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

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7 May 2008


Israeli air strike kills one, wounds 20 in Gaza Strip
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/8/2008
GAZA CITY: A Palestinian militant was killed and nearly 20 people were wounded on Wednesday during an Israeli attack on the southern Gaza Strip, medics and witnesses said. Israeli armored vehicles and bulldozers backed by aerial drones entered the region east of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, they said. The fighter from the Islamic Jihad movement was killed and five others were wounded in an air strike. An earlier air strike targeted a house where armed men were meeting, and two Palestinians were hit by Israeli gunfire. The Hamas movement, which seized control of Gaza nearly a year ago after reports of an impending Fatah offenseive surfaced, confirmed that 10 of the wounded were fighters from its armed wing, and that they had fired mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at the Israeli forces.

Israeli forces storm Jenin, prompting criticism from security commander
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces stormed the West Bank city of Jenin and neighboring Jenin refugee camp early on Wednesday morning, just days after the Palestinian Authority carried out an Israeli-approved plan to resume security control of the city. Witnesses said the Israeli troops marched in the streets. No arrests or attacks were reported in connection with the incursion. A Palestinian security source said that Israeli military vehicles invaded the city from the west. Major General Diab Al-Ali, known as Abul Fatah, the commander of the National Security service in the northern governorates of the West Bank, told Ma’an that this Israeli incursion is meant to obstruct the Palestinian security services’ plan to impose law and order, and is a provocation against the Palestinian government and people. Hundreds of Palestinian security personnel entered the Jenin area on Saturday. . .

Olmert ’may quit over scandal’
Al Jazeera 5/7/2008
Some sources say Olmert could be replaced by foreign minister Livni - Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, is likely to step down, or at least have his duties as prime minister suspended as bribery allegations against him are probed. Walid al-Umari, Al Jazeera’s Palestine bureau chief reporting from Ramallah, said on Wednesday that some Israeli political sources believe Olmert will step down. Al-Umari said Israeli police have evidence linking Olmert to bribery. But Israel has imposed a ban on the release of any information about the charges against the prime minister, and the ongoing investigation. The police are expected to partially lift this ban by Sunday, he said. Al-Umari said Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, may assume the post of prime minister until the investigation is completed.

146 Patients killed by Israeli siege of Gaza, Palestinian officials say
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A 49-year-old Palestinian woman died of a preventable kidney failure on Tuesday because she could not leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment, sources in Gaza said. Samira Sabe, from Rafah, was the 146th person to die after being denied the permits required to leave the Gaza Strip, said Rami Abdo, the spokesperson of the Popular Committee Against Siege in Gaza. Israel sealed the Gaza Strip after Hamas took full control of the territory last June. Since then only a tiny number of Palestinians have been allowed to leave. Israel has also limited shipments of vital supplies to the strip, including medicine and medical equipment. Abdo added that Samira’s son Mahmoud Sabe has been in an Israeli prison for six years, serving a 15-year sentence. For two years Israel had also denied her the necessary permits to visit her son in prison.

10 structures in Duma threatened with demolition
Stop The Wall 5/6/2008
On April 13, Occupation forces issued military decisions requiring the demolition of 10 residential and agricultural structures in the village of Duma, located in the southern part of the Nablus district on the edge of the Jordan Valley. This is ostensibly because the structures have been constructed without a permit, although the Occupation administrators have long refused requests for building permits in this area. The buildings in question include a number of residential structures that house 42 persons. In addition, an agricultural structure will be demolished. The people of Duma rely on agricultural work for their primary incomes. Duma, which overlooks the Jordan Valley to the east, has a population of 2,500. Village lands include around 18,000 dunums. However, the village is constrained from building by an archaic master plan that dates back from before the 1967 occupation. As such, only 200 dunums are allotted for structural development.

Resident dies of wounds sustained on Monday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
Palestinian medical at Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported that one resident died of wounds sustained on Tuesday at dawn when the Israeli army shelled Sheikh Zayid city, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. Three residents were wounded on Wednesday at dawn in an Israeli shelling east of Khan Younis. The sources stated that resident Hisham Najeeb Shomar, 22, died of his wounds at local hospital. Shomar lost his arms and legs when the army shelled homes in Sheikh Zayid city and sustained severe burns. In a separate incident, three residents were wounded, one moderately,in Abasan Al Jadeeda town, east of Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, after the army invaded the area, on Wednesday at dawn, and an Israeli fighter-jet fired one missile at a group of residents. Eyewitnesses reported that several armored vehicles and jeeps invaded the area while military. . .

Two detainees in need of direct medical attention, surgeries
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
Um Ismail, the wife of detainee Jom’a Ismail Mousa, voiced an urgent appeal to human rights and legal groups to ensure that her husband is medically examined due to a sharp deterioration in his health condition. Another detainee, Mahmoud Da’ajna, needs an urgent open-heart surgery. Um Ismail said that he husband is imprisoned at Al Ramla Prison Hospital, which lacks the basic medical equipment, after his health condition had sharply deteriorated. She added that Mousa suffered recently from a skin condition which makes him itchy the whole time, in addition to his diabetic situation, high blood pressure, Asthma, and a heart condition. She said that when she visited her 69 year old husband at Al Ramla Prison Hospital she found out that the current condition of her husband had worsened when a physician injected him incorrectly in his arm.

Muncipality worker arrested by Israeli military, bulldozer impounded
International Womens’ Peace Service 5/7/2008
Date of incident: 06. 05. 2008 - Place: Azzoun, Qalqilya District - Witness/es: Municipality workers - Description of Incident: IWPS members attending a meeting with Azzoun municipality were informed that two workers with the Azzoun Municipality in the Qalqilya District were arrested while carrying out their jobs on the morning of May 6. The two workers had been instructed to remove a roadblock between Azzoun and the village of Izbat at Tabib. The removal of the road block had been arranged by prior permission with the Palestinian Authority, who had liaised with the Israeli military DCO to coordinate removal of the road block. IWPS members were informed by the Azzoun Municipality that the workers were accompanied by Palestinian Authority police, as well as an Israeli military jeep. When the work was almost complete, two more Israeli army hummer jeeps approached the Palestinian work crew.

Undercover Israeli forces abduct Palestinian worker in Beit Layiha
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Undercover Israeli forces infiltrated the town of Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, stormed a water pumping station and abducted one employee after damaging part of the facility. Sources in the Gaza-based Ministry of Agriculture, affiliated to the de facto government, said that 32-year-old Nidal Ad-Dahnoun was kidnapped by Israeli force while he was working at the water station, which provides water to irrigate farms in Beit LahiyaThe Ministry condemned the abduction calling on international organizations to investigate the incident and work for his release. [end]

Abu Marzouk: Algeria offered to cover all Gaza needs of energy for free
Palestinian Information Center 7/5/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)--- Dr. Mousa Abu Marzouk, the deputy chairman of Hamas’s political bureau, has revealed that Algeria had offered to cover all energy needs of the Gaza Strip for free. Algiers maintains a distinctive role in supporting the Palestinian cause, Abu Marzouk said in a statement to Quds Press on Wednesday, and lauded the stands of the Algerian president who was recently quoted as saying that he would not join the French proposed Union for the Mediterranean if Israel was a member in it. He said that the Algerian president’s position reflects a great sense of responsibility. Abu Marzouk also criticized the French stand towards the participation of Turkey in this Union and the EU at a time that Israel is accepted.

Jordanian authority bans solidarity rally with Palestinian people
Palestinian Information Center 7/5/2008
AMMAN, (PIC)-- The governor of the Jordanian capital has turned down a request by the Islamic Action Front to organize a solidarity rally with the Palestinian people next Friday. Hikmat Al-Rawashde, in charge of the Palestinian file in the party’s executive bureau, expressed utter dismay at the governor’s refusal of the party’s request. He said in a press statement published by the party’s website that the rally, which would have focused on the Palestinians refugees’ right of return on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (usurpation of Palestine), came at a time conspiracies were rising against that right. The rejection of such rallies only serves the "enemy" and the schemes aimed at resettling those refugees in other countries, Rawashde charged. The Islamic official lashed out at the Jordanian government, which he described as "unconstitutional", that allows the "Zionist embassy. . .

Barghouthi calls on PA to suspend negotiations until settlement construction stops
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Mustafa Barghouthi, the former Palestinian Minister of Information and the head of the Palestinian National Initiative, called on the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday to suspend negotiations with Israel in order to force a halt to the construction of illegal settlements. Barghouthi said that it is unanimously agreed, at both the Palestinian and international levels, that Israel’s ongoing construction of settlements on stolen Palestinian land make a peace agreement impossible. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas formally re-launched negotiations at a conference in the United States last November. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced a freeze on settlement construction at that time. By March of this year, the Israeli group Peace Now, which monitors settlements, said the freeze had collapsed, with hundreds of new housing units built in settlements.

Israeli settlement activities on Palestinian lands sabotage peace, PLO secretary says
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
Former Palestinian minister and secretary of the PLO’s executive committee believed on Wednesday that underway Israeli settlement activities sabotage the political process. In a phone interview with the German News Agency, Abed Rabo said that the current issue is that of lands not of the political process, saying that the fate of Palestinian lands determine the progress of negotiations with Israel. He blamed Israel for what he called ’ maneuver and procrastination’ when it comes to the fate of such lands, saying that Israel is trying to unilaterally determine the final status of the borders of the territories, involving the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem. He maintained that the Israeli government continues to tell the world that such settlement activities do not impact underway negotiations with the Palestinians, while in fact they do.

Palestinians inside Israeli boundaries are not partners in growth
Palestine News Network 5/7/2008
Adva Center - Since the second half of 2003 the Israeli economy has been growing continuously, but it seems that this growth has left out one of the population groups in Israel: Arab citizens. The Adva Center today published a document containing data on unemployment, wages, income levels and poverty. Data show that Arab citizens are not in the circle of beneficiaries of growth. Most data address the period between 2003-2006, some for the period between 2001-2006 and in some cases until 2007. Following are the latest figures:1. As the number of unemployed countrywide decreased, from 279,800 in 2003 to 211,800 in 2007, the number of unemployed Arabs increased from 34,100 in 2003 to 38,800 in 2006. 2. With the proportion of unemployed among the total population decreasing from 10. 7% in 2003 to 7.

Refugee stories - Missing my life in Nahr el-Bared
United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in, ReliefWeb 5/7/2008
Beddawi, Lebanon, May 2008 -"Our house in Nahr el-Bared had three bedrooms and all utilities. Despite the hardships, we had a pleasurable life. Living amongst our relatives, neighbours and loved ones helped us to forget life’s adversities and problems. I miss the life we had before, the calmness and the family gatherings." "Our house in Nahr el-Bared had three bedrooms and all utilities. My husband used to work selling potatoes and I would help him. It was difficult to make ends meet and we used to receive relief aid because we had quite a large family - six boys and two girls", forty four-year-old Samira Yousef Loubani explains. "Despite the hardships, we had a pleasurable life. Living amongst our relatives, neighbours and loved ones helped us to forget life’s adversities and problems. Although we are living in this spacious garage now, I miss the life we had before, the calmness and the family gatherings.

Security forces on alert for holiday
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Security has been stepped up in recent days following an increase in intelligence warnings of terrorist plans to carry out attacks during the Independence Day holiday. Security sources that in recent days the number of specific warnings has risen to 11, from seven two weeks ago. These warnings have led the Shin Bet security service and the Israel Defense Forces to raise their levels of preparedness. In parallel to the specific threats, there are till dozens of warnings that intelligence assessments term "general." A security source said yesterday that each year at this time the militant organizations are especially motivated to carry out an attack, but, as it does every year, the IDF imposed a full curfew on the territories, which began on Monday night. The curfew is expected to be lifted, depending on intelligence assessments, during the weekend.

Israeli holidays mean further movement restrictions for Palestinians
IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/7/2008
JERUSALEM, 7 May 2008 (IRIN) - Israelis commemorating national and Jewish religious days would like to do so in peace, without having to fear attacks by Palestinian militants. However, for Palestinians, the neighbours’ holidays mean ever stricter limitations on their movements. In the past few months, the holidays of Purim and Passover, as well as Holocaust Memorial Day, all translated into "general closures" on the occupied Palestinian territory." Every checkpoint is so slow today," remarked a taxi driver, inching his way through roadblocks on Holocaust Day. Checkpoints where spot-checks were the standard method of control, suddenly created long queues as each car, and in many cases each passenger, was checked. Places known as being tough junctions on a good day were turned into long serpentine queues, causing most people to simply give up. When there is a closure, and we know the delays will be for hours, we just stay at home or don’t leave the city, because we know it is not worth it," said a man from Nablus.

Nablus court sentences man to life in prison for collaborating with Israel
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Nablus – Ma an – A Palestinian court in the West Bank city of Nablus sentenced a Palestinian man to life in prison for collaborating with the Israeli occupation on Tuesday. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that a three-judge panel handed down the sentence to the 28-year-old defendant, who is from the West Bank town of Tulkarem. Another Palestinian man, from the city of Hebron, was sentenced to death by firing squad last week for giving information to the Israelis. [end]

PRC fighters confront Israeli forces in southern Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The An-Nasser Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), claimed responsibility for launching two mortar shells at a Israeli military vehicles east of the town of Abasan, in the southern Gaza Strip on Wednesday at noon. [end]

Clashes in West Bank, borders closed until Thursday
Missionary International Service News Agency - MISNA, ReliefWeb 5/6/2008
Clashes in the village of Qabatya, in the West Bank, left three wounded – one is in very critical condition, while ANP officers tried to impose order through road blocks. The rioting erupted after the arrival of about 100 Palestinian security officers arrived in Jenin and Qabatya as part of an ANP deployment in the West Bank in accordance with an agreement taken with Israeli authorities. Meanwhile, the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, announced a complete blockade of the West Bank this evening, as a precaution for the Israeli day of independence. The borders shall reopen on Thursday night; until such then Palestinians shall not be allowed to enter Israel, barring some serious humanitarian reasons. The celebrations for the 60th anniversary of the foundation of Israel, on May 14, shall begin this week. [AB]

One dead in new Israeli air strike in Gaza
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – One Palestinian was killed on Wednesday afternoon in an Israeli air strike on the town of Abasan, east of the city of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. Sources in Gaza said the victims of the strike were fighters affiliated to an armed group called the Abu Ar-Rish Brigades. Medical sources announced that fighter Mahmoud Abu Maslama was killed. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian Health Ministry affirmed that six injured people were hospitalized in Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. One of the men was critically injured. Medical sources later said that 18 people had been injured in the fighting. Hassanain identified five of the victims as Salim Arafat, Fatima Shahin, Muntasir Abu ’Anza, Walid Abu Duqqa, and Hamada Abu Duqqa. The Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed their. . .

An Israeli army attack on southern Gaza leaves five residents wounded
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
Five Palestinians have been reportedly wounded on Wednesday morning after the Israeli army shelled a house to the east of Khan Younis city in southern Gaza Strip. Medics confirmed that five residents were admitted to the Nasser hospital in Khan Younis and that one of them was critically wounded. Witnesses said that three of those wounded were Hamas fighters, as the Israeli army shelled the abandoned house of Jamil Abu Anza, who is based in the Abbassan Assaghiera village in the eastern parts of Khan Younis city. Witnesses added that an Israeli army contingent, made up of tanks, incurred earlier on Wednesday into Khan Younis. Israeli army bulldozers began razing vast areas of Palestinian-owned farm lands in the area, as the Israeli tanks were firing heavily, apparently as a cover for the bullzoers. The eastern parts of Khan Younis, which are located at the Gaza-Israel. . .

Israeli forces injure 4 armed resistance members in S Gaza Strip, overtake homes, bulldoze land
Palestine News Network 5/7/2008
Gaza / PNN - Three Palestinian armed resistance members from the Al Aqsa were injured along with another from the Al Qassam Brigades on Wednesday morning after killing one citizen in the north and injuring another. Israeli forces launched bombs in the southern Gaza Strip’s Khan Younis at homes in its eastern town of Absan. The resistance had been fighting Israeli forces since early in the morning. Israeli soldiers overtook dozens of homes, imposing ’sniper towers’ atop roofs. A medical source at Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis reported that an Israeli reconnaissance aircraft bombed a group Al Qassam, striking them. Three are critically injured. Local sources indicate that the Al Qassam Brigades were engaged in fighting off the Israeli forces in the small town where Israeli tanks were shelling. They fired five mortar shells at homes and people.

Palestinians: IAF strikes in Gaza kill 1 militant, wound 13 others
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Israel Defense Forces tanks and bulldozers rumbled into the southern Gaza Strip early Wednesday, and Israeli aircraft struck a series of targets. One militant was killed and at least 14 Palestinians, including one civilian, were wounded in the fighting, according to witnesses and medical officials. Palestinian witnesses said a total of 25 tanks and armored bulldozers entered Abassan, an area east of Khan Yunis, setting off battles with local militants. Israel Air Force aircraft carried out at least four airstrikes, including one that struck a group of Palestinians who were using abandoned houses as cover, witnesses said. A gunman of the Islamic Jihad group was killed and another group member was wounded, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain of the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Al-Aqsa Brigades ’ambush Israeli forces’
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The Al-Aqsa Brigades, the military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for ambushing Israeli forces that had attempted to invade the Gaza Strip City of Khan Younis on Wednesday. The group said they attacked the invading forces at 7:25am on Wednesday, provoking a skirmish. The Al-Aqsa Brigades also claimed responsibility for launching three homemade projectiles at Israeli military vehicles, as an act of retaliation for the Israeli attack on the town of Abasan this morning. [end]

Fatah, DFLP fighters shell Sufa crossing
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Al-Aqsa brigades, the military wing of Fatah, and the National Resistance Brigades, the military wing of the left-wing Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at Gaza’s Sufa crossing point on Tuesday evening. A statement added that this attack came in the retaliation for the ongoing ’Israeli aggression’ in the Gaza strip and in the West Bank. [end]

Israeli settlers attack Palestinians in Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Israeli settlers attacked Palestinian houses in the West Bank city of Hebron on Wednesday morning, witnesses said. Israelis from the illegal settlement of Kiryat Arba threw stones and other objects at Palestinians near the settlement. Israeli soldiers also severely beat 18-year-old Mahdi Maher Abu Hetta before arresting him. [end]

Hamas calls on resistance factions to retaliate to Israeli aggression on Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/5/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement called on all Palestinian resistance factions spearheaded by the Qassam Brigades to defend the Palestinian people by all possible means and wage painful counterattacks against the IOF troops in retaliation to their incursions and crimes. Hammad Al-Raqub, a Hamas spokesman, stated that Israel escalated its assaults recently especially in the eastern areas adjacent to the Gaza borderline during which its troops bulldozed agricultural lands and property and targeted citizens with aerial and artillery attacks which resulted in high number of casualties. Raqub added that the latest Israeli assaults which had been committed on the Abasan town since the early morning hours on Wednesday resulted in dozens of casualties among citizens and the destruction of property. The spokesman underlined that one of the objectives of that Israeli military operation. . .

High tension in Qabatiya after PA security kills child, wounds others
Palestinian Information Center 7/5/2008
JENIN, (PIC)-- High tension still prevails throughout the Qabatiya town in Jenin district after PA security elements under the command of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas killed Tuesday a Palestinian child and seriously wounded a young man who is now in a state of clinical death. Qabatiya citizens reported that the PA security campaign started in the morning with deliberate provocations against citizens at the entrances and alleys of the town. According to the citizens, it seemed obvious that the PA security elements, through their arbitrary acts, wanted to humiliate and suppress the people of this town at any price.   The citizens elaborated that the PA security dealt brutally with Palestinian workers as they were going to their jobs and prevented students from going to their schools, which created friction and clashes between students and security elements that continued during daylight. . .

Undercover Israeli forces seize Palestinian fighter near Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli special forces disguised as civilians seized a Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighter near the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday night. Eyewitnesses and Palestinian security sources said that that the Israeli operatives commandeered a Palestinian car, belonging to Nablus resident Usama Sanakra, who is from Balata refugee camp. Witnesses said the soldiers stopped the car on Al-Quds street in southern Nablus, pulled Sanakra from the vehicle, and drove away. The soldiers, traveling in the Palestinian-plated car, headed to the village of Kafr Qallil, south of Nablus. The Israeli forces approached 27-year-old Younis Al-Qinni in the street and seized him. Israeli military forces then invaded the village to ferry Al-Qinni and his captors to the nearby Huwwara military base. Israeli sources said Al-Qinni has been pursued by the military for several months,. . .

The Israeli army kidnaps three civilians from Hebron and nearby Sourif village
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
The Israeli army kidnapped on Wednesday three Palestinian civilians from the northern West Bank city of Hebron and the nearby Sourif village. In Hebron troops searched and ransacked homes in the old part of Hebron city, during the search troops kidnapped Bassam Al Tamimi, 16, local sources reported. Meanwhile another force attacked and searched homes in the nearby Sourif village and kidnapped Mohamed Al Huwr, 34, and Mahmoud Al Huor, 26. The Palestinian Soucity for Prisoners Affiers in Hebron reported on Wednesday that since he beginning of may the number of Palestinian kidnapped by the Israeli army from the city of Hebron and nearby villages have now reached 23. [end]

PFLP fighters shell Sufa crossing in two separate attacks
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles on Wednesday at Gaza’s Sufa crossing point. The group had claimed responsibility for firing a projectile at the same crossing on Tuesday night. The group said the attack was an act of retaliation for Israel’s incursions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Palestinian security forces arrest 19 in Azzun
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Qalqilia – Ma’an – Palestinian security forces in the Qalqilia area of the West Bank arrested 19 people who security sources say are "fugitives" on Tuesday. Palestinian forces under the command of police chief police Ra’id Al-Bzur entered the village of Azzun, east of Qalqilia, and made the arrests, security sources said. [end]

Two Hamas members ’arrested’ in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Hebron – Ma’an – Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces arrested two members of Hamas in the West Bank on Tuesday night, the movement claimed on Wednesday. Hamas said Hussam Al Ja’bari, from the city of Hebron, and Yasser Sadeq Assi, from the town of Salfit, were both arrested. [end]

7 Palestinians kidnapped in the West Bank
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
Israeli soldiers attacked several civilian’s homes in the southern and northern parts of West Bank and kidnapped seven Palestinians, including a father and his four sons, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. In the southern part of the West Bank, troops attacked several areas in Hebron, named as Yatta and Dora and kidnapped five Palestinians. Those Palestinians, a father and his four sons, have been kidnapped from Yatta town after army attacked their home in the area. All have been moved to an undisclosed detention center. Elsewhere, local sources reported two Palestinians were kidnapped from the northern West Bank city of Nablus, particularly in the Balata refugee camp and Kufe Qaleel village, south of Nablus city. The sources identified the men as Hammouda Hashash,20 and Younis al-Qany, 27. Translated by Nisreen Qumsieh - IMEMC News.

60 Years of Nakba: 21,915 Black Balloons Over Jerusalem
International Solidarity Movement 5/7/2008
Photos - To celebrate 60 years of independence, Israel is planning a large-scale birthday bash with events taking place in many different countries around the world. In Jerusalem, a 3-day conference, under the title "Facing Tomorrow" is planned from May 13 - 15, to which many world leaders, such as U. S. President Bush, and French President Sarkozy, and celebrities such Steven Spielberg have been invited and plan to attend. It is wrong to celebrate and we need to do something BIG to make the world, and those gathered to celebrate Israel, see and hear us. We* have this idea and we need your help to make it happen! On May 15, we will launch 21,915 (365 days x 60 years) black balloons over the skies of Jerusalem. We aim to turn the skies over Israel’s celebrations black to let people know that there is. . . -- See also: Website of ‘60 Years of Nakba’

Supreme Court Recognizes Petition Challenging Discriminatory Citizenship Law Barring Family Unification
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/7/2008
Israeli civil rights group Adalah submitted Monday 5 May a petition to the Supreme Court challenging the legality of the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law, also known as the Citizenship Law, which bans the families of Israeli citizens in the OPT from acquiring Israeli citizenship. On May 6, the Supreme Court issued an order nici, effectively recognizing the legitimacy of the petition and Adalah’s claim that the order violates the basic rights of Israelis as well as numerous anti-discriminatory international human rights laws. The court has given the state 60 days to justify the policy before it repeals the order, which has kept thousands of families separated since its introduction. Married couples of Palestinian and Israeli citizenship can neither live together in the oPt nor inside Israel. The law was initially passed in the Knesset as a temporary order in July 2003.

Feature - Sixty years on, Palestinians mourn loss of homeland
Alistair Lyon, ReliefWeb 5/7/2008
BURJ AL-BARAJNEH, Lebanon, May 7 (Reuters) - While Israel celebrates its 60th birthday, Palestinian refugees mourn the 1948 Nakba (catastrophe) when they lost their homeland. Often ignored in Middle East peace talks, they cling to a "right of return". Alia Shabati was 12 when she fled Jewish attacks on her village of Kabri, captured a few days after Israel’s creation. Now a matron of 72, wearing a flowery blue dress and white headscarf, her memories of Kabri in today’s northern Israel are vividly intact, unlike the village, which was wiped off the map. "We had houses and land," Shabati said in the living room of her modest dwelling in the alleys of Beirut’s Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp." We had olives, grapes, prickly pears and dates. We had orchards and fields. Now what do we have? Nothing."

One woman lightly injured after car struck by stone near Jaljulya
Jerusalem Post 5/8/2008
A woman was lightly injured Wednesday night after a stone was hurled at her car near Jaljulya. She was taken to Sharon Hospital in Petah Tikva for treatment. Four Palestinian youths aged 15 and 16 were arrested on suspicion of throwing the rocks. Police are investigating the incident. [end]

Astal: Israel tends to escalate its aggression against Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 7/5/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Younis Al-Astal, a prominent Hamas leader, stated that the Israeli occupation tends to escalate its military operations against the Gaza Strip and has no intention to accept the truce unless it was according to its own conditions, highlighting that the strongest option is the resistance by all possible means against the occupation. Dr. Astal added that Israel’s confidence that its troops would definitely sustain great losses made it decline to carry out its plan to embark on a large-scale incursion into Gaza to eliminate the resistance and release its soldier Gilad Shalit. In another context, the agriculture ministry reported in a press statement received by the PIC that an Israeli special force kidnapped Tuesday a Palestinian civil servant called Nidal Al-Dahnoun, 32, from his work place in Beit Lahia, northern Gaza Strip, and took him to an unknown destination.

Sderot will celebrate, in spite of everything
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The Independence Day celebrations in Sderot will be carried out in spite of the security threats. A stage will be set up for performances, and the celebrations will also include a fireworks display. " Sderot needs to celebrate," said Mayor Eli Moyal last night. " This is our answer to terrorism. We will not hold back the celebrations in the city; it is important that they be held. " However, Moyal said, "In case there are rockets, we will make our decisions with the IDF. For now I hope that it will be quiet. " Last week, Batya Keter, a resident of Sderot, called on Israelis not to celebrate Independence Day because rockets from the Gaza Strip continued to strike Sderot and the surrounding areas. " It is hard to live in Sderot, but when I look at the overall picture, we deserve to celebrate 60 years of independence," Moyal said.

Palestine Today 050708
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
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 Wednesday May 7th 2008. Two Palestinians die in Gaza due to Israeli army fire while in the West Bank and Israeli troops kidnap 7 Palestinian civilians, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast Palestinian sources reported that one Palestinian was killed and seven injured as the Israeli army attacked a group of residents in Khan Younis in the southern part of the Gaza Strip on Wednesday afternoon. Witnesses said that an Israeli unmanned airplane fired a missile at a group of residents killing Mohamed Abu Musalam, 22, and injuring seven others, three critically. Five Palestinians were reportedly wounded on Wednesday morning after the Israeli army shelled a house to the east of Khan Younis city.

Interview with the detained head of the Legislative Council Dr. Aziz Dweik
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
This is an interview with Dr. Aziz Dweik, head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, imprisoned by Israel along with dozens of legislators and officials. This interview was published in Arabic by the office of Legislator Sameer Halaiqa on May 7, 2008, and was translated by Saed Bannoura of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org. Highlights of the interview: -The detainees are still conducting efforts and talks to restore unity among all factions. -If Israel foils the truce efforts, Egypt must open Rafah terminal. -On the Nakba commemoration; the Right of Return is the solid rock where the dreams of the occupation break. It is the day of our unity. The Interview: Hebron -- the office of legislator Sameer Halaiqa through the lawyer of Dr. Dweik. Dr. Aziz Dweik, head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, confirmed that there is a new initiative. . .

Peres: I didn’t imagine Qassams would be fired from Gaza after pullout
Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
On the eve of Israel’s 60th Independence Day, President Shimon Peres cites the country’s achievements but he is also aware of the public’s sense of cautious joy, and how that feeling exists despite the government, not because of it." So what? " he says in an interview this week at the President’s Residence." It’s not terrible that there is no rejoicing at the government. Governments all over the world are losing their strength. Besides, the Jews gave the world dissatisfaction. Celebration is not a Jewish thing. Still, I’m optimistic, though I’m not satisfied." Such an expression uses the plays on words Peres enjoys so much, but it does not mask the deep change in his rhetoric and of his world view. The past decade has handed him some disappointments." Although in ’98 everything seemed dark because of Rabin’s murder, I believed we could still move the peace process ahead more quickly.

EU donates 35.5 million Euros to the PA
Ma’an News Agency 5/7/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The European Union announced on Wednesday a donation of 35. 5 million Euros to the Palestinian Authority to pay the salaries and pensions of 74,000 civil servants and pensioners in the Occupied Territories. The contribution will be distributed through a relatively new European aid mechanism known by the acronym PEGASE, which in February replaced the obsolete Temporary International Mechanism (TIM) set up during the rule of the elected Hamas government in 2006. This month’s European contribution responded to a specific request for increased support from the Palestinian Authority, the European Commission Technical Assistance Office said. The higher amount is made possible thanks to additional contributions from Spain and Slovenia, as well as funds from the European Commission. The EU is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority.

IAEA chief hopes to shed light on alleged Syrian reactor soon
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
BRUSSELS - The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday he hoped his agency would be able to shed light in the next few weeks on whether a Syrian facility bombed by Israel last September was an undeclared atomic reactor. The United States released intelligence last month that it said showed Syria built a reactor with North Korean help before Israeli warplanes destroyed it. Damascus has denied the accusations. Mohammed ElBaradei, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said his agency was in contact with Syria to verify the U. S. intelligence and recalled Damascus’s obligation to report any nuclear activities to the agency." I hope that in the next few weeks we will be able to shed some light on the nature of the facility that was destroyed," he told reporters after talks with EU officials in Brussels.

Turin book fair faces protests for honouring Israel
Middle East Online 5/7/2008
ROME - The Turin book fair opening on Thursday, like its Parisian counterpart in March, honours Israel on the 60th anniversary of its creation, sparking Muslim criticism and boycott calls. Writer and professor Tariq Ramadan on Monday criticised the planned presence of Italian President Giorgio Napolitano at the fair, saying his attendance would make it "a political and not a cultural event." Ahead of the five-day expo, several Muslim writers, intellectuals and artists as well as the Free Palestine association staged a two-day protest seminar at the University of Turin titled "Western Democracies and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine." Free Palestine is also planning a protest on Saturday. Security has been tightened for this year’s event in Turin, coming two months after the Paris book fair which was inaugurated by Israeli President Shimon Peres.

Jewish-Iranian lawmaker: Israel’s behavior is ’anti-human’
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
An Iranian Jewish leader on Wednesday said his community would not mark this week’s 60th anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel, which he accused of "killing innocent" Palestinians." We are in complete disagreement with the behavior of Israel," Siamak Morsadegh, the incoming Jewish member of the Iranian parliament following a March election, told. It is not related to us," he said about Thursday’s celebrations in Israel to commemorate six decades of statehood." We are Iranians. We have no relations with Israel." Iran’s ancient Jewish community has dwindled by roughly 75 percent since the 1979 Islamic revolution but is still believed to be the biggest in the Middle East outside Israel, which the Islamic Republic does not recognize. Like many people in Iran, members of minorities which also include Christians and. . .

Olmert: Solution to Mideast conflict is not far out of reach
Yuval Azoulay and Barak Ravid and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Wednesday voiced hope that the solution for the Middle East conflict was within reach, speaking at an official memorial ceremony for Israel’s victims of terror at the national military cemetery on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem." There is nothing we desire more than to end the conflict with our neighbors, and there is nothing that would benefit both sides more than the end of the conflict," Olmert said." This is in no way a conflict without a solution, despite the difficulties and pitfalls. The principles to resolving it, I can say with authority, are not so far out of reach," he continued." Among our neighbors there are leaders who understand this, and we are conducting serious negotiations with them. However, the axis of hate, terror and provocation which is warring in our region, the head of which. . .

Hamas: We told Egypt Rafah crossing must be opened if Israel refused calm
Palestinian Information Center 7/5/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Hamas affirmed in talks with Egypt that the Rafah border crossing must be opened in the event Israel refused the calm offer, Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said on Wednesday. He said in a press release that the calm offer was an Egyptian initiative that was drafted following intensive consultations between Egypt and each of the Palestinian factions, the PA and Israel. Barhoum underlined that the ball was now in the Israeli court and Egypt should maintain contacts with Israel to prepare the final measures to end the siege and the aggression. The spokesman stressed that the situation in Gaza was tragic and never was witnessed since 1967, when Gaza was occupied by Israel. He said, "We believe that Egypt is serious in standing alongside our people and the Israeli occupation has to adopt practical steps to open the crossings and end the aggression".

Peres: ’We are ready to pay a price for the day of peace’
Yuval Azoulay and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Memorial Day events began last night with the wail of a siren at 8 PM. An official ceremony was held near the Western Wall in Jerusalem last night. Speaking there, President Shimon Peres said, "We are ready to pay a price for the day of peace." The president struck a tone that was at once placating and defiant: "We are ready to pay in exchange for the day of peace, in exchange for a smile of children, Palestinian children, Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian, too. We want to shake hands, but our enemies know that we are capable of pressing the trigger." Referring to the site where the ceremony was held, Peres said: "Thousands of years of history look out at you from this place. This hallowed place, which knew the disheartened feeling of the vanquished and the pride of victors. It saw the arrogant conquerors coming in, it saw the legions marching off to slavery, nations disintegrating. . .

Italian president defends decision to open book fair for Israeli writers
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
ROME - Italy’s president on Monday defended his decision to open a book fair in Turin honoring Israeli writers, despite calls for a boycott by some Arab and Italian intellectuals angered by the event. President Giorgio Napolitano’s planned appearance at Thursday’s inauguration of the fair is in line with his participation in many cultural events, his office said in a statement. Controversy has been brewing for months over the event, mirroring similar protests against the Paris Book Fair in March, which also showcased works by Israelis. Italy’s presidency was reacting mainly to the Italian media quoting Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan as saying Monday that Napolitano’s plan to open the Turin fair is a mistake." His presence shows that this is a political event, and not only a cultural event," the ANSA news agency quoted Ramadan as saying at a news conference in Turin.

Gaza residents now live in cantons, a PFLP statement reads
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/7/2008
The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation (PFLP), warned on Wednesday of what it termed ’ Gaza’s cantons’, a reminder of the Nazi regime in mid 20th centaury. In a statement, faxed to press, member of the PFLP’s central committee, Hussein Aljamal, warned of the rise of commodities monopoly by some Gaza merchants in a time the Strip lives a strangulating siege, Israel has imposed almost one year ago. " hunting down on such merchants is not less important than fighting the Israeli occupation army in Gaza. The Hamas-dominated regime in Gaza is demanded to uncover those involved and bring them to justice as soon as possible", the statement read. Aljamal also called on the ruling Hamas government to undertake its responsibilities towards the phenomenon of goods monopoly, urging more social integrity and solidarity among the Palestinian people over there.

World leaders congratulate Peres for Israel’s 60th year
Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Numerous world leaders have recently sent congratulatory messages to the office of President Shimon Peres to mark Israel’s 60th anniversary. French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote "as you know, France has always been committed to Israel’s security and to the quest for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, to which the peoples of the region aspire. As in the past, France will continue to stand by you and to work together with you toward this goal, in order to end the suffering of the Israelis and the Palestinians, which has been going on far too long." Sarkozy explained that Peres’ last visit to Paris was an important even in the development of the relations between the two states, and voiced hope that this close relationship will deepen when he comes to visit Israel in June.

British writer: just because we have a Palestinian event does not mean we must invite Israelis
Palestine News Network 5/7/2008
London / PNN -- British universities are announcing in London this week the first international literary festival in Palestine. Under the title, "The Strength of Culture and the Culture of Force" 17 groups of British and American, Indian and Arab, will make book tours in the cities of the occupied West Bank. An Egyptian novelist who is a British citizen, Suef, is one of the organizers of assembly." We have invited writers who appreciate those who have expressed their concerns regarding the personal affairs of the world." Scottish writer, Andrew Hogan, and Indian writer Pankaj Mishra, a Sudanese British writer, Jamal Mahjoub, and a Palestinian American poet who has been continuously monitoring the situation, Hammad, in addition to colleagues novelist Roddy Doyle, Esther Freud and writer, playwright and film director David Hare, with their Palestinian counterparts are undertaking the event.

Houston Palestine Film Festival opens 9 May
Announcement, Houston Palestine Film Festival, Electronic Intifada 5/7/2008
We are pleased to present the second annual Houston Palestine Film Festival. This exciting festival, cosponsored by The Station Museum, Rice Cinema, Museum of Fine Arts - Houston, KPFT Houston and many others, will bring cutting edge new cinema from Palestine and about Palestine. The second annual Houston Palestine Film Festival brings an honest and independent view of Palestine, its diaspora, culture and political travails through the art of film. This group of groundbreaking cinematic texts rises above the degrading stereotypes or reductively politicized depictions that are so familiar to Houstonians. The festival aims to directly expose our local community to the perspective of artists as a first step toward circumventing the many government and media filters that pollute our understanding of Palestine and the wider region.

Foreign national is key witness in new probe of Olmert
Jonathan Lis Ofra Edelman and Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The Jerusalem District Court yesterday allowed publication of the fact that the State Prosecutor’s Office has asked it to hear preliminary testimony from a foreign national who is the central witness in the suspicions against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert." This does not indicate that an indictment will be issued against the respondents, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Shula Zaken," Judges Moussia Arad, Zvi Zylbertal and Moshe Sobol wrote. The request was apparently made so that the individual would not have to come back to Israel to testify at a possible trial. Law enforcement officials said yesterday the court’s ruling indicated the seriousness of the suspicions and the information collected so far, and that the chances of an indictment were high. The law allows testimony to be taken before an indictment is issued in cases where testimony is central to the case and might not. . .

Friedmann: Keep Supreme Court out of immigration, citizenship laws
Tomer Zarchin, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann has proposed an amendment to the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom that would exempt laws relating to immigration and citizenship from judicial review. The amendment would presumably make it even harder for Palestinians married to Israelis to obtain citizenship. Currently, the Supreme Court can declare any ordinary law unconstitutional if, in the court’s view, the law violates rights enshrined in the Basic Laws. Under Friedmann’s proposal, however, it would not be able to declare laws relating to citizenship unconstitutional. The proposal would cover laws such as the Law of Return, the Citizenship Law and the Law of Entry, as well as any other law the Knesset might enact on this subject in the future. However, the amendment seems unlikely to pass: After receiving a draft of the proposal a few days ago, Labor Party Chairman Ehud Barak. . .

Professor who headed conversion probe: Check rabbinic court for criminal actions
Yair Ettinger, Ha’aretz 5/7/2008
The decision by the Supreme Rabbinic Court to nullify thousands of conversions should be checked for criminal actions, Professor Ya’akov Ne’eman told a stormy session of the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee yesterday. Ne’eman, appointed by the Netanyahu government to determine conversion policy, called on the judicial ombudwoman, Judge Tova Strasberg-Cohen, to investigate a number of "defects" - including the fact that they issued their verdict overturning the conversions of the special rabbinic conversion court - in opposition to the direct instruction of the Supreme Rabbinic Court president, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Ne’eman said the conduct of the three rabbinic court judges, headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman, was "a political decision by three rabbinic court judges, based on their personal viewpoint, obviously invalid.

Protesters block roads in Lebanon amid labour strike
Middle East Online 5/7/2008
BEIRUT - Protesters on Wednesday blocked roads in Lebanon, including the one leading to Beirut airport, and burned tyres to press their demands for wage increases amid a tense political situation. Anti-riot police and the army were out in full force throughout the capital, cutting off access to some areas to prevent street clashes between supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition and the government. It is widely feared that the protest over an increase to the minimum salary will escalate into a settling of accounts between the anti- and pro-Syrian camps which have been locked in a power struggle for 16 months. Youths could be seen setting tyres on fire and overturning rubbish bins near the airport. The army brought in trucks loaded with dirt that was dumped along the airport road located in the southern suburbs of Beirut which are largely controlled by Hezbollah.

Widows and orphans face daunting challenges in Iraq
Marwa Sabah, Daily Star 5/8/2008
Agence France Presse - BAGHDAD: Ducking bullets and dodging car bombs may be part of daily life for millions of Baghdadis but behind black veils yet another struggle is being waged - the battle of war widows - to keep young families alive. Iraqi housemaid Umm Haidar wears a black scarf as a sign of mourning since her shop-assistant husband was gunned down two years ago. Their 10-year-old son is now working and out of school. Umm Haidar, 35, is among an estimated 1 million Iraqi war widows trying to eke out a living. Official figures estimate that one in six women in the age group of 15 to 49 is widowed. Umm Haidar’s son left school after his father’s death and works at a Baghdad barber’s saloon. He brings in much needed dinars to support his four-year-old sister." I wear black, not only because I’m sad and grieving but also because of the bad security in Iraq.

German help for Iraq invasion ruled illegal
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/8/2008
KARLSRUHE, Germany: Germany’s highest court ruled Wednesday that the decision to deploy German crews on NATO surveillance flights over Turkey during the Iraq war was illegal. The Federal Constitutional Court based in this southwestern city said the center-left government of then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had violated the country’s Basic Law by supplying pilots without consulting Parliament. The ruling upheld a five-year-old complaint by the liberal opposition Free Democrats, who had tried and failed to stop the deployment in March 2003. NATO dispatched AWACS surveillance aircraft to Turkey as part of an agreement to protect the country, a member of the alliance, against any attack by Iraq during the US-led invasion. Berlin allowed German pilots to man some of the aircraft without putting the issue to a vote in the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament.

Iran rips Iraqi support for UAE claim to islands
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/8/2008
TEHRAN: Iran has protested to Iraq over reports that Baghdad had backed the United Arab Emirates’ claim to three islands in the Gulf, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday." The Iraqi ambassador was summoned and was notified of Iran’s protest," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told the state broadcaster." The Iraqi government was also asked to correct its position." The UAE’s official WAM news agency reported on April 28 that in a memorandum sent to UAE Foreign Ministry, the Iraqi government asserted "its unconditional support to the sovereignty of UAE" over the three islands. Iran gained control of Abu Musa and the Greater and lesser Tunbs after British forces left the Gulf in 1971. Despite their differences over the islands, the two states have close ties, with Iran being the UAE’s top trading partner.

Congress sees US soldier suicides cover up
Middle East Online 5/7/2008
WASHINGTON - US lawmakers accused the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on Tuesday of being out of control and of covering up the high suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans." The VA healthcare system has been pushed to the edge in dealing with the mental health care needs of our veterans," Bob Filner, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee of Veterans’ Affairs, told a packed congressional hearing about the issue of suicides among veterans. The hearing came five months after a first round of testimonials on the same topic, and weeks after a series of internal VA emails about suicides among veterans were brought to light by a documentary on US network television. In one of the emails, sent in February, Dr Ira Katz, deputy chief patient care services officer for mental health at the VA, wrote: "Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see.


Orwell prize goes to lament for Palestinian landscape
Lindesay Irvine, The Guardian, Palestine Monitor 5/6/2008
      Britain’s most prestigious award for political writing, the Orwell book prize, has been won by Raja Shehadeh’s Palestinian Walks, a victory further distinguished by such strong competition that the judges felt the need to extend this year’s shortlist.
     The subtitle of Shehadeh’s book is Notes on a Vanishing Landscape, and it describes how over 40 years the West Bank he loves has been steadily taken over by Israeli settlements, and how the destruction of a beloved landscape mirrors the damage to Palestinian identity. Judges praised its combination of lyrical nature writing with understated political passion.
     The chair of the prize, Professor Jean Seaton, saluted Shehadeh’s command of detail.
     "One way of measuring the quality of your freedom is just to take a walk," she said. "Raja Shehadeh’s book records how brutalising the loss of a landscape is, both to the losers, and to the takers: there are no winners..."

Arab-Israeli recalls ethnic cleansing in 1948

Mehdi Lebouachera, Daily Star 5/8/2008
      Agence France Presse - BIRAM, Israel: Standing on the roof of the old schoolhouse, Toomeh Maghzal looks over the green valley below at the ruins of the village of Biram, which Arabs were forced by the Israeli Army to abandon 60 years ago. "There used to be houses everywhere. We had orchards of olive trees, apple trees, vineyards," says Maghzal, an 81-year-old Maronite Christian from the village. "Today, it is all in ruins."
     Back on October 29, 1948, during the war that followed the creation of Israel, which marks its 60th anniversary on Thursday, the Israeli Army entered the village of Biram, which lies near the border with Lebanon.
     The 1,050 people residents, mostly Maronite farmers, were forced to flee to the neighboring village of Jish, but with the promise, never fulfilled, that they could eventually return to their homes.
     "They destroyed everything to wipe out our hopes of returning," says Maghzal, still spry and with vivid memories of the village and its Christian Arab population.

Memories of a refugee

Khalid Mansour - Translated by Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/8/2008
      I searched for him at his home but could not find him, his wife told me "you can find him west of the refugee camp, you will definitely find him sitting under an olive tree".
     It was sunset, I rushed there to find him before he returns to the refugee camp to conduct evening prayers at the local mosque. Indeed I found him there under an olive tree in an orchard not far away from the houses of the camp.
     There, I saw a man who is over eighty years old, the wrinkles of his face tell lots of suffering he encountered in his life, he was sitting there wearing his white Palestinian kofiyya on his head, and wearing his special traditional gown with a belt wrapped on his waist,
     He was sitting on the ground, busy ’rolling his own cigarette with local tobacco placed in a rusty from outside, old tobacco holder.
     You could clearly see his shaky hands but you could also see his determination to perfectly roll his tobacco.

Sixty years ago in Battir (Part 2)

Hasan Abu Nimah writing from Amman, Jordan, Live from Palestine, Electronic Intifada 5/7/2008
      For a long time any discussion of the "Arab-Israeli conflict" has skipped one basic fact: Israel, whether one loves or hates it, was created at the expense of the Palestinians. An entire people and hundreds of communities that had lived for centuries in tranquility had to be ruthlessly and unjustly shattered to make room for the Zionist state. The story of my village, Battir, southwest of Jerusalem, is only one of hundreds.
     When I was growing up, hardly anyone in the village was aware, or needed to be aware, that our village traced its roots back to the second century. Generation after generation tilled the land, lived off its gifts and engaged in small trade. They adapted to the often harsh environment, brought up their children, interacted with their neighbors from villages near and far and lived their lives relatively happily and peacefully.
     Although Palestine had a large Christian population, the 1,200 people in our village were all Muslim -- though there was one German wife who was very popular and known for her kindness, and I believe she was Jewish, by the name of Lina Shaffer -- and lived in effect like a large extended family. Everyone in the village knew everyone else, and everyone shared happy and sad moments. The whole village knew if someone was getting married, got a job in the city, was caught up in a problem, was expecting guests, or even bought a new garment. -- See also: Part 1

Mental Barriers in Palestine

Mats Svensson, MIFTAH 5/5/2008
      It is dry, it is hot. Black string bikinis descend the small steps meeting black flapping swimming trunks. They look naked thanks to the black mud. Both bodies entirely black, only the feet remain white. Salt easily penetrates the skin, making it soft and filled with wellbeing.
     The water is salty. I protect my eyes, protect myself. I feel that I am constantly protecting myself. Protecting myself from inner conflicts. Protecting myself from myself, from my own anxiety, my prejudices, stories, childhood, education, manipulation, songs, sermons… I’m filled with strong emotions when I look towards that powerful mountain, the mountain near the Holy City. Protecting myself from what I see, from what I feel, from what I hear.
     Eat a salad by the Dead Sea. I’m near, but far from, the conflict, the war. Carry a barrier, a mental barrier. Over there, there is war; here, there is peace. Peace behind a mud mask.
     We float around like corks in this Shangri-la on the shores of the Dead Sea. A sea that is disappearing and which will soon really be a dead sea, a sea without water, only salt.

Gaza improvises under siege

IRIN, Electronic Intifada 5/7/2008
      JERUSALEM/GAZA, 6 Ma) - 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 organization 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.
     To add to the woes of the needy, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, has said it has been forced to stop food distribution today and is cutting back on other services it normally supplies, owing to the lack of fuel supplies. This is the second time in two weeks it has done this.

Talking to ’Terrorists’

Jimmy Carter, MIFTAH 5/5/2008
      A counterproductive Washington policy in recent years has been to boycott and punish political factions or governments that refuse to accept U.S. domination. This policy deters the ability of revolutionary or uncooperative leaders to moderate their attitude and demands.
     A notable example is Nepal. About twelve years ago, Maoist guerillas launched an effort to modify or overthrow the monarchy and force changes in the nation’s political and social life. Although the United States declared the revolutionaries to be terrorists, The Carter Center agreed to help mediate the dispute among the three major factions: royal family, old-line political parties and Maoists.
     Six months after the oppressive monarch was removed from power, a cease-fire agreement was consummated. Maoist combatants lay down their arms and the Nepalese Army agreed to remain in barracks.
     Our Center continued its involvement and — except for the United States — other nations and international organizations began working with all parties to reconcile the dispute. Ultimately, the Maoists succeeded in achieving their major goals: abolishing the monarchy, establishing a democratic republic, and ending discrimination against untouchables and other groups whose citizenship rights were historically abridged.

Linus Pauling Still Teaches Courage

Rami G. Khouri, Middle East Online 5/5/2008
      CORVALLIS, Oregon - Linus Pauling was one of the greatest scientists and most renowned peace activists of the 20th century: the only person ever to win two unshared Nobel Prizes (for chemistry in 1954, and peace in 1963).
     Normally his life and mine would not cross paths, especially because I still have not overcome the deep emotional trauma and psychological self-esteem scars I suffered in high school due to my total inability to comprehend anything that happened in classes of chemistry or physics, his fields of renown. But a few months ago, I was honored with an invitation to deliver the 25th annual “Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Memorial Lecture on World Peace,” at Oregon State University.
     This gave me the opportunity to learn more about his extraordinary life, which I write about today because it remains relevant for two reasons: first, that men and women of letters, science, business and the arts should courageously enter the world of politics and bring their knowledge and influence to bear on the policies of their governments; and, second, for pointing out the several ways in which the policies of global powers intersect with the affairs of smaller countries around the world.

The ANZAC-Palestine connection

Sonja Karkar, Electronic Intifada 5/7/2008
      "ANZACS BACK AGAIN" was the front-page headline of Jerusalem’s Palestine Post on 13 February 1940. The ANZAC reputation for courage and daring was legendary after their victory at Beersheba in 1917. That was the Palestine Campaign that saw the celebrated charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade on the unsuspecting Turks. It was a battle that turned the tide of that campaign and led to the subsequent end of Ottoman rule in Palestine.
     During World War II, Palestine was under a British Mandate and Australian and New Zealand soldiers were back helping the British army to stop the Germans from capturing Egypt and the Suez Canal. They fought alongside several Palestinian brigades enlisted into the British Army under The Palestine Regiment. That decisive offensive took place in 1942 at al-Alamein, Egypt, the first allied land victory of the war.
     Tragically, more than 2,000 ANZACS from both campaigns would never see Australia or New Zealand again. Over 600 lie in unknown graves with Muslim and Christian Arabs and Jews who also died trying to defeat the German army. Other ANZACS are buried in war cemeteries throughout Palestine, two of which can be found in Gaza -- one beautifully cared for in the Palestinian town of Deir al-Balah, and the other in Gaza City. The Beersheba Commonwealth War Cemetery has graves of some 175 Australian soldiers and lies on the edge of today’s sprawling commercial city that Israel has renamed Be’er Sheva.Our soldiers knew it as Beersheba with a largely Palestinian population.

A Roadmap Collision Course

Joharah Baker, MIFTAH 5/7/2008
      On the five-year anniversary of the US-brokered roadmap for peace, there is not much to celebrate. According to plan, an interim Palestinian state should have been established and a final status agreement negotiated by now. Instead, like so many other agreements before it, the once-deemed optimistic and viable plan has traveled southward, circling the drain.
     It is no wonder, given that the United States is the “mastermind’ behind it. Any sensible onlooker will realize that the US, no matter how good intentioned it claims to be, can never be an honest and objective broker as long as it remains such a staunch ally of Israel.
     The roadmap was presented to the Palestinian Authority and Israel on April 30, 2003 by the United States in cooperation with the Quartet Committee. The goal-driven plan full of timelines and benchmarks required both sides to fulfill certain requirements as part of the first phase of the three phase plan.Five years later, the two parties are still squabbling over the obligations of phase one, each side accusing the other of breaching the agreement and shirking their responsibilities. In short, the Palestinians were required to halt violence and “terrorism” against Israelis everywhere while the Israelis were to freeze all settlement activity, retreat to positions prior to September 28, 2000 and take measures to improve the Palestinians’ humanitarian situation.

US politics: you not electable if you are not pro-Israeli

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 5/7/2008
      It is not possible to get elected in the United States if one is not pro-Israel. The Israeli rhetoric in the US, the country which provides over three billion dollars per year to support the occupation, is nothing new.
     However, Barak Obama’s framed photo hung in the American Islamic Nation’s offices four years ago. At that time his position was clearly pro-Palestinian.
     Now there is new reggae song coming from the US that is calling for Barak Obama, saying he will return to his former pro-Palestinian position if elected to the US presidency. Several pundits are stating the same, but if he pulls a Clinton, former president Bill that is, and not his wife who is making her bid for the presidency now, Palestinians will still be in trouble.
     Bill Clinton, when he was president of the US, became popular in places likethe southern Gaza Strip’s devastated Rafah only because he visited there. Dozens of residents said in the early 2000’s that he was a “great man” because he simply paid attention to them, even if only for a short visit.

Global Food/Energy Crises and the Middle East

Rami Khouri, Middle East Online 5/7/2008
      BEIRUT -- The convergence of six trends in the Middle East -- food, energy, water, population, urbanization and security-dominated politics -- is likely to create conditions that will be politically challenging, if not destabilizing, in many countries in the years ahead. The confluence of these trends is very similar to what happened in the region in the mid-to-late 1970s, when the current Islamist wave of social identity and confrontational politics was initiated.
     Things will be much more difficult this time around. The consequences could be much worse, especially in view of the ripple effect of the war in Iraq, Iran’s growing influence, continued stalemate in Palestine, and the weakening of some Arab governments. It is difficult to predict exactly what will happen in the years ahead, but the stressful factors pushing change are already clear and we would be foolish to ignore them.
     Two critical basic needs -- food and energy -- are becoming more costly simultaneously. (And a third -- water -- is likely to do so, given the high population growth rate and finite available water resources.) Arab governments are scrambling to find stop-gap solutions to the problem of rising food and energy prices, which touch every household.