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

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6 May 2008

News

Palestinian man killed in West Bank
Al Jazeera 5/6/2008
A Palestinian civilian has been killed after Palestinan president Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces clashed with armed men for the first time since the launch of a US-backed security drive in the northern West Bank. Mo’men Fawwaz Kmeil, 20, was shot on Tuesday as he tried to escape a standoff between Palestinian forces and local armed men in a cafe in the town of Qabatya near Jenin, residents said. Palestinian forces said in a statement that the man was killed when an "outlawed group" opened fire on the security men. The killing came after hundreds of Palestinian national security troops and presidential guards were deployed in the West Bank city of Jenin on Saturday. The deployment is part of an operation backed by Washington. to show the Palestinian Authority (PA) can curb the activities of Palestinian armed groups - a key Israeli condition for Palestinian statehood. It is the second-biggest Palestinian security campaign in a major West Bank city following a similar mission in Nablus late last year.

Water crisis looming in Gaza due to Israeli blockade
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – About 70% of families living in the Gaza Strip receive water once every five days, and 30% have access to water only once every week, says Rami Abdu the spokesperson of the Popular Committee for Countering the Siege on the Gaza Strip. In addition, the drinking water in Gaza has become unsafe. Abdu said that 65% of the water network in Gaza is unable to operate normally to Israel’s blockade of the Strip. He explained that due to the continuous closure of border crossings, the municipal councils of the Gaza Strip have been unable to import spare parts for water and sewage pumps and water treatment plants. In addition, the water network and sewage treatment system requires 150,000 liters of diesel fuel a month to operate, and has received far less than that amount due to the Israeli blockade. Officials with the Gaza Coastal Municipalities Water Utility say that due. . .

Child Suffering from Brain Cancer Dies without Treatment in Gaza Because of Israeli Siege
Palestine Monitor 5/6/2008
Two Palestinian Women also succumb to lack of treatment bringing the number of Gazan patients to die because of the siege to 145 - Ramallah, 06/05/2008: Thirteen-year-old Asmahan Al Jamal became the 145th patient to fall victim to Israel’s crippling siege on the Gaza Strip yesterday. The teenager died of brain cancer after Israeli military authorities refused to grant her an exit permit to access advanced medical treatment unavailable in Gaza itself." This is the true face of the Israeli government’s siege on Gaza," said Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi MP, Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative." One that masquerades as a security measure, but that plumbs such depths of inhumanity that even a chronically ill child is left to die without medical treatment readily available outside of the Strip." Two women from the Al Maghazi refugee camp in central Gaza also died on Monday: Zakyiah Sa’dah, 59, who was suffering from a heart condition, and Nathmiah Abdah, 55, a cancer patient.

Soldiers break into the house of a detained legislator, kidnap his son, son-in-law
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Ahrar Center For Detainees’ Studies stated that Israeli soldiers broke on Tuesday at dawn into the house of the detained legislator Dr. Azzam Salhab in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, searched the property and kidnapped his son and his son-in-law. The Center stated that at least three military vehicles surrounded the house before the soldiers broke into it and searched it causing damage to the property. Legislator Salhab was kidnapped by the army more than three years ago. The wife of Salhab stated that soldiers hurled stones at the doors and windows of the house before breaking into it, and that when her son, No’man, stepped out to see what going on; soldiers handcuffed and blindfolded him before taking him to an unknown destination. Soldiers also kidnapped the legislators’ son-in-law. The Ahrar Center reported that the ongoing attacks against the houses of the. . .

Less-than-diplomatic welcome for Bush
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 5/6/2008
Ma’aleh Adumim Municipality sets caravan in disputed territory leading to Jerusalem. Mayor says move was coordinated with Defense Ministry - It’s safe to assume US President George W. Bush won’t be making a stop here during his visit to Israel next week. In a controversial move, the Ma’ale Adumim municipality decided to place a new caravan in the disputed E1 zone between the city and Jerusalem. Mayor Benny Kashriel confirmed on Monday morning that the caravan had been transported last night and told Ynet the city "acted in coordination with the Ministry of Defense." The move, said Kashriel, "is intended to stress the importance of the region to Jerusalem from a strategic-defensive standpoint, for the continuing development of Ma’ale Adumim." The municipality plans to hold a large reception in the area that will be open to the public on Independence Day.

No holiday for Gaza’s labor sector
Rami Almeghari, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
"Closed because of the siege," a sign reads on the front door of the Al-Yazji factory on the main Salah al-Din road in Gaza City. Al-Yazji, the largest producer of soft drinks in the Gaza Strip, and numerous other manufacturers were forced to shut down due to the Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip since June 2007. In Gaza City, owners of 3,800 local factories recently established a symbolic cemetery for their devastated businesses. The graves do not contain dead bodies, but rather the remains of factories, canneries, workshops and other businesses. More than 33,000 of Gaza’s laborers have been laid off recently as industries are now working at around 20 percent of their normal capacity. "The garment industry, for example, used to employ more than 16,000 laborers, yet as long as the Israeli blockade goes on, the Palestinian garment sector won’t be able to convince any Israeli. . .

IOF troops blow up two Palestinian homes in Nablus, kidnap youth
Palestinian Information Center 5/6/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- IOF troops blew up two Palestinian homes in the Old city of Nablus during a brief incursion on Monday night that witnessed intensive firing of live bullets and sonic bombs, local reported. They said that an IOF unit in more than 20 army vehicles stormed the city and encircled one of its suburbs. The sources noted that a special force had blasted the two homes before arrival of the military jeeps. Locals believe that the raid targeted arresting or assassinating a Palestinian wanted activist. On Tuesday, however, IOF soldiers kidnapped Saleh Samara, 19, from his family home in Azmut village, east of Nablus. [end]

An Israeli air strike kills a fighter in northern Gaza as tanks roll into Jabalya
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
An Israeli air strike killed early on Tuesday a Qassam fighter and wounded another, when the car they were driving was hit with a missile. Medical sources in northern Gaza Strip confirmed that Hesham Shomar, 23 was killed and Omar Hammad 25, was wounded after sustaining critical injuries. Hammad has his limbs amputated, medics added. Palestinian security sources said that an Israeli drone fired at least one missile towards a car near the Abraj Al-Nada residential houses in the northern parts of Gaza Strip. The Alqassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, said in a statement that Shomar belonged to its ranks. Meanwhile the Israeli tanks rolled earlier in the morning near the eastern cemetery of the Jabalya refugee camp, amidst heavy gunfire towards the nearby residents as bulldozers began razing farm lands in the area.

Al-Qassam Brigades activist killed; one injured in Israeli airstrike on Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - An Al-Qassam Brigades activist was killed and another critically injured on Tuesday when an Israeli warplane launched a missile at a civilian car in the northern Gaza Strip. Muawiya Hasanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health ministry said that 23-year-old Hisham Shumar was killed and 25-year-old ’Umar Hammad was critically injured. He explained that Hammad has lost some of his limbs. The incident came in tandem with an Israeli incursion into Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip at dawn. The invading forces opened heavy fire on Palestinian houses while bulldozers dug up fields in the area. [end]

Israeli forces raid Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces raided the northern West Bank city of Nablus amid heavy gunfire on Monday evening. Eyewitnesses told Ma’an’s reporter that ten Israeli military jeeps stormed the city from the south in a sudden raid. Meanwhile, Palestinian security sources mentioned that the incursion was preceded by the infiltration of an undercover Israeli force in the old city of Nablus. They said they believed the undercover force was attempting to assassinate or apprehend ’wanted’ Palestinian activists. [end]

Eight fundamental Jewish youth arrested for stabbing to Arab residents of Israel
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Israeli army radio reported on Monday that eight Israeli youth from Jerusalem were arrested for stabbing and attacking two Arab residents of Israel, residents of Shu’fat refugee camp in the city. The radio said that the attack took place as Israel was celebrating its memorial day, a special day for "remembering fallen soldiers". The incident took place as the two Arab residents were near the entrance of a shopping mall ins Pisgat Ze’ev. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that one of the victims suffered moderate wounds while his friend did not need medical intervention. The Army radio reported that the assailants said during a police probe that they carried their attack in order to "rid Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Arabs".

IAF airstrike kills Hamas gunman in northern Gaza mortar squad
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
An Israel Air Force strike early Tuesday on a mortar launching squad killed one Hamas gunman and wounded three others in northern Gaza, according Palestinian officials. Gaza’s ruling Hamas group confirmed that the men were members of the organization. The IAF strike on the squad was near the town of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip, Gaza medics said. The Israel Defense Forces said one of its aircraft targeted and hit a group of armed men near the Gaza-Israel border. Gaza hospital officials said four gunmen arrived for treatment in the early hours of Tuesday and one died of his wounds. Israel regularly carries out raids and airstrikes aimed at halting ongoing rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns. Egypt has been trying to broker a cease-firebetween Israel and Hamas, but the efforts have not yielded results so far.

Three injured in shootings involving Palestinian security forces near Jenin
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Ma’an – Palestinian security forces shot and injured two Islamic Jihad fighters in the West Bank town of Qabatiya, near Jenin, on Tuesday. Earlier on Tuesday, security forces came under fire in Qabatia during an ordinary patrol, and a bystander was critically injured in an exchange of fire that followed. The Islamic Jihad movement accused the Palestinian security forces of shooting and injuring two of the group’s activists as when they approached a Palestinian security checkpoint. The security forces they did not deliberately shoot the activists, and that the fighters had attempted to interfere in operation of the security forces. Jenin district security commander Sulaiman Umran told Ma’an that the shooting took place when two gunmen arrived at a police station and tried to secure the release of a detainee.

Palestinian forces kill bystander in clash with Jenin gunmen
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/6/2008
A Palestinian civilian was killed on Tuesday when President Mahmoud Abbas’s security forces clashed with gunmen for the first time since launching a law-and-order push in the northern West Bank. Hundreds of Abbas’s forces deployed to the city of Jenin on Saturday in a U. S. -backed security push Washington hopes will show the Palestinians can rein in militants - Israel’s main condition for Palestinian statehood. Residents in the town of Qabatya near Jenin said civilian Ahmed Fawwaz Kmeil, 20, was shot as he tried to escape a standoff between Abbas’s forces and local gunmen who were sitting in a cafe. Palestinian forces said in a statement the man was killed when an "outlawed group" opened fire on the security men, adding they would investigate the incident and keep up their crime-fighting push.

Israel seals West Bank for Israeli Independence Day
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak imposed a blanket security closure on the West Bank that will begin on Tuesday night and extend until Friday. The closure reflects Israeli fears that a Palestinian group could attack during celebrations marking the sixtieth anniversary of Israel’s Declaration of Independence. So-called "humanitarian cases" will be allowed to enter Israel if they receive a special permit from one of the Coordination and Liaison offices in the West Bank. The closure applies mainly to the West Bank, as the Gaza Strip has been locked down, with virtually no one allowed to leave, since last June. [end]

West Bank closed, no movement into Israeli boundaries
Palestine News Network 5/6/2008
Jerusalem / PNN -- The Israeli government has cordoned off the West Bank and imposed increased security within it until Friday. Beginning last night, moving in the West Bank has become even more difficult than usual for Palestinians. Israeli Army Radio reported on Tuesday that the imposition of the stranglehold was ordered by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Tomorrow is the memorial of those killed in war, in addition to the celebrations beginning for 60 years since the creation of the state. Inside Israeli boundaries are completely off-limits, excepting those with permissions for medical conditions. Israeli forces have also claimed that the closure and difficulty of movement within the West Bank comes after receiving warnings that various armed resistance groups are planning attacks. The presence of Israeli soldiers and police is up everywhere, checkpoints. . .

Palestinian Author confined under administrative detention
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Ofer Israeli military sentenced a Palestinian writer from Al Yamoun village, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin, to six months under administrative detention without any charges. The Ahrar Center for Detainees’ Studiesreported that the prison administration responded to a request by the prosecution to keep author Ibrahim Abu Al Haija under administrative detention as "he resembles danger to the Israeli public", according to the prosecution. The judge then decided to sentence Abu Al Haija to six months under administrative detention orders. The lawyer of Abu Al Haija demanded the court to reveal the "secret file" against his client and stated that the detainee and his lawyer have the right to know on what basis the detainees is being imprisoned. Israel inherited the administrative detention from the British Mandate.

No prison visits for Palestinians until further notice
Palestine News Network 5/6/2008
Jenin / Ali Samoudi - An official at the International Red Cross reported Tuesday that the Israeli authorities decided to suspend all visits to Palestinians in Israeli prisons and detention centers. This is includes those who have been sentenced with ’secret evidence’ in military courts, as well as the hundreds being held without charge or trial under ’Administrative Detention’ and children. The Israeli authorities and the prison administration informed the Red Cross that the suspension of all visits begins today and is in effect until further notice. [end]

Ten thousand new family reunifications approved by Israel
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Ramallah - Ma’an - Israeli authorities approved a portion of the list of Palestinian refugees seeking to be reunified with their families living in the Palestinian territories, according to Hussein Ash-Sheikh, the head of the Palestinian Authority’s Civil Liaison Department on Tuesday. The list includes the names of ten thousand individuals who are currently living as refugees in countries such as Lebanon and Jordan and are seeking to return to the Palestinian territories in order to be reunited with their families. Other families on the list are already living in the Palestinian territories, but don’t have legal status. Many of these families could be deported if they were found without a national identity card. The individuals on the list are seeking a Palestinian national identification number, which will allow them to reside legally inside the Palestinian territories.

Court orders state to explain why citizenship law won’t be reversed
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The High Court of Justice issued an order Tuesday requiring the state to explain within 60 days why it refuses to overturn the citizenship law, which prevents Palestinians married to Israeli Arabs from gaining Israeli citizenship. The petition on the matter was submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, and several individuals who were personally penalized by the law. Among the petitioners was also Meretz MK Zahava Gal-On. The state of Israel generally grants citizenship to spouses of Israelis in a gradual process. In the spirit of this process, a similar process was instituted for the naturalization of spouses of permanent residents, though the process is a little longer. A 2002 temporary order excluded Palestinian spouses from these processes and barred them from becoming Israeli citizens.

World Likud chief calls for cancellation of Nakba Day procession
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Danny Danon, the chairman of World Likud, appealed to Public Security Minister Avi Dichter on Tuesday to issue a ban on the "Nakba Day" procession to be held by Israeli Arabs on Independence Day. In a press release distributed to the news media on Tuesday, Danon said the purpose of the march is "to oppose and incite against the state." "This is a deliberate and subversive challenge of the Arab Israeli leadership against the existence of the State of Israel," Danon said. Should Dichter fail to heed Danon’s call, the World Likud chair said he intends to appeal to the district court. He also demanded the authorities arrest any Arab leader quoted as inciting against the state and its institutions, as well as anyone seen brandishing the flag of an enemy state or a terrorist organization.

Israeli siege contaminates potable water in Gaza Strip
Palestinian Information Center 5/6/2008
GAZA, [PIC]-- The spokesperson of the Gaza-based anti-siege popular committee Rami Abdo has warned on Tuesday that the Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip caused a sharp decrease in drinking water, putting lives of the 1. 5 million Gazans at risk. In a statement he issued in Gaza city and a copy of which was obtained by the PIC, Abdo asserted that almost 70% of the Palestinian families in the tiny Strip were receiving potable water once every five days as a result of the siege, warning that the Israeli sanctions on Gaza had also affected maintenance of water networks and treatment of waste water." Keeping up the pressure on Gaza and maintaining closure of its crossing points would lead to an inevitable environmental disaster as a result of contamination" Abdo stressed, explaining that efficiency of the water networks in the Strip had declined by more than 65%.

ISRAEL-OPT: Gaza fuel, cooking gas shortages beginning to bite
Wissam Nassar/IRIN, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/6/2008
Without any fuel for vehicles, some Gaza residents have resorted to using donkeys to get around - JERUSALEM/GAZA, 6 May 2008 (IRIN) - Intense political divisions in the Gaza Strip have split people on most issues, except one: the situation has never been worse, nearly everyone agrees. " I never remember Gaza being this bad," said one man in his early 40s. " Living here has become a game of survival. " With fuel supplies nearly dry, many people no longer have cooking gas in their homes, leading some to search for alternative methods to make a meal. " People now are starting to look through the garbage to find combustibles," a Gazan who works for a large international aid organisation told IRIN. " Even my colleagues have begun to search the garbage bins or the sides of the roads to find wood and plastics to burn so they can cook their food at night," he said, requesting anonymity so as to not embarrass his friends.

Palestinian female detainee sentenced to six years imprisonment
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Israeli Central Court in Jerusalem sentenced on Tuesday detainee Nada Idrees, from Al Esawiyya town near Jerusalem, to six years imprisonment. Lawyer of the Palestinian Prisoner Society reported that Idrees was kidnapped by the army more than two years ago. The Israeli prosecution said that Idrees participated in resistance activities against the occupation. [end]

PA official: No Israeli partner in light of latest Olmert probe
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
A senior Palestinian official told Haaretz on Tuesday that "as of now there is no Israeli partner for talks on a final status agreements in light of the continuing investigation against [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert." The official said the Palestinian Authority understands that the most recent allegations against Olmert are more serious than those in years past, raising the likelihood that the negotiations would be frozen until the end of the judicial process." Our problem is that we also have no partner in Washington," the official said in reference to the American stance on the negotiations between the two sides. As such, the spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeina, released a statement Tuesday which, while acknowledging the progress made during Olmert and Abbas’ meeting on Monday over the issue of borders, cautioned that the gaps remain considerable.

PA: Peace talks may be waste of time
Ali Waked, YNetNews 5/6/2008
Palestinian officials concerned that new affair faced by Olmert will prevent Israel from moving forward on diplomatic front; Peace efforts undertaken at this time may be useless, senior PA official tells Ynet - The Palestinian angle on the Olmert affair: Palestinian Authority officials are concerned that the new suspicions against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will affect his ability to make progress in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, PA sources said Tuesday. A senior Palestinian source told Ynet: "We are concerned that everything that happens now between Israel and us will be useless and a waste of time. According to this source, the PA was surprised to hear Olmert’s Office reporting progress in talks on the issue of borders. The senior source said that after reports on the new Olmert affair surfaced, the PA assumed the Israeli PM was trying to maintain a "business as usual" facade even while facing an investigation." 

Barak: Probe will not affect Olmert’s political decisions
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Tuesday asserted that the latest criminal probeinto Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not affect his political moves, as well stating that he hoped there was no foundation to suspicions against him." We are all against corruption. I trust the law [enforcement] authorities and the police. I do not imagine that Olmert is influenced by the investigations carried out against him when he makes critical political decisions," the defense minister said. Olmert is currently the subject of a new criminal investigation, the details of which cannot be published due to a sweeping gag order placed Friday on the case. Barak said Olmert consults with him and with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni when making political decisions. Meanwhile, Kadima Minister Yaakov Edri on Tuesday told Israel Radio that. . .

Shaka’a: The Palestinian goals are achieved through resistance and steadfastness
Palestinian Information Center 5/6/2008
COPENHAGEN, (PIC)-- Bassam Al-Shaka’a, the head of the Palestinian national conference, stated in a letter written to the sixth Palestinians of Europe conference held in Copenhagen that the Palestinian people can achieve their national goals through resistance, steadfastness and adherence to the Palestinian rights and constants. In his letter, Shaka’a criticized the course of peace process, saying that Oslo agreements turned the occupying force from an enemy usurping Palestinian lands in 1948 into a state in conflict over occupied lands.   He also warned that dividing the Palestinian cause into disputed issues would deviate the national demands from the correct course and make them subject to the approval of the Israeli occupation. The Palestinian leader underlined that the demands of the Israeli occupation are illegitimate because in its capacity as an aggressor, it must renounce. . .

Canadian postal workers back boycott, sanctions against Israel
Palestine News Network 5/6/2008
Reprinted from: Toronto / Sheri Shefa for The Canadian Jewish News— Anti-Israel groups are praising the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) for being the first national union in North America to pass a resolution in support of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel. The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) released a statement after CUPW’s 23rd triennial convention, held April 13 to 17 in Ottawa, that praised the union for passing a "historic resolution’ in support of the global campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israeli apartheid." The CAIA says it’s the first time in North American history that a national union has passed such a resolution against Israel." The resolution recognizes Israel as an apartheid state and expresses CUPW’s support for boycott and divestment from Israel.

Israeli government goes against roadmap agreement; approves Modi’in Illit settlement
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
A committee of the Israeli Ministry of the Interior ruled Monday that the illegal Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit should be granted legal status, despite the construction of unauthorized expansions by its governing council. All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are considered illegal under international law, as Israel, as the occupying power, is not permitted to transfer its civilian population onto land occupied by military force. But the Israeli government has continued to authorize certain settlements, while declaring others illegal. It is unclear what criteria are used by the Israeli government to make this determination. The Israeli government uses an obscure reference in Jordanian law to justify the construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank, although Jordan has not governed the West Bank since 1967.

J’lem source: Rice seeks Israel, PA memo this week
Barak Ravid and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Israel and the Palestinian Authority are both unhappy over a request by U. S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that they publish a memorandum of understanding on the progress of their final-status negotiations to date before U. S. President George Bush arrives on a visit next week. According to a government source, Rice wants such a document to make it clear to the international community that the negotiations are indeed progressing. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA President Mahmoud Abbas held another meeting yesterday, following which the government source said "there has been great progress on the issue of the borders of the Palestinian state." He said there had also been considerable progress on the issue of security arrangements. But Rice told Israeli officials during her recent visit to the region that even though both sides had reported progress, "the world doesn’t believe it.

Israeli forces seize one Palestinian near Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an – An Israeliforce raided the northern West Bank district of Tulkarem on Tuesday morning and stopped Palestinian cars for inspection, according to a Ma’an reporter. No arrests have been reported. Meanwhile, Israeli forces stormed the northern West Bank town of Qafin in the Tulkarem district and apprehended one man after ransacking and inspecting several houses in the neighborhood. Resident Ahmad Az-Zibin was attacked and beaten by soldiers as his home was inspected, say eyewitnesses. [end]

Palestinian fighters ’shell Sufa crossing’
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The National Resistance Brigades, the armed wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for launching homemade projectiles at Gaza’s Sufa crossing point on Tuesday. In a joint statement the fighters said "this shelling came in response to the Israeli attacks and affirmed the continuation of resistance." [end]

Palestinian youth injured during clashes between PA forces and local gunmen near Jenin
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
Palestinian sources reported on Tuesday that one Palestinian youth was injured during clashes that took place in Qabatia town, near the northern West Bank city of Jenin. The clashes took place bwteen gunmen and Palesinian security forces. Security sources in Qabatia stated that as the Palestinian Authority forces were carrying a campaign targeting criminals and stolen cars, armed clashes took place between the forces and unknown gunmen. Ahmed Ikmeil, 20, was hit with a stray round. Medical sources told IMEMC that Ikmeil underwent a surgery and now lies in the IC room in a critical condition. On Sunday 600 security officers were deployed in the district of Jenin as part of a US supervised deal between the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israel. The those forces were deployed to restore law and order in the city, Palestinian Authority sources told media.

Qabatiya residents wounded in Palestinian infighting
Ali Waked, YNetNews 5/6/2008
Exchanges of fire between PA security forcers, armed residents of West Bank town near Jenin leaves seven people injured - Seven Palestinian men were wounded Tuesday afternoon in exchanges of fire between Palestinian Authority security forces and residents of the West Bank town of Qabatiya, near Jenin. The officers arrived in the city as part of a new PA security plan in the Jenin area. A group of local residents, some of them armed and some affiliated with the Islamic Jihad, did not approve of the PA’s activity in the area and began hurling stones at the security officials, who fired back. One of the residents who sustained critical wounds is reportedly in a state of brain death. PA officials accused Islamic Jihad members of firing at the Palestinian security officers, but the organizations denied the claims.

Dead teacher was a Gaza bomb-maker
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 5/6/2008
The UN refugee organisation in Gaza reaffirmed yesterday its "zero tolerance policy" towards political and militant activities by staff after reports that a Palestinian teacher assassinated in an Israeli air attack was a rocket-maker. Reuters quoted unnamed Palestinian militants and Israeli intelligence sources as saying that Awad al-Qiq, 33, acting headmaster at the UNRWA-run Rafah Boys’ Preparatory School was by night secretly a rocket builder for Islamic Jihad. A handwritten note outside the school posted on the metal gate at the entrance to the school declared that the teacher, killed in an air strike last week, was "the chief leader of the engineering unit", who would now find "paradise". Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency, which employs more than 9,000 local staff in Gaza, said that the agency was regularly instructed not to engage in political or militant activities of any kind.

Al-Aqsa brigades claim clashes with Israeli forces east of Jabalia
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah, claimed its members clashed with undercover Israeli units that invaded east of Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip on Monday night. The Brigades issued a statement saying "our fighters succeeded in countering the occupation army east of Jabalia where we engaged in heavy clashes between our fighters and an undercover Israeli unit in the area of the eastern cemetery." The Al-Aqsa Brigades affirmed that "this Israeli escalation in incursions, assassinations and arrests will not go without punishment." [end]

Israeli army detains a Palestinian Police official, kidnap a civilian near Nablus
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Israeli troops manning the Beit Iba checkpoint, located west of the northern West Bank city of Nablus, detained a Palestinian Police official and assaulted another one on Tuesday. Majid Abed Al Lateef Al Qaddomi, a Palestinian policeman in Nablus, was going to his work when troops stopped him at the checkpoint and detained him from several hours, lieutenant Nidal Al Jarumy was with Al Qadomi, and troops beat him up before releasing them. Moreover, the Israeli attacked the village of Kufer Qalil located near Nablus, searched homes there and kidnapped one civilians. [end]

Israeli forces seize Palestinian teenager from his home near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Israeli forces seized a Palestinian youth from the West Bank village of Azmut, east of the city of Nablus, after breaking into his house before dawn on Tuesday. Palestinian security sources reported that the Israeli forces carried out an incursion in Azmut eastern of the city of Nablus at 3am local time Tuesday and arrested 19-year-old Saleh Ibrahim Samara. [end]

Palestinian security forces ’arrest two Hamas members’
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian security affiliated to the West Bank-based caretaker government seized two Hamas members on Monday night, Hamas claimed. Hamas said in a statement that the arrestees were from Tulkarem in the northern West Bank. [end]

Palestine Today 050608
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Tuesday May 6th 2008. One Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire in Gaza, while in the West Bank Israeli soldiers detained a Palestinian official. These stories, and more, coming up. So stay tuned. News Cast Early on Tuesday, an Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian resistance fighter from Hamas and wounded another, when the car they were driving in northern Gaza Strip was hit with an Israeli missile. Medical sources in the northern Gaza Strip confirmed that Hesham Shomar, 23, was killed and Omar Hammad, 25, was wounded after sustaining critical injuries. Hammad’s limbs were amputated, medics added. Earlier this morning, Israeli tanks rolled near the eastern cemetery of Jabalya refugee camp, firing. . .

Newly supplied with fuel, UNRWA resumes services in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The United Nations’ relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, will resume operating in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday after receiving a delivery of 28,000 liters of gasoline (benzene) and 95,000 liters of diesel, UNRWA spokesperson Adnan Abu Hasna said. UNRWA suspended delivery of food aid and other essential services on Monday due to a shortage of fuel. The organization had only been operating normally since last Tuesday after a four-day shutdown also caused by the fuel shortage in Gaza. 650,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza depend on UNRWA food aid. Abu Hasna said UNRWA received 55,000 liters of diesel last week and did not received benzene for automobiles. The Gaza Strip has been desperately short of fuel as a result of months of Israeli fuel sanctions. Israel closed Gaza’s only crossing point for liquid fuels for a period in April after Palestinian fighters attacked the crossing.

Egyptian police kill Nigerian trying to cross into Israel
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/6/2008
Security and medical officials say Egyptian police have shot and killed a Nigerian man who was trying to cross illegally into Israel. The security official says the guards also shot three Sudanese men and one woman who were also trying to sneak into Israel on Tuesday, but they were not killed. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. Imad Kharboush of El-Arish Hospital says the four Sudanese have bullet wounds, and one additional Sudanese woman who was also arrested has superficial scratches. The security official says the five Sudanese were trying to cross into Israel south of the Rafah crossing, while the Nigerian was attempting to sneak into the country even further south. All were seeking jobs in Israel.

Three Palestinians released from administrative detention
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Nablus - Ma’an – Israeli authorities released three Palestinian prisoners who had been held in without being charged with any crime on Monday, the Nafha society for the defense of prisoners’ rights said. The three newly-released detainees were Jenin resident Lu’ai Muhammad A’rqawi, held since 5 March, Nablus resident , Tayel As’ad Ibrahim, held since 4 January, and Mujahid Saleh Noufel, detained since January 2007. The Nafha society said that Israel as remanded 50 Palestinians to administrative detention since the beginning of the month. Under administrative detention, prisoners can be held without charge or trial virtually indefinitely. There are currently more than 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails and prisons.

93 Palestinians, including 9 children siezed by Israeli forces in Hebron district in April
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Hebron - Ma’an - A report issued by the Hebron branch of the prisoners’ society on Tuesday revealed that 93 Palestinians were arrested, including nine children, in the West Bank district of Hebron during the month of April. The report said that "the number of the arrestees from the Hebron district during April amounted to more than 93 civilians from the village of Bani Na’eem, Al-Fawar refugee camp, the city of Hebron, Beit Ummar, Dura, Al-A’rub, including 24 school children and university students. The Israeli soldiers have been targeting the students. Since the beginning of 2008, 110 schoolchildren and university students have been seized." The report said that by arresting children the Israeli authorities had violated international human rights law. The society also stated that "these arrests were accompanied by intentionally ransacking the contents of homes.

First case of death among the cancer patients who were denied permission to enter Israel in April by the Israel Security Agency
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, Palestine Monitor 5/6/2008
Mohammed Alhurani, a 33-year old resident of Gaza, died yesterday afternoon (Wednesday 30 April 2008) of cancer while waiting for a reply from the Israel General Security Service (GSS) to a request from PHR-Israel. Alhurani was diagnosed in February 2008 as suffering from a malign tumor in the brain. His condition caused severe disturbance of vision. In the past two weeks his conditions deteriorated significantly and he began to suffer from uncontrollable fits and seizures in all parts of the body. PHR-Israel contacted the Gaza District Coordination Office on 7 April 2008 regarding Mr. Alhurani’s condition, attaching a medical opinion from Dr. Alsalam Aghbariya, an oncology specialist at Rambam Hospital in Haifa. Dr. Aghbariya stated categorically that Mr. Alhurani would died within a matter of days or weeks if he did not receive treatment.

Bedouin soldiers: Israel shuns us
Yonat Atlas, YNetNews 5/6/2008
On Remembrance Day, Bedouin community mourns IDF casualties, calls for end to inequality - Equal only in death:Among those observing Remembrance Day the families of 168 Bedouin casualties killed in the line of duty since Israel’s establishment. Forty one of them are from the Negev’s dispersed Bedouin community, which is greatly underprivileged despite its close ties to the IDF and the fact that it is forced to hide its sons’ army service. Two Bedouin soldiers have been killed in 2008: A 28 year-old tracker whose family refused to publish his name was killed by a roadside bomb on the Gaza border, and 20 year-old Corporal Menahesh Albinath from Kuseife, during intense clashes with a Palestinian terror cell near the security fence in central Gaza. The Albinath family lives in shacks with no electricity; their water supply was resumed only after their son’s death. Menahesh’s brother, Fares, serves in the territories, yet his house is under a demolition order threat.

Massive gate and key sculpture will mark Nakba anniversary in Aida refugee camp
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinians in Aida refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem are building a massive gate and key to symbolize the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in what is now Israel. Elderly Palestinians who were driven out of their villages in 1948 were among those who attended the meeting, which was held in a community center Aida camp on Monday night to discuss plans to commemorate the Nakba, the Catastrophe of the expulsion of Palestinians from much of their historic homeland in 1948. Many Palestinian refugees still have the keys to the homes they left when they fled the Jewish armies sixty years ago. The key has become a symbol of their right of repatriation. Munthir Amira, who is in charge of preparations for events marking the 60thanniversary of the Nakba in the camp, updated attendees at the meeting about events planned for 8 May, which Israelis know as their independence day.

OPT: Protection of civilians weekly report 16 - 22 Apr 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 4/22/2008
Of note this week - Gaza Strip: - The IDF killed 37 Palestinians, of whom at least 16 were unarmed civilians (including 11 children), and injured 51 others (including 15 children). A Reuters cameraman was killed when flachette rounds fired by Israeli security forces struck a Reuters press vehicle. - Three IDF soldiers were killed and 16 were injured in the Gaza Strip. Of those injured, 13 were injured in a Palestinian suicide attack at Kerem Shalom crossing. - The IDF uprooted 200 dunums of olive trees northeast of Al Bureij Camp. - On five occasions, IDF patrol boats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats at sea. These attacks coincide with the start of the sardine fishing season which will last until mid-June. - Basic functions of daily life continue to be severely affected by the fuel crisis, including drinking water delivery, sewage water disposal, garbage collection,. . .

ICRC activities in Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories: Mar 2008
International Committee of the Red Cross - ICRC, ReliefWeb 3/31/2008
In Israel and the occupied and autonomous territories, the ICRC works towards ensuring the application of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians during armed conflict and occupation. The ICRC continues to follow up closely on the humanitarian consequences of the recent military operations in Gaza, intervening for the respect of civilians and the medical mission during combat operations. It continues to monitor the health system, with a particular focus on Gaza. In Israel, the Occupied and Autonomous Territories, the ICRC regularly visits detainees falling under its mandate in order to monitor the conditions of their detention and their treatment. Its observations and recommendations are submitted confidentially to the authorities in charge.

US Secret Service tours Knesset ahead of Bush visit
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 5/6/2008
Agents ’raid’ Israeli parliament one week before US president’s festive visit in celebration of Israel’s 60th anniversary - Americans raid Knesset: About one week before US President George W. Bush’s planned visit to Israel, some 30 Secret Service agents arrived in Israel in recent days to tour the Knesset and inspect the Israeli parliament’s security arrangements. Bush is expected to land in Israel on May 15 for a festive visit in celebration of the Jewish state’s 60th anniversary. In a meeting held with recently with Avi Balashnikov, the Knesset’s director-general, the Americans demanded that a special fence be built around the Knesset in order to prevent eye contact between Bush and external elements. The American agents "studied" the Knesset perfectly, examined all the building’s entrances and exits, and passed through the route which President Bush is expected to take during his visit several times.

Hamdan: Bush’s coming visit would bring new political disasters to the region
Palestinian Information Center 5/6/2008
BEIRUT, (PIC)-- Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon, warned of the implications of the upcoming visit of US president George Bush, especially with the imminent expiration of his term in office, saying that this visit might bring new political disasters to the region that would be difficult to escape from. Hamdan opined that Bush’s visit would not bring any good to the region because it never happened that his administration did something in the interest of the region. The Hamas leader added that Bush would surprise everyone when he gets his embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and put forward a clear commitment to Israel as a Jewish state which means the closing of the file of refugees’ return and the deportation of remaining Palestinians in the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948. For its part, the popular front for the liberation of Palestine described Abbas’s. . .

Israel to shut West Bank-Jordan border crossing
Ma’an News Agency 5/6/2008
Jericho - Ma’an – Palestinian officials in the public administration of border crossings reported on Tuesday that the Allenby Bridge between Jordan and Palestine will be closed beginning at 1pm on Wednesday afternoon due to the Israeli holidays. The crossing will reopen on Thursday, the officials said. Israel controls all of the border crossings in and out of the occupied Palestinian territories, including those, like the Allenby Bridge, that connect Palestine with other Arab countries. [end]

Urgent progress needed in key areas to further Middle East peace – Ban Ki-moon
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 5/5/2008
On the heels of the recent London meeting of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the United Nations’ commitment to achieving peace in the region and highlighted the steps needed for progress towards that end. ’Israel must halt settlement building in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority must fulfil its commitment to fight terrorism. The rocket attacks on Israel must stop. The humanitarian suffering in Gaza must end,’ he told reporters in New York. On 2 May, Mr. Ban chaired a meeting of the Quartet, comprising the UN, the European Union, Russia and the United States. ’We agreed that there must be urgent progress, if there’s to be any reasonable prospect of building a Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security,’ he noted. In a statement issued on Friday, the Quartet expressed its strong support. . .

Lives of millions of Palestinians would be worse off without refugee agency, says Secretary-General at exhibit to welcome ’Friends of UNRWA’ Association
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 5/6/2008
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) event marking the opening of the exhibition and welcoming Friends of UNRWA, in New York, yesterday, 5 May: It is a pleasure to join so many friends and supporters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] this evening, and to inaugurate a collection of photographs that will surely register deeply with everyone who looks at them. On my way here, I had the opportunity to view the full exhibition that UNRWA has mounted in the lobby of the Secretariat building. I was deeply moved by the images of the day-to-day life of Palestinian refugee children -- sleeping, at play or in school. It is difficult to look at a frightened, tearful child and not be affected; or to have trouble. . .

Activities of Secretary-General in United Kingdom, 1-2 May
United Nations Secretary-General, ReliefWeb 5/5/2008
Ban Ki-moon flew to London from Geneva on Thursday, 1 May, to chair a meeting of the principals of the Middle East Quartet on Friday. The Quartet met in Lancaster House in London to discuss the situation in the Middle East. They were joined by Quartet Representative Tony Blair. After the meeting, a Quartet statement was read out Friday morning by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the beginning of a joint press conference with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov; Dimitrij Rupel, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovenia and current European Union President; Javier Solana, High Representative for European Foreign and Security Policy; Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European Union Commissioner for External Relations; and Representative Blair. (See Press Release SG/2137) The Quartet expressed its strong support for ongoing. . .

Egypt braces for new Gaza influx
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 5/6/2008
CAIRO, 6 May (IPS) - With next-door Gaza Strip in a humanitarian crisis, the government is desperate to avoid a repeat of January’s Palestinian influx into the Sinai Peninsula. In recent weeks, the security presence along Egypt’s 14-kilometer border with the hapless territory has been significantly reinforced. "The authorities are still in the process of boosting the police presence and enhancing security along the border," Hatem al-Buluk, independent journalist and resident of al-Arish, located some 40 kilometers west of the border, told IPS. Since last June, when authority over the Gaza Strip was seized by Palestinian resistance faction Hamas (after it won the elections here in 2006), the territory has been subject to a crippling Israeli embargo. Backed by both the US and the EU, the siege has effectively deprived Gaza’s roughly 1.

Hamas government says Israeli-Palestinian talks ’aimless and useless’
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The de-facto Hamas government in Gaza described yesterday the latest Palestinian-Israeli peace talks as ’ aimless and useless’. Taher aL-Nuno, spokesman of the government, said in a statement, faxed to press yesterday night that ’such meetings aim at concluding a communiqué that goes consistent with the Israeli expansionist plans" Al-Nuno asserted on what he termed ’Israeli denial’ of the Palestinian people’s right to return to the historical homeland of Palestine by expanding settlements and tightening the siege on Gaza as well as building an Apartheid Wall in the West Bank. He also appealed to all concerned bodies to intervene immediately to end the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza, stressing that any Israeli military offensive on Gaza won’t be a ’picnic. Yesterday, a series of negotiations between Palestinian and Israeli officials were held under the auspices of U.

EU ambassador: The siege on Gaza failed in achieving its goals
Palestinian Information Center 5/6/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)- The EU ambassador to the Israeli occupation government Ramiro Cibrian Uzal asserted on Monday that the Israeli economic blockade on Gaza that was backed by the USA and the EU has failed in achieving it goals. In press statements he made in the occupied Palestinian city of Jerusalem and published on Monday, Uzal said that the international community’s policy against Gaza Strip has failed in inciting the Palestinian public against Hamas Movement. Uzal also stressed that the EU should rethink its policy on Gaza Strip, adding that all Gaza exits must be opened before goods and humanitarian aid. He also stressed that demands of the Quartet Committee imposed on Hamas Movement as conditions to open the crossing points and to end the 38-month old economic blockade, including the. . .

Some 2,500 emigrants return to Israel
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 5/6/2008
Absorption Ministry’s campaign to bring Israelis back results in record-breaking numbers - The Absorption Ministry campaign to return emigrantsto Israel ahead of the country’s 60th anniversary has been a great success so far. Since the campaign’s onset, 2,500 people have returned to Israel, the highest number to date. Another 4,500 people are in the process of returning. In November of 2007, the ministry launched a campaign in an attempt to bring Israelis back to the country. The initiative was launched in correlation with the country’s 60th anniversary celebrations, and those who return will be granted various perquisites. Amongst the benefits are discounts on flights and on the shipment of belongings, a reduction on income tax in the countries from which they came, health insurance, Hebrew lessons, assistance in job placements, business. . .

Iran rejects nuclear inspections unless Israel allows them
Middle East Online 5/6/2008
GENEVA - An Iranian envoy said Monday his government will not submit to extensive nuclear inspections while Israel stays outside the global treaty to curb the spread of atomic weapons. "The existing double standard shall not be tolerated anymore by non-nuclear-weapon states," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh told a meeting of the 190 countries that have signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Nuclear safeguards are far from universal, he said, adding that more than 30 countries are still without a comprehensive safeguard agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure full cooperation with that UN body. "Israel, with huge nuclear weapons activities, has not concluded" such an agreement or submitted its facilities to the IAEA’s safeguards, Soltanieh said. Israel, widely believed to have atomic weapons, did not sign the nonproliferation treaty, which requires. . .

Row over Hezbollah telecoms grid
Al Jazeera 5/6/2008
Lebanon’s government is to take legal action against a private communication network established in the country by Hezbollah, the Shia political organisation and armed group. Ghazi al-Aridi, Lebanon’s information minister, said on Tuesday that the cabinet has decided to pursue all those considered to be involved in the communication network." Since it is illegal and constitutes a threat to the government’s sovereignty and its public properties, we will take legal action and prosecute anyone proven to be involved - either individuals, groups organisations or companies," he said. Lebanon’s ruling bloc has been locked in a political battle with the Hezbollah-led opposition for the last 16 months. Hezbollah has admitted that it possesses its own communication network, but has refused to heed government calls to dismantle it.

Foreign Ministry sending first aid package to Myanmar
Barak Ravid and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The Foreign Ministry is sending $100,000 in initial emergency food and medical supplies to survivors of the deadly cyclone that battered Myanmar over the weekend. The aid is being sent in coordination with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. The ministry is planning to organize a larger aid shipment in the next few days, and is helping the members of aid teams for several Israeli non-governmental organizations obtain visas to enter Myanmar. In addition, the ministry has made contact with eight of the estimated 10 Israelis who were in Myanmar when the cyclone hit. It is still trying to reach the other two, but says its inability to do so is likely due to the collapse of Myanmar telephone lines, and the erratic functioning of the Israel Embassy caused by the difficulties posed by the natural disaster.

Israeli President: Nuclear Iran would be ’nightmare’; Israel must remain sole Mideast nuclear power
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Israeli President, Shimon Peres, stated Monday that "Iran is a danger not only for Israel but also for the rest of the world", adding that if Iran were to get a nuclear weapon, it would be a "nightmare". In his talk, he tacitly acknowledged that Israel is a nuclear power - something that was long denied by the Israeli state, but has recently been discreetly mentioned by Israeli leaders on a number of occasions. Peres has long been called the ’father of Israel’s bomb’, having obtained help from the French government in the 1950s to build Israel’s nuclear reactor at Dimona. Since building the reactor, the Israeli government has maintained a policy of "nuclear ambiguity" and has never signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Most estimates put the number of nuclear bombs in Israel’s arsenal at about 100, which would make it the sixth-largest nuclear power in the world, if it. . .

Hamas: The talk about progress in PA-Israeli negotiations is a new trick
Palestinian Information Center 5/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement stated Tuesday that the talk about progress in PA-Israeli negotiations is a new trick to mislead the Palestinian and international public opinion, adding that such rumors were issued at the request of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to serve as face saving for the American Administration. In a press statement received by the PIC, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, explained that this trick is used after the disclosure of the false promises made by US president George Bush to PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in Annapolis and during their last meeting. Barhoum said that the talk about such progress is also aimed to cover up for the state of bankruptcy that afflicted Abbas and his negotiators after thirty negotiation sessions without being able to convince Israelis to remove one barrier hindering the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank.

EU contributes 35.5 million euros to pay salaries and pensions of 74,000 Palestinian civil servants
Palestine News Network 5/6/2008
East Jerusalem / Alix de Mauny - 74,000 Palestinian public service providers and pensioners will receive on Tuesday a total of €35. 5 million (NIS 195 million), which is being disbursed through the European mechanism for support to the Palestinians, PEGASE. The EU’s PEGASE contribution will be added to this month’s payment of salaries and pensions by the Palestinian Ministry of Finance, thus helping to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services. Responding to a specific request for increased support by the Palestinian Authority, this month’s contribution is higher than in previous months. This higher amount is made possible thanks to additional contributions from Spain and Slovenia, as well as funds from the European Commission. PEGASE channels EU and international assistance to help build a Palestinian State.

Fifth alternative Memorial Day ceremony held in Jerusalem
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The ’Zochrim’ (remembering) organization held its fifth alternative Memorial Day ceremony Tuesday evening at the Binyanei Hauma convention center in Jerusalem. The ceremony was attended by Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski, former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Jewish Agency Chairman Ze’ev Bielski. The central guest of honor at the ceremony was Amal Nasraledin, who’s son was killed in combat in 1969. Nasraledin spoke about ’blood pact’ forged between Israel’s Jews and Druze in 1948. Other guests of honor includedNadia Cohen, widow of Mossad agent Eli Cohen. Speaking at the ceremony, Cohen called on the Turkish government, the Mossad and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to do all they can to bring her husband’s bones from Syria to burial in Israel. Cohen noted that Turkey is involved in mediation between Israel and Syria, and can therefore be instrumental in retrieving her husband’s remains.

OPT: Sharjah government offers Dh10 million for Palestinian children
Government of the United Arab Emirates, ReliefWeb 5/6/2008
The Government of Sharjah pledged Monday Dh10 million in support of the ’Peace for Palestinian Children’ campaign. The government acted upon instructions by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council member and ruler of Sharjah as part of a fund-raising drive championed by Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi, wife of the Ruler and Chairperson of the Supreme Family Council, to support the Palestinian children. A telethon by Sharjah TV has raised Dh63 million and today’s donation brought the total money so far raised to Dh73 million. The campaign was launched on April 12 and will run until the end of the month. Sheikh Sultan appealed to firms, companies and individuals (nationals, residents and visitors) to donate money to the charity campaign. ’Donation will contribute to alleviate suffering of Palestinian children,’ he said.

Investigators seek to question foreign citizen in Olmert case
Noam Sharvit, Globes Online 5/6/2008
The foreign citizen’s identity is still under a gag order. The Jerusalem District Court has lifted the gag order that the state is seeking preliminary evidence from a foreign resident as part of the investigation into the new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert affair. The identity of the foreign resident is still under a gag order. The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court today dismissed a request by the media to lift the gag order imposed on the investigation. Israel Police Superintendent Iris Barak of the National Fraud Unit opposed the lifting of the gag order, and not only on the grounds of investigative considerations." Publication about the affair when there is no doubt with regard to its severity, right at this time - the eve of Memorial Day - will harm the public interest," she argued." No person wants to hear about this today.

Gag order against Olmert’s probe to be gradually lifted in coming days
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
Israeli Yent News reported on Tuesday a police sources said that the gag order on the investigation against Israel’s Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, will be gradually lifted in the coming days. The statement came after the New York Post published and exclusive report revealing details on the pending investigation against Olmert, the Ynet News added. Most of the published details are still embargoed in Israel as a comprehensive gag order is still in place. The Post reported that Morris Talansky, an millionaire financer residing in the US and runs an investment firm from his home in Woodmere, allegedly gave money to Olmert as the later was still in his position as the Mayor of Jerusalem in the 1990’s. The Israeli authorities refrained from publishing Talansky’s name and only referred to him as an "American businessman".

Police: Gag order on probe against Olmert losing significance
Ofra Eidelman Tomer Zarchin, Uri Tuval Nadav Shragai and Jonathan, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Police said Tuesday that leaks coming from the foreign media regarding the ongoing criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert "undermined" the gag order on the case and rendered it "losing its significance." The New York Post on Tuesday revealed details on the probe on its web site, including the name of a foreign individual summoned by police for questioning, but these details are banned in Israel. When asked about the point of the gag order, in view of what the foreign press has published, Lador said, "the court knows." Olmert’s attorney, Eli Zohar, said on leaving court: "The gag order certainly damages the prime minister, but our position could be understood as if we want to harm the investigation. And so we are wavering, and decided to leave the matter up to the court.

Senior Kadima source: Olmert probe could lead to new elections
Attila Somfalvi, YNetNews 5/7/2008
Unnamed Kadima official says Olmert investigation could shake up political system, slams police - The latest investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert could shake up the political system and lead to new elections, a senior Kadima official said Tuesday night." This time, there is a chance for a big shake-up in the political system, and we may even have elections in the coming months," the source, who asked to remain anonymous, said." For the time being it’s difficult to say whether Olmert will survive this affair too, despite the strength he has been displaying." Meanwhile, the Kadima official and other party members are increasingly calling for a review of the conduct of police and the State Prosecutor’s Office in the affair and particularly the decision to issue a gag order, which is preventing Olmert from defending himself publicly.

Kadima considers day after Olmert
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Leading Kadima figures started talking about their party’s future yesterday, four days after the latest probe of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert became known with speculation the suspicions against him would not allow him to remain in office. Most Kadima people still believe Olmert could survive even this crisis, but the incessant rumors had an effect. In private conversations people began talking about possible scenarios once the court-ordered gag on the probe has been lifted." We don’t have to crash with Olmert," a senior Kadima figure said yesterday." We won’t let Olmert hold onto his post and destroy the party," said another." He can be replaced by another candidate. Going to elections with Olmert in this state is suicide." If Olmert quits, the leading candidate to take his place and set up an alternative government is Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also acting prime minister.

Israel braces for political quake if Olmert goes
Middle East Online 5/6/2008
Israel was bracing on Tuesday for a possible eruption in the political landscape if Prime Minister Ehud Olmert resigns or is suspended over the latest corruption probe into his affairs. The atmosphere of uncertainty has been heightened by a whirl of rumours and speculation due largely to a media blackout imposed on details of the case against the 62-year-old premier. The anti-fraud investigation is the fifth such probe of Olmert’s dealings before he became prime minister in 2006, although one case against him has been dismissed. He has denied any wrongdoing. Israeli media speculated that there has been a "significant development" in the new case and that Israel’s justice department may lift the gag order, which several news organisations have asked the courts to remove. Olmert’s former office manager, Shula Zaken, was questioned for a fourth time Tuesday, public radio said.

Police leaving over low pay
Jonathan Lis, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
MK Ophir Pines-Paz (Labor), chair of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, yesterday warned of the consequences of increasing resignations from the police force." The resignations are dangerous and weaken the police force, and the public pays the price," Pines-Paz said at a special recess session the committee held yesterday. The committee decided to initiate legislation that would anchor in law the 1979 cabinet decision to link police wages to the career soldiers’ pay scale. The number of resignations in 2007 - 397 - was 50 percent higher than in the previous year - 267, according to police figures. During the first quarter of 2008 130 policemen resigned, 90 percent more than during the first quarter of last year - 68. Since the beginning of 2008 a total of 164 policemen have resigned." The resignations from the police force are increasing.

Cruelty under the guise of religion
Haaretz Editorial, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The decision by three rabbinic judges at the Supreme Rabbinic Court in Jerusalem, headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman, to annul conversions conducted since 1999 by Rabbi Haim Druckman and the conversion court system comes as no surprise. The threat of the revocation has been hovering for more than half a year now, ever since the Ashdod Regional Rabbinic Court revoked the conversion of a city resident, which served as an excuse for the sweeping revocation. The harassment of converts who, at the end of an exhausting and sometimes even very humiliating process, were granted the conversion certificate they desired - which now seems to be worth less than the paper it is printed on - has become a predictable and familiar trick. This is especially the case ever since the establishment of the conversion court system in conjunction with the Prime Minister’s Office.

First State-funded Reform synagogue opens in Modiin
Ynet, YNetNews 5/6/2008
After several years in litigation Reform Movement, Construction and Housing Ministry reach agreement which births Israel’s first-ever State-funded Reform synagogue -After several years in litigation and numerous hurdles Israel’s first ever State-funded Reform synagogue was inaugurated in Modiin on Monday. In the past, the Reform Movement filed two High Court petitions against the city of Modiin and the Construction and Housing Ministry, citing "discrimination in the appropriating of funds for the construction of synagogues and public venues." The Modiin Municipality than reach an agreement with the Yozma project, of the Israeli Movement for Progressive Judaism - which backed the petitions as well; according to which the Construction and Housing Ministry will allocate land and a 650 square feet structure for Yozma’s project in Modiin.

Water Authority to slash farmers’ quotas
Amiram Cohen, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Water Authority plans to slash the allocation of drinking water for agricultural use in 2009, and is weighing a blanket prohibition on irrigation of public and private lawns. The plan came to light during a meeting held this week between the Water Authority, the Agriculture Ministry and the heads of the Israel Farmers Federation. Only 454 million cubic meters of drinking water will be allocated for farming in 2008 - about 45% of the water allocation approved for farmers in 1989. [end]

Fateh wins Student Council election in Al Quds University
IMEMC News & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/6/2008
The Maan News Agency reported on Tuesday that Yasser Arafat Bloc of Fateh movement achieved an overwhelming victory at Al Quds University -- Abu Dis, east of Jerusalem. The Yasser Arafat Bloc -- named after the late Palestinian President, won 44 out of 62 seats. A leftist bloc belonging to the Popular Front For The Liberation of Palestine, won six seats, the Palestinian National Initiative won 3, the Islamic Group won 3 and another leftist bloc won three seats. It is worth mentioning that only 50. 7% of the students voted this year in comparison to 67. 7% last year, as Hamas movement refrained from participating in the elections this year. Students Struggle Bloc, Progressive Students Union Bloc and Fida Bloc did not won any seats. Furthermore, the Islamic Bloc which belongs to Hamas in the Hebron University, in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, decided to participate in the election which will be held on Wednesday.

Former prisoners of war: We’ve been forgotten
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 5/6/2008
While war casualties take center stage, ex-captives say their stories have been suppressed - On the occasion of Remembrance Day, former Israeli prisoners of war say they feel slighted because they have not been granted their rightful place in the country’s war heritage. The ex-captives say their personal stories have been suppressed or omitted from Israel’s history." Captivity is seen as failure," one former POW said sadly, referring to abducted IDF soldiers still held in captivity." There is a definite correlation between ignoring the stories of the former captives among us and the fact that Israel is not doing enough to release the present captives." There are 700 former POWs living in Israel today, and despite the many years that have gone by since their release many of them are still tormented by horrific memories.

Israel’s population up nearly ten-fold since 1948
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/6/2008
75. 5% of the current population is Jewish and 69% of the Jewish population are sabras. At Israel’s 60th Independence Day, the country has 7. 28 million residents, compared with 806,000 in 1948, states the Central Bureau of Statistics is a special independence day report. Israel has 5. 5 million Jews, 75. 5% of the total population, 1. 46 million Arabs, 20. 1% of the population, and 322,000 "others". 69% of the current Jewish population are sabras (native-born), compared with 35% in 1948. In the past 12 months, 156,400 babies were born in Israel and 18,000 new immigrants arrived. The Central Bureau of Statistics predicts that Israel’s population will rise to 10 million by 2030 (mid-range scenario). The average growth rate in 1948-2008 was 3. 8%, 60% of which was natural increase and the rest was from immigration.

Feature - Turning 60, Israelis feel pride, Palestinians pain
Rebecca Harrison, ReliefWeb 5/6/2008
REHOVOT, Israel/GAZA, May 6 (Reuters) - Like the state of Israel, Akram al-Shamali and Moshe Feist both turn 60 this year. But that’s about where the similarities end. For Feist, an Israeli, the anniversary is a chance to celebrate the Jewish state’s hard-fought achievements and swap stories of survival and patriotism over a glass of local wine. For Shamali, it is time to mourn the Nakba, or "catastrophe", when 700,000 Palestinians, his own family among them, fled in fear of Jewish attacks as violence mounted. He lives in the Gaza Strip, where Islamist rule makes alcohol taboo and an Israeli blockade cuts into any festivities. Their opposing views on the conflict into which they were born reflect lives lived in close proximity -- they grew up about 60 km (37 miles) from each other -- but worlds apart.

Israeli consumers deaf to global economic crisis
Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Word of the global economic crisis doesn’t seem to have reached Israeli households. Tax Authority data shows consumer spending in durable goods continued to rise at a dizzying pace in the first trimester of 2008 (January-April) and April. April alone saw imports of 17,142 private vehicles, compared to just 5,010 in April of last year, and 1,261 commercial vehicles were brought in, compared to 370 during the same period in 2007. And in the first trimester of this year imports of private vehicles grew 84. 4% compared to the same period the year before, and commercial vehicles were up 100. 9%. These astounding figures are partially attributed to a change in the method of registration of new vehicle import. From April 1 2008, a newly imported vehicle is no longer registered based on its model, but the date it hits the road, making delaying import by a month or two redundant.

Fox clothing chain, Bar Rafaeli to fight IDF draft-dodgers
Adi Dovrat, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The fashion label Fox announced Tuesday it would be collaborating with the Israeli Forum for the Promotion of Equal Share in the Burden, an anti-draft-dodging group. Fox made the announcement after meeting with representatives of the group, which threatened to lead a consumer boycott of the company because it employs models Bar Rafaeli and Michael Lewis, who did not serve in the army. Rafaeli also announced she would be collaborating with the forum." We welcome the move of Bar Rafaeli and Fox following the meeting with the association. The business sector also understands that it simply does not pay to dodge the draft," the forum’s strategic consultant, Itai Ben-Horin told Haaretz. Fox told the press Tuesday that it encourages enlistment into the Israel Defense Forces and opposes draft-dodging.

Israel Philharmonic plans on holding Israel 60th concert in New York in September
Haim Handwerker, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
ORK - The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra is moving to organize a free concert in New York City’s Central Park in September to celebrate the State of Israel’s 60th Independence Day. The project will cost around $3-4 million and will come from donations. Although donors welcomed the idea, the money has yet to be raised. The concert would also require a complex set of permits from City Hall, as well as increased security. Dalia Meroz, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra’s spokeswoman, confirmed there was indeed such a plan and the orchestra is negotiating with groups in the United States about raising the funds. [end]

Israel at 60: Women double labor force participation
Globes'' correspondent, Globes Online 5/6/2008
The agricultural labor force has fallen to 2% and the industrial workforce to 22%, while services has increased to 76%. Men’s participation in Israel’s labor force has fallen from 80% in the mid-1950s to 62% today, while women’s participation has doubled from 27% to 51% over the same period. Israel’s civilian labor force has grown from 631,000 in 1955 to 2. 9 million in 2007, states the Central Bureau of Statistics is a special independence day report. The proportion of full-time employees (people working at least 35 hours per week) has fallen from 78% in 1955 to 64% in 2007. 65% of part-time employees are women. The agricultural labor force has fallen from 10% of the total labor force in 1968 to 2% today, and the industrial labor force (including industry, construction, water, and electricity) has fallen from 33% of the total force in 1995 to 22% in 2007.

US contractors accused in Abu Ghraib torture suit
Middle East Online 5/6/2008
LOS ANGELES - Employees from US military contractors helped torture Iraqi civilians detained at Abu Ghraib prison five years ago, according to a federal lawsuit filed in Los Angeles on Monday. Lawyers for Emad Al-Janabi said the 43-year-old blacksmith and other prisoners were subjected to months of abuse while being held at the notorious Baghdad jail following his arrest in September 2003. Al-Janabi was later released without charge in July 2004. According to the lawsuit, Al-Janabi was subjected to physical and mental torture which included being shown a mock execution of his brother and nephew, being repeatedly deprived of food and sleep and threatened with dogs. The lawsuit is lodged against defense contractors CACI International Inc, CACI Premier Technology, L-3 Communications Titan Corporation, and former CACI contractor Stephen Stefanowicz.

Sharp rise in suicide attacks by women in Iraq likely
Middle East Online 5/6/2008
As many women carried out suicide attacks in Iraq so far this year as in the five previous years combined, and attacks by women are expected to spike again in the coming months, a US terrorism expert said Monday." Between January and April, there were 12 suicide attacks by women in Iraq. That marks an exponential increase," Farhana Ali, a US international policy analyst of Pakistani origin, said after a symposium on terrorism at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington. Twelve women carried out suicide attacks in Iraq in the first few months of this year compared with 11 between 2003 and 2007, according to Ali." So long as this conflict continues, you will see greater instability in Iraq and women will be greatly victimized -- you will see more women in Iraq choose suicide terrorism in the next few months," she predicted, adding that she had warned US officials and policy makers of the threat since 2005.

Kurdish rebels threaten US with suicide attacks
Middle East Online 5/6/2008
Kurdish rebels could launch suicide attacks against American interests to punish the US for sharing intelligence with Turkey after Turkey bombed rebel bases, a spokeswoman for a wing of a rebel group warned. Turkey’s military said more than 150 Kurdish rebels were killed in Friday’s air strikes against bases of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, on Mount Qandil on the border of Iran and Iraq. Peritan Derseem, a senior official of the rebel group’s Iranian wing, PEJAK, claimed that only six people were killed in latest Turkish strikes. The PKK fights for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast and also has a wing fighting for Kurdish rights in Iran. Derseem blamed the United States for helping Turkey in an interview late Sunday. She said some rebels want to join suicide squads to avenge the deaths of their comrades but that "combatants are under the control of the organization," which she said is against such attacks.

Iraq war strains US mental health system
Middle East Online 5/6/2008
Fort Drum, a bleak US Army base in upstate New York, is a test case for how the military is handling a looming mental health crisis. The military and its critics agree on one thing -- there are not enough therapists to treat all the soldiers who return from Iraq and Afghanistan traumatized by the experience. The 10th Mountain Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2BCT) is the most-deployed brigade in the US army since 2001. It served two tours in Afghanistan, totalling 11 months, and was sent to Iraq twice for tours of 12 and 15 months. "They’re kind of a canary in a coal mine," said Paul Rieckhoff, a former Army captain who founded the advocacy group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America." They’re a good barometer to understand the human cost of the war." A report by advocacy group Veterans for America said the mental healthcare system at Fort Drum was not meeting the. . .


Articles


Time for National Turning Point
Alon Ben-meir, MIFTAH 5/6/2008
      As Israelis finalize preparations for their momentous 60th anniversary - a date marking 10 years of consistent economic growth and industrious expansion - there remains the underlying question that will go unanswered yet another decade: What will be done with the West Bank and Golan Heights? Despite all of its considerable achievements, cross-border violence persists and Israel’s existence remains fundamentally insecure. At the heart of this conundrum is the occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands, a wound that if left unattended will produce a tragedy of scale we have not yet witnessed.
     On May 8, Israel has an historic opportunity to celebrate its monumental progress, but if it is to preserve any of these gains, it must ultimately free itself from the albatross around its neck and relinquish these occupied territories.
     During its 60 years, Israel has forged full-speed ahead to build a modern nation-state. It has absorbed nearly 3 million Jewish immigrants, developed modern city infrastructures such as Netanya and Herzliya, and built prestigious educational institutions. The nation has made tremendous strides in medicine, agriculture, biotechnology, and economic development and created democratic political institutions, all while manning its formidable military powerhouse. Yet with violence erupting daily and the regional death toll rising, Israel remains vulnerable as maintaining the occupation is sapping the country’s energy and resources.

From darkness into light

Daphna Golan, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
      Again we celebrated the holiday of freedom while Gilad Shalit remained in captivity. We spoke of going from darkness into a great light, but left the talks about releasing the abducted soldiers in the dark. We have become accustomed to let our future depend on Shin Bet people who negotiate covertly, and we have stopped asking what we could do to release the abducted soldiers.
     Why not talk with all our neighbors, Hamas, Fatah and Hezbollah, the presidents of Syria and Egypt and the Arab states, about releasing the abducted soldiers, about stopping the Qassam fire, about reconciliation?
     We boast of Israel’s democracy and freedom of information, but let the Shin Bet security service direct our reality, although they act in darkness. We have no idea what our future map is, but we have been asked for years not to ask too many questions.
     Since 1967, Israel has imprisoned more than 700,000 Palestinians, about one-fifth of the Palestinian population. According to the last United Nations report, Israel is holding behind bars more than 11,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 118 women and 376 children, who are incarcerated - in violation of international law - outside the occupied territories. The Shin Bet decides which prisoners are to receive visits and which family members will be barred from entering Israel.

Sixty years of Naqba, 60 years of nothing

Bradley Burston, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
      In a nation as coiled and embroiled as this, with a language fraught and zip-filed as the bible, it’s only fitting that a single daily newspaper headline will often say more than the thousands of words that follow.
     So it was, that on the day before Israel was to celebrate its independence, Maariv’s banner read, simply, "60 Years of Bereavement."
     In a narrow sense, the headline, stark white on a field of black, marked Israel’s memorial day for its war dead and its victims of terrorism.
     At the same time, the brief headline may have said more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - and about Israelis themselves, and Palestinians as well - than all of this week’s floodtide of 60th anniversary punditry put together.
     They are filled with dread here, these people, my friends, the Israelis and the Palestinians both. Part of the dread is the realization that, no matter what direction the conflict takes, the result will in no way justify the violent deaths since 1948 of more than 24,000 Israelis and uncounted thousands of Palestinians.

As it turns 60, the fear is Israel has decided it can get by without peace

Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian 5/7/2008
      In the wee small hours on Israeli television, they show reruns of what was once a staple form of mass entertainment: kibbutz choirs - the men in pressed work shirts, the women in peasant skirts - singing Hebrew folk melodies exalting the Land of Israel, while a smiling audience joins in. The pictures were black and white, the sets cardboard, and the programmes interminable - a socialist-realist tableau of a simple farming nation engaged in wholesome, patriotic amusement.
     Visiting Israel last month, I sat transfixed when I stumbled across the public service channel that replays those old shows. Tonight the national celebrations will be more up to date, as Israel marks its 60th anniversary with street parties this evening and beach barbecues tomorrow. Yet if the world is watching, trying to understand the place Israel was and what it has become, it could do worse than start with those cheesy TV specials.
     For one thing, too many critics like to depict the establishment of Israel in May 1948 as little more than an act of western imperialism, inserting an alien, European enclave into the mainly Arab and Muslim Middle East. In this view, the Jewish Israelis of today, with their swimming pools and waterside restaurants, are no different from their counterparts in other settler societies - the whites of Australia or, more painfully, South Africa. A look at the faces of Jewish Israel is one easy rebuttal: the new nation that has formed by mixing Moroccan and Russian, Ethiopian and Kurd, is one of the most ethnically diverse in the world. But there is a more substantial counter-argument, one that can be picked up even on those old TV singalongs.

Still far from economic independence

Nehemia Shtrasler, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
      Israel’s economic data on the eve of its 60th anniversary are quite impressive. The economy is growing at a rate of about 5 percent, for the fifth year in a row; per capita gross national product has reached $25,000; unemployment has fallen to 6.5 percent; the shekel is appreciating against the dollar; interest rates are low; and we even have a balance of payments surplus. Does all this mean that we have achieved economic independence, and all of our socioeconomic problems have been solved?
     Not necessarily. Israel is still a highly unstable country, both internally and externally. It faces major security threats and numerous economic and social problems, and it is very dependent on the rest of the world, especially the United States. Therefore, we are still very far from economic independence.
     All it would take to upend our excellent economic situation would be for a U.S. president to murmur something like "I’m mulling my relationship with Israel." Banks would instantly cut off our credit lines, the dollar would soar against the shekel, inflation would surge, foreign investors would flee, the balance of payments surplus would become a deficit, and growth would be replaced by recession. After all, the world knows that without American support, tiny Israel would instantly resume its true proportions.

A Strangled People

Sami Abdel-shafi, MIFTAH 5/6/2008
      It is a strange feeling: after working as a productive professional in Gaza for five years, I have become a black market junkie. I make several phone calls a day hunting for fuel for my car, diesel for the electricity generator waiting on standby to power the house, even cigarettes and vitamins. The only way to get hold of these things, to buy life-saving medicines, to purchase the essentials for a life of basic dignity, is through the black market, if at all. Today all Gaza suffers severe water shortages, with the fuel needed to pump and transport water (as well as sewage) dangerously scarce. The few cars seen on Gaza’s mostly empty streets today almost invariably run on used cooking oil due to the lack of diesel.
     That feeling of strangeness continued as I read the statement delivered by the Quartet in London yesterday. The four powers mediating in the Middle East - the United Nations, European Union, United States and Russia - spoke of "deep concern" and demanded "concrete steps by both sides". There was no sense, however, that they had properly grasped the depth of Gaza’s plight or the realities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. World politics seems to have morphed into a diplomacy of denial - a denial of how much more firm the international community must be towards the cause of an occupied and dying people.

''You don’t know when they’ll come, but they’ll come''

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/6/2008
      With photos
     With the threat of an Israeli military closure order hanging over their heads, this is one of the maxims that the children and staff of the Islamic Girl’s Orphanage in Hebron have had to keep in mind every day.
     Issued on February 25, 2008 by General Gadi Shamni, the Israeli military commander of the West Bank, the order demands the closure of fourteen schools and orphanages in Hebron: eight funded by the Islamic Charitable Society and six belonging to the Muslim Youth Society.
     Since then, activists from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) have been joined by other internationals from Belgium, Britain, Canada, Germany, Holland, Scotland and the US in maintaining a permanent presence in the orphanage to deter the Israeli military from implementing the order.
     The first deadline for the closure of the orphanage passed on April 4 without incident, and although the children, staff and activists alike heaved a sigh of relief, they knew that the story was not over yet.

PCHR: Narratives Under Siege

International Solidarity Movement 5/6/2008
      Gaza Region - Photos - In order to highlight the impact of the siege and closure of the Gaza Strip on the civilian population, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) is publishing a series of "Narratives Under Siege" on their website. These short articles are based on personal testimonies and experiences of life in the Gaza Strip, highlighting the restrictions, and violations, being imposed on the civilians of Gaza.
     Narratives Under Siege: Al Gherbawi Taxi office, Gaza city
     Early Monday morning in Gaza city: the streets are sunny and quiet. As men and women walk to work, a smattering of cars drive through the city, but the vast majority of Gazans are on foot. Pedestrians stroll past vehicles that are double, even treble parked against the broken side-walks, and the distinctive yellow Gaza taxis are few and very far between.
     Sa’ed Mohammed Al Gherbawi runs Al Gherbawi taxis, and is already behind his desk at the city centre taxi office. “My family has been running taxis in Gaza for forty years, and I’ve been working here since 1983", he says. “We have a good business, with fifteen cars and twenty drivers. But we cannot operate without fuel. When the benzin deliveries were cut in February, we started to rely on diesel; but in the middle of April the diesel supplies were cut too, and now we can only afford enough diesel to keep one of our cars running full time...” -- See also: View all the narratives on the PCHR website

New factors both spur and stall ’secret talks’ for Israel and Syria

Riad Kahwaji, Daily Star 5/6/2008
      Describing the state of relations between Syria and Israel is not as easy a task as an average observer would think. Although the two countries regard one another as arch-foes and have fought four wars over the past 60 years, they nevertheless seem to have learned to coexist with one another, at least at the level of ruling parties on both sides of the border. The point of dispute proclaimed to be delaying a peace treaty between the two is the Golan Heights that Israel captured in the 1967 war. Neither side has been able to convince the other of the need to close a deal. The events that followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, up until the Syrian pullout from Lebanon in 2005, further complicated the situation between Syria and Israel.
     While official talks between the two sides were halted in 2000, non-official contacts between Israel and Syria at the level of experts and civil servants have continued almost non-stop. People who have attended track II behind-the-scenes meetings in Europe and some Arab capitals over the past few years have witnessed Israelis and Syrians meeting and talking. In listening to the two sides exchanging views one could come to the conclusion that Damascus has not been able to convince Israel that it must withdraw from the Golan.

Don’t overstate the Syrian-Israeli track

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, Daily Star 5/6/2008
      Many contradicting trends and confusing political signals have been exchanged in recent months in the Middle East, making it a daunting task to untangle the intertwining motives in the region. The revelation of talks between Israel and Syria adds yet another twist in the political knot, and we are once again reminded that the fates of the Middle Easter states are connected. Syria has now opened important diplomatic and other fronts with Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. It is likely that the same concerns will be shared by all parties - namely, state and societal security within recognized borders, management of oil and water resources, economic cooperation, and protection of the rights of minority populations and the right of refugees to return to their homelands. Still, the question remains: Are the leaders in Syria and Israel genuine in their efforts toward normalization between their nations, and if so, are they up to the challenge.
     On the surface, it looks like Syria holds a strong hand in the politics of Middle Eastern conflict. President Bashar al-Assad has received high-level visitors like the speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, and former US President Jimmy Carter, each of whom came away convinced that the United States should invite the Syrians into the "peace process." Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was also welcomed to Damascus on an official visit. Assad even managed to save an Arab summit in April that was threatened with collapse due to the absence of the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians. Syria’s relationships with Hizbullah, Hamas and Iran have proven to be lasting in the face of outside pressure, and Assad has opened an economic partnership with Turkey. To paint Syria as an important player in the region is an easy task when it has all of these elements working in its favor. Unfortunately for the regime in Damascus, its position is not as comfortable as it may seem.

Too quiet in Gaza’s harbor

Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 5/6/2008
      GAZA CITY, 6 May (IPS) - It’s been strangely quiet for some time at the port in Gaza. No clanging of hooks, no sounds of creaking cranes or of thumping of nets upon decks. Boat engines, normally puttering and spewing exhaust, lie entombed under covers.
     Of the 40,000 fishermen and others who make a living from the catch, only about 700 are still busy, according to the Fishing Syndicate in Gaza. The boats need oil, and Israel will not let the fishermen have it.
     "Gaza’s 3,000 fishermen need about 40,000 liters of fuel and 40,000 liters of natural gas a day to operate for this season from March until the end of May," says Nizar Ayash, director of the Fishing Syndicate. Now they get almost nothing.
     Jamal al-Assi, 37, attempts to look busy around his idle boat. "My boat feeds 11 families," he says. "What are we going to do? There is no hope when there is no fuel. We can’t work."
     "I have been laid off work for nearly two months due to shortage of fuel," says Nasser al-Amodi, 49, one of Gaza’s oldest fishermen. He began his career at age nine, working alongside his father. Later he inherited the business.

Palestinian Festival of Dance – and Debate

Joshua Mitnick, MIFTAH 5/6/2008
      Though they were delayed eight hours at the Israeli border, dancers from Belgium’s Les Ballets C. De La. B. company eventually made their way to Ramallah’s Al Kasba Theatre where they writhed, staggered, and lunged across the stage.
     But the Israeli security restrictions on the contemporary dance company were only part of the headache for the third annual of the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival. For the first time, the festival has drawn fire from the religious authorities of Hamas – highlighting how the split between the Gaza Islamists and the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has exacerbated a Palestinian culture clash.
     In an article published on Hamas’s website, the director general of the Islamic Waqf in Gaza, Saleh al-Rakab, called said that the festival "damages" the Palestinian cause and wastes money that should go to impoverished Gazans suffering from Israel’s economic blockade.
     "This festival is a black stain and a disgrace to everyone involved in it, Mr. Rakab wrote. While Hamas is immersed in "holy" work, the festival is "ridiculous and marginal.…Who has the head for something like this?"