest civil defence drill in it’s history residents in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem complained that they could not hear the air raid sirens that sounded across the country at 10 am on Tuesday morning, Israeli media sources reported. Israeli media described the drill as a "fiasco" because the sirens were not heard in major cities which could be targets of enemy missiles during a future war. Shoppers in Tel Aviv carried on with their shopping in Tel Aviv malls, unaware of the emergency drill. Meanwhile, several Palestinians telephoned Ma’an to ask about the Israeli sirens which could be heard in parts of the West Bank. Warning sirens for Jerusalem were clearly audible in the Bethlehem district and Tel Aviv sirens were heard in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilia. At the sound of the siren on Tuesday schoolchildren and state employees were to drill emergency procedures.

Israelis: We didn’t hear sirens during landmark civil defense drill
Yuval Azoulay Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury , and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
Tel Aviv and Jerusalem residents complained Tuesday that they were unable to hear the sirens that wailed across the country at 10 A. M. as part of Israel’s largest ever civilian defense drill. Schoolchildren and government workers ran for air raid shelters when the sirens sounded as part of the nationwide exercise. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said that the authorities would learn from the weaknesses revealed by the drill. Defense Minister Ehud Barak assembled the new National Emergency Authority on Monday as part of the Home Front preparedness exercisebeing conducted this week throughout the country. As part of the drill, known as Turning Point 2 (Nekudat Mifne 2), the siren sounded for a minute and a half. There was no alarm sounded for the drill in Sderot and the rest of the communities bordering Gaza.

VIDEO - Home front drill: Sirens heard throughout Israel
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 4/8/1920
(Video) At 10 am Tuesday sirens heard across Israel, school children and government employees ordered to rush to shelters, fortified areas - VIDEO - Sirens were sounded throughout the country at 10 am Tuesday as part of the nationwide home front preparedness drill, dubbed "Turning Point 2", being held in the recent week. As part of the exercise, school children, government ministry employees and local authority workers were required to enter shelters or fortified areas. Video: Infolive. tv A drill simulating the landing of a rocket was held at the Knesset, and employees and committee members were ordered to rush to sheltered rooms. Additionally, the Home Front Command tested its new TV studio with a live broadcast on all electronic media outlets to relay instructions to the public.

Interior Ministry, Finance Ministry employees to strike Wednesday
Haim Bior TheMarker, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
The Interior Ministry and the Finance Ministry will not provide services to the public, starting Wednesday. The Interior Ministry will not issue or renew passports, ID cards, Birth certificates, death certificates and other official documents. Within the Finance Ministry, the partial strike will mainly affect the accountant general’s department, disrupting ministry payments to suppliers and state-supported institutions. Transportation Ministry employees will join the strike Thursday, resulting in the cancellation of all driving tests. The strike is the result of an ongoing financial dispute between the civil servants labor union and Accountant General Shuki Oren over the sytem of defrayment of loans to civil servants. The civil servants union claims that the loan conditions favor loans issued by Israel Discount Bank.

Katsav reneges on plea bargain
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Former president rejects deal signed with State’s Prosecutor’s Office, says ’I want to end the persecution. ’ Katsav arrives at Jerusalem Magistrates’ Court, but remains in his car for half an hour before entering courtroom - Former President Moshe Katsav became the first Israeli president to face criminal charges on Tuesday, but after entering the courtroom, he reneged on the plea baragain signed with the State’s Prosecutor’s Office. The ball is now back in Attorney General Menachem Mazuz court. Mazuz will have to decide whether to indict Katsav and for what charges. "I decided to cancel the plea bargain because I want to fight for my innocence," the former president said after leaving the courtroom. "I want to put an end to the persecution. I want to fight for the truth. I know what this means and I am aware of the implications. . . "

Complainant against Katsav seeks to reenter rape charge in new indictment
Ofra Eidelmann, Haaretz Service and Agencies, Ha’aretz 4/9/2008
The attorney representing A. , the first of a string of female employees who filed sexual assault complaints against former president Moshe Katsav, demanded Tuesday that his client’s complaint, which was dropped from the original indictment, be reentered into a fresh indictment set to be filed against Katsav. The lawyer’s demand came on the heels of Katsav’s announcement that he would forgo a plea deal struck last year, which dropped the rape charges included in the original indictment in favor of lesser charges and no jail time, and will instead stand trial in efforts to clear his name. The trial will be the first for an Israeli head of state past or present. The prosecution is now faced with the task of preparing a fresh indictment against the former president, which will include charges of various sex crimes.

Chief rabbis against dodging IDF reserve duty
Kobi Nahshoni, YNetNews 4/8/1920
’For the first time, even officers are questioning their commitment to the army because they are referred to as suckers by people who sit in Tel Aviv bars,’ Rabbi Metzger says during visit to southern army base - Israel’s chief rabbis are expected to declare the Shabbat before Passover "Shabbat of the reserves" and instruct Israel’s Jewish leaders to stress the importance of reserve duty to their congregations. Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar announced these plans on Monday during a visit to the Tze’elim army base in south Israel, where they took part in a special ceremony in which a Torah scroll was placed in the base’s synagogue. During the ceremony at the synagogue, dozens of soldiers wearing kippas and berets danced with the Torah scroll and then placed it in the temple’s Holy Ark.

Poll: Israelis Ready for Arab Anchor
Meirav Crystal, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
The Israeli public is more than ready for an Arab newscaster, a survey held by Agenda, the Israeli Center for Strategic Communications, revealed Sunday. The poll, performed by Agenda and the Teleseker polling company, included 400 native Israelis, 200 Israelis who emigrated from the former Soviet Union and 200 Arab Israelis, making up 800 participants. Imbedding Panel discusses integration of Arabs citizens in Israeli media/ Rachelle Kliger ’There’s affirmative action for women and there’s affirmative action for Arab minorities in the government, but not in private organizations,’ veteran journalist says Full story The groups were segmented in order to get a clear view of the public perception of the Israeli media, as well as to examine the way it covers issues relating to each of the sectors. Fifty-two percent of the Israeli public, revealed the data, is more than willing to accept

Galilee Arabs paint mosque blue and white for Israel’s 60th
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 4/8/2008
In an unusual gesture of solidarity for Israel’s 60th anniversary, villagers in one Arab-Israeli town have have painted the dome of their mosque in the national colors, blue and white. The gesture in A-Taibeh, a village in the Galilee near the Gilboa, comes at a time when Arab-Jewish relations in the region have been marked by tensions, and many Israeli Arabs have vowed to boycott the anniversary celebrations and commemorations. "We are residents of Israel. Our religion encourages love and closeness among nations. Jews, Muslims, we are all cousins, right? "A-Taibeh Mayor Hisham Zuabi was quoted as telling Maariv newspaper. "We decided to paint the mosque’s dome, the most important, dear, and holy site for us, in the national colors. We are all citizens of the state of Israel.

Workers strike longer
Shay Niv, Globes Online 4/8/2008
Most of the days lost to strikes in 2007 were through the education system strike. The number of work days lost to the economy as a result of strikes rocketed by 1,771% to 2. 5 million in 2007, compared with just 136 days in 2006, reveals a report published today by the labor relations division at the Ministry of Industry Trade and Labor. According to the figures, 386,000 employees went on strike for more than one day, three times the 125,000 that did so in 2006. Ironically, there were actually fewer strikes in 2007 than 2006 (30 against 35 in the previous year), although they were far longer. Labor relations division head Shlomo Yitzhaki attributes the dramatic increase to the prolonged strikes staged by the Association of High School Teachers, and senior faculty staff at universities, as well as public sector strikes launched by the Histadrut (General Federation of Labor in Israel) over labor agreements.

Messianic Jews stir controversy in Jerusalem
Danny Adino-Ababa, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Group’s plan to open center in heart of secular Rehavia neighborhood enrages local residents, who threaten to launch bitter fight to prevent project from materializing - A request recently granted by the Jerusalem District Planning and Construction Committee for the restoration of a house in the well-to-do Rehavia neighborhood in the capital is threatening to lead to a violent conflict in this normally peaceful area of the city. The reason: The request was submitted by Netivyah, an organization of Messianic Jews wishing to open "a new public center" at the heart of the mostly-secular neighborhood. Local residents, in response, pledged to do whatever was needed in order to thwart the project, including an appeal to the High Court of Justice and even rioting. "This is like building a synagogue in the midst of Umm al-Fahm," said one of the outraged residents.

US planning open-ended Iraq military commitment
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
LONDON - A draft agreement between the United States and Iraq shows that the two countries are including a provision for an open-ended American military commitment to the war-torn country, The Guardian reported Tuesday. Citing a copy of the draft strategic framework agreement dated March 7 that it obtained, the newspaper said that the document is designed to replace the current United Nations mandate, which expires at the end of the year. According to The Guardian, the agreement allows the United States to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without including a time limit. It also does not put any limits on the number of American forces allowed in Iraq, the weapons they can use, the legal status of US troops in Iraq or the powers they hold over Iraqi citizens.

Fighting rages in Baghdad Shiite bastion
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
BAGHDAD - Fierce fighting raged on Tuesday as US and Iraqi forces battled Shiite militiamen in their Baghdad bastion of Sadr City for a third straight day, a media correspondent and witnesses said. Witnesses said fierce clashes erupted soon after midnight as American tanks attempted to push into Sadr City. They were met by fighters of the Mahdi Army militia of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr armed with rockets, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, witnesses said. "We did not sleep all night because of the heavy fire," said Mustafa Mohammed, a resident of the sprawling eastern Baghdad district of some two million people. "My baby was screaming. My grandmother is sick and I wasn’t able to take her to hospital because I’m under seige. We just can’t move as our house is on the frontline. "Mohammed said many families have left their homes and are staying with relatives deeper inside the Sadr City district.

President Petraeus? Iraqi official recalls the day US general revealed ambition
The Independent 4/8/2008
The US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, expressed long-term interest in running for the US presidency when he was stationed in Baghdad, according to a senior Iraqi official who knew him at that time. Sabah Khadim, then a senior adviser at Iraq’s Interior Ministry, says General Petraeus discussed with him his ambition when the general was head of training and recruitment of the Iraqi army in 2004-05. "I asked him if he was planning to run in 2008 and he said, ’No, that would be too soon’," Mr Khadim, who now lives in London, said. General Petraeus has a reputation in the US Army for being a man of great ambition. If he succeeds in reversing America’s apparent failure in Iraq, he would be a natural candidate for the White House in the presidential election in 2012. His able defence of the "surge" in US troop numbers in Iraq as a success before Congress this week has made him the best-known soldier in America.

Questions over journalists’ deaths
Linda Isam Haddad, Al Jazeera 4/8/2008
An international media advocacy group has criticised the US military for not fully investigating the deaths of three journalists killed when their hotel and Al Jazeera’s office came under US fire as Baghdad fell on April 8, 2003. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) says it has continuously called on the US military to fully investigate the incidents that came just before the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled. "The Pentagon has never credibly explained the strike on the Baghdad bureau on Al Jazeera, despite our repeated calls to investigate it," Joel Campagna, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa senior programme co-ordinator, said. Tariq Ayoub, a correspondent for Al Jazeera, was killed when a US missile struck the Baghdad bureau. Al Jazeera directors had given the US military the bureau’s geographic co-ordinates weeks before the war began in March 2003. US commanders were also aware that the Palestine Hotel was a main base for dozens of international journalists.

Report says CIA rendered 14 prisoners to Jordan
Middle East Online 4/8/2008
NEW YORK - The CIA secretly transported at least 14 ‘war on terror’ detainees to Jordan between 2001 and 2004, making it the top "rendition" destination at that time, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. "While a handful of countries received persons rendered by the United States during this period, no other country is believed to have held as many as Jordan," the rights group said in a statement. The prisoners were interrogated and tortured by Jordan’s General Intelligence Department, according to a new Human Rights Watch report that documents eight previously unknown cases of rendition. GID officials who met with Human Rights Watch in Amman in 2007 denied receiving CIA prisoners and denied using torture. The group said the denials were unconvincing "given the weight of credible evidence showing otherwise. "The report is "based largely on firsthand information from Jordanian former. . .

Iran starts to install 6,000 enrichment centrifuges
Reuters, YNetNews 4/8/1920
Iranian president announces country begins installing new centrifuges at Natanz uranium enrichment facility - President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday Iran had started to install 6,000 advanced centrifuges in its underground Natanz uranium enrichment facility, state media reported. Diplomats in Vienna last week told Reuters Tehran was installing advanced enrichment centrifuges at Natanz in central Iran, accelerating activity that could give the Islamic state the means to make atom bombs in future if it chose to. "President Ahmadinejad has announced the start of the installation of 6,000 new centrifuges at Natanz," said state television. The announcement is a fresh snub to the UN Security Council, which since late 2006 has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Tehran for refusing to halt enrichment work.


Sixty years after Deir Yassin
Ronnie Kasrils, Electronic Intifada 4/8/2008
      As a 10-year-old growing up in Johannesburg, I celebrated Israel’s birth, 60 years ago. I unquestionably accepted the dramatic accounts of so-called self-defensive actions against Arab violence, to secure the Jewish state.The type of indoctrination South African cartoonist Zapiro so bitingly exposes in his work, raising the hackles of scribes such as David Saks of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.When I became involved in our liberation struggle, I became aware of the similarities with the Palestinian cause in the dispossession of land and birthright by expansionist settler occupation. I came to see that the racial and colonial character of the two conflicts provided greater comparisons than with any other struggle. When Nelson Mandela stated that we know as South Africans "that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians," [1] he was not simply talking to our Muslim community, who can be expected to directly empathize, but to all South Africans precisely because of our experience of racial and colonial subjugation, and because we well understand the value of international solidarity.
     When I came to learn of the fate that befell the Palestinians, I was shaken to the core and most particularly when I read eye-witness accounts of a massacre of Palestinian villagers that occurred a month before Israel’s unilateral declaration of independence. This was at Deir Yassin, a quiet village just outside Jerusalem, which had the misfortune to lie by the road from Tel Aviv. On 9 April 1948, 254 men, women and children were butchered there by Zionist forces to secure the road. Because this was one of the few such episodes that received media attention in the West, the Zionist leadership did not deny it, but sought to label it an aberration by extremists. In fact, however, the atrocity was part of a broader plan designed by the Zionist High Command, led by Ben Gurion himself, which was aimed at the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the British mandate territory and the seizure of as much land as possible for the intended Jewish state.

The Yemeni Initiative Oversight

Caelum Moffatt, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
      The symbolism of marriage is universally congruous across different social and belief systems – it is the process and ritual of this special personal and collective experience that differs. Palestine is no exception.
     Last week I attended the wedding of a friend’s brother in Ramallah. The event was a traditional Muslim wedding celebration for the groom, the Middle Eastern equivalent of a “stag” night where the groom commemorates his introduction into manhood with the male members of his family and his male peers. Unlike a western “stag” night which is predominantly viewed as one last night of freedom before the responsibilities of marriage begin and traditionally consists of vast quantities of alcohol as well as ogling women, a Muslim “ehtifal” is alcohol free with not a woman in sight. These omissions, however, do not make the party any less energetic or atmospheric.
     Walking into the hotel function room amidst unfamiliar surroundings, I was amazed by the flamboyance of such an affair. My fellow international friends and I were met at the entrance by my friend’s uncle who welcomed us to the party and to whom we passed on our congratulations. I initially inspected the décor of the hall with seats draped in white covers all facing towards the stage alongside tables sporting ash trays (to accommodate the multitude of smokers), soft drinks and nammourah cake. The arched gateway to the dance floor was adorned with colorful red and white flowers which led to two elaborately designed chairs standing on an elevated position in the middle of the dance floor, almost like thrones, one reserved for the man of the hour and the other to accommodate his distinguished guests in rotation.

Israeli Siege Bears Strange Fruit

Alex Renton, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
      FADEL DARDAR stares with weary gloom at the wreck of his orange grove. "They used to bring us $3000 a year - just the trees in this one field. Now they’re worth nothing, less than nothing."
     It’s early spring in Gaza, but most of the 100 or so trees have lost their leaves - and the few that remain are brown and brittle. Bizarrely, hundreds of ripe oranges still hang on the branches, but just as many of the fruit are rotting in the stinking, muddy ground.
     "The oranges are poisoned, the trees are poisoned and so is the land," says Dardar. He’s 26, and needs to sell oranges to feed his family, including his three small children. "I don’t know what we’re going to do," he says quietly.
     All around us is a sharp, sweet scent; the smell of fermenting, rotten oranges undercut with a thicker, more cloying smell - semi-treated sewage. This is what has tainted the Dardar family’s fields.
     This is a study in knock-on effects. It began last June, when Israel imposed an economic shutdown on the Gaza Strip, in a bid to bring pressure on the militant Hamas government to cease its attacks on Israel. Many call what has happened since a "siege" - and this does not seem an exaggeration. All but a few Palestinians are unable to enter or leave Gaza, even those needing medical care. As a result, 80,000 have lost their jobs. The flow of supplies - and almost everything in Gaza comes from Israel - is severely limited, and there are shortages of everything from fuel and cement to school books and basic medicines.

The "humanitarian" sidelining of Nahr al-Bared

Ray Smith, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 4/8/2008
      A 5 April 2008 television report by Al Jazeera English from the destroyed Palestinian Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon characterizes the media’s sidelining of the Nahr al-Bared story as a purely humanitarian question rather than one with a political dimension. [1] Since the battle between the Lebanese army and the militant Islamist group moved from the streets of Tripoli to Nahr al-Bared camp about this time last year, the media have mainly only reported on the military strife between the army and the Islamist group. On the rare occasions the media have covered the situation of the camp’s more than 30,000 Palestinian inhabitants who fled the camp during the fighting, they have done so with only a narrow focus on the humanitarian problems they face -- ignoring the glaring political questions that only the camp residents seem to be left asking.
     In the afternoon of 3 April, Al Jazeera English’s film crew along with personnel from the Lebanese security apparatuses appeared in Nahr al-Bared’s Majles Street. The Lebanese army and security apparatuses have so far forbidden any filming or photographing in Nahr al-Bared. At the various checkpoints inside and outside the camp, people are searched for cameras and found equipment is subject to confiscation. Journalists are generally not allowed to enter the camp and even if they get the necessary permission, soldiers or security apparatus agents must escort them.

The 60-Year War for Israel’s History

Efraim Karsh, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
      Since Israel’s founding in 1948, there have been two Arab-Israeli conflicts. The first one is military in nature. Played out on the battlefield, it has heroes, villains, martyrs, and victims. The second conflict, less bloody but no less incendiary, is the battle over the historical culpability for the 1948 war and the displacement of large numbers of Palestinian Arabs.
     The Israeli narrative views the Palestinian tragedy as primarily self-inflicted, resulting from their vehement rejection of the 1947 United Nations resolution calling for two states in Palestine, and the violent attempt by regional Arab states to abort the Jewish state at birth. By contrast, Palestinians view the episode as one in which they fell victim to a Zionist strategy that dispossessed them from their patrimony.
     The New Historians In the late 1980s the Palestinian narrative was bolstered by the advent of a group of Israeli "new historians" who systematically rewrote the history of Zionism, warping the saga for Israel’s survival. Aggressors were characterized as hapless victims and victims became aggressors. Rarely found in these revisionist accounts was the outspoken Arab commitment to destroy the Jewish national cause since the early 1920s, or the dogged efforts of the Jews to achieve peaceful coexistence. Instead, Zionism is depicted as an aggressive and expansionist movement, or an offshoot of rapacious European imperialism.

Animals, humans face similar fate when surrounded by Israeli walls

Jim Miles, Middle East Online 4/8/2008
      Book review of:“The Zoo on the Road to Nablus – A Story of Survival from the West Bank” by Amelia Thomas (Public Affairs, New York, 2008).
     This tale from the West Bank operates at several levels. Nominally it is about one man – Dr. Sami Khader – and his attempts to sustain the dream of having an internationally approved zoo in the town of Qalqilya in the West Bank.Almost completely surrounded by the infamous ‘wall’, impoverished by the conditions of the Israeli occupation, Qalqilya would seem to be one of the least likely places in which to sustain this dream.By keeping this intriguing narrative on a basic descriptive level, an anecdotal history of current events, Amelia Thomas reveals not only the pathos of the situation, but also the indominatable will to survive – for both the human and animal menagerie – and the humour and everyday ‘ordinariness’ of those involved.
     It took a few chapters to become fully involved in the work, perhaps more so as my expectations were not in line with the essential point of the story. But then having realized that this truly was the story of one man and his efforts to sustain his dream, and not a political or religious tract, I let the story speak for itself.

The Shocking Cost of the Iraq War

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 4/7/2008
      BOSTON - One of the strengths of the American system of government is that a vibrant civil society and private sector usually keep track of what the government is doing, often challenging the president and party in power with independent research and analysis. A case in point is the current debate in the United States that has been sparked by a troubling new book just published by Nobel Prize winner economist Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University and Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes.
     Entitled The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict, the book is both a sobering analysis of the real cost of this (and any other) war, as well as a sharp indictment of the Bush administration’s array of concealment and self-deception in selling the Iraq war to an angry American public that perhaps saw the campaign as a legitimate response to the terror of September 11, 2001.

Ignore Al-jazeera at Your Own Peril

Lawrence Pintak, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
      It appears that Israel is taking a page from the George W. Bush MBA-Presidents Sep-07 book of public diplomacy: It is attempting to influence coverage in Arab media by boycotting the most influential television station in the Arab world. In the latest news from Jerusalem, it seems that the Ehud Olmert government has decided Al-Jazeera favors Hamas over Israel in the Gaza conflict and will now refuse to deal with its reporters.
     You have to admit, Israel and Al-Jazeera were unlikely bedfellows. But the fact that we are even discussing banning Al-Jazeera reporters from the Knesset speaks volumes about what had previously been a very pragmatic relationship.
     Israelis understood from the start what the Bush administration has only lately come to realize - that it was better for Israeli officials to use Al-Jazeera to explain the country’s policies in their own words to the Arab world than to demonize the station and let its presenters put their own spin on Israeli policy. Not only does Al-Jazeera have a bureau in Israel, but Israelis can watch both the Arabic channel and Al-Jazeera English, neither of which is readily accessible in the United States.

Road Map to a Gaza War

Jackson Diehl, MIFTAH 4/8/2008
      Seven years ago George W. Bush’s incoming foreign policy team blamed the Clinton administration for an eleventh-hour rush for a Middle East peace agreement that ended with the explosion of the second Palestinian intifada. Now, with less than 10 months remaining in office, Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice are engaged in a similar last-minute push -- yet they don’t seem to recognize the growing risk that their initiative, too, will end with another Israeli-Palestinian war.
     Rice visited Jerusalem again last week to press for visible Israeli fulfillment of commitments made at last year’s Annapolis conference, and she appeared to win some incremental steps, such as the dismantlement of a few dozen of the several hundred military roadblocks in the West Bank. Yet a more significant Israeli signal may have been delivered by the stream of senior officials who have quietly been visiting Washington in the past month: Israel, they have been saying, is on course for a major conflict with the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.