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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.

VTJP Archives | Newslinks Archives  
16 May 2008


The Gaza strip - Grave dearth of medical supplies and lifesaving treatments
Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, ReliefWeb 5/15/2008
The health situation in the Gaza Strip has been steadily deteriorating since Israel tightened its siege on the area in June 2007, following Hamas’ forceful takeover. The closure of all entrances and exits from Gaza has barred patients from receiving treatments unavailable within Gaza and has caused a grave dearth of medical supplies, while the sporadic cuts in fuel supply prevent the system from functioning fully. This is exacerbated by the fact that Palestinian internal disputes have led to labor strikes in the Gazan health system. According to figures of the World Health Organization, in January 2008, 19 percent of necessary medicines and 31 percent of vital medical equipment were lacking in Gaza. There is also a grave shortage of replacement parts for equipment and of disposable items, such as bandages, syringes, and plaster for casts.

Knesset members: ''Bush more Zionist than Olmert''
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
After the US President, George W. Bush, gave a speech at the Israeli Knesset on Thursday, several right wing members of Knesset said that "Bush seems to be more Zionist the Olmert", and that "it is better to have Bush as a PM instead of Olmert". Some of the Knesset members even said that "Bush appears to be the one person who will achieve the Zionist aspirations", the Arabs48 news website reported. During the Knesset session Olmert said that upon achieving a peace deal with the Palestinians, the agreement will be presented to the Knesset for approval , and that such an agreement will achieve the approval of the Knesset and will be supported by the Israeli public. In his speech, Olmert added that "Bush is a true and faithful friend to Israel", and that the friendship between Israel and the United States is based on "moral, human and social values based on justice and peace".

Israel demands UN strike ’Nakba’ from its lexicon
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 5/16/2008
World body’s spokeswoman says Ki-moon phoned Abbas to stress his support for Palestinians on day marking ’catastrophe’ of Israel’s inception; Israel demands retraction - WASHINGTON - Israel is demanding that the UN strike the word ’Nakba’ from its lexicon, this after the world body’s spokeswoman uttered it, apparently by mistake, in a press briefing she held Thursday night. ’Nakba’, or ’catastrophe’, refers to the refugee flight of Palestinian Arabs that followed Israel’s inception in 1948. The spokeswoman told reporters that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon "phoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to stress his support for the Palestinian people on Nakba Day". An Israeli reporter present at the briefing asked the spokeswoman whether Ki-moon also congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on the Jewish State’s 60th anniversary.

Report: Police to confront Olmert with new evidence
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 5/17/2008
Channel 2 TV reported on Friday that police will confront Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with new evidence in connection with the ongoing corruption investigation. According to the report, police have requested for Olmert to make himself available for questioning either Saturday night or Sunday, during which they will seek explanations from the premier before the scheduled May 25 court deposition of a key witness, U. S. fund-raiser Morris Talansky. In a letter addressed to Olmert’s attorneys, the head of the police’s national fraud unit, Brigadier-General Shlomi Ayalon, wrote: "Mr. Olmert is at once requested to avail himself for one hour so that he may be questioned prior to Mr. Talansky’s preliminary testimony and before he receives evidence gathered in the investigation.

Settlers attack a Palestinian village near Nablus
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Dozens of extremist settlers of the Yitzhar settlement, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, attacked Palestinian villagers of Aseera Al Qibliyya on Friday. Several Palestinian villagers were beaten by the settlers who also caused excessive damage in the village. Meanwhile, the settlers claimed that the Palestinian villagers provoked them "by setting a wheat field belonging to the settlement on fire". Israeli police sources reported that settlers and Palestinians villagers hurled stones at each other. The army and the police said that they launched a probe into the incidents. But, Palestinian residents stated that the Israeli police and soldiers did not attempt to stop the settlers from carrying their attack. Two weeks ago, settlers of Yitzhar attacked the same village and caused excessive damage, but the army claimed that the Palestinians caused these clashes "after approaching the settlement and setting a field on fire".

Hundreds join nonviolent anti-wall protest in Al-Me’sara
Majeeb Farraj, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Around 250 Palestinians and Internationals, including 70 Americans demonstrated against the construction of the separation wall on the land of Al-Me’sara village south of Bethlehem on Friday morning. The protestors wore black T-Shirts, and raised black flags in a mourning sign to commemorate the 60 anniversary of the Nakba, the dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948. As the protestors arrived at the construction site of the wall, dozens of Israeli troops lined up and placed barbed wire in order to prevent the protestors to advance closer to the wall. The protestors set up a tent at the site to resemble the tents the expelled Palestinians of 1948 lived in. Troops assaulted the protestors with their batons, and rifle buts wounding three of them moderately. The three were treated for bruises in their bodes, and were identified as, Mazen El-Azza, Ahmad Hassan and Hassan Zawahra.

Al Khader village protests the Israeli wall
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
On Friday midday, the popular committee of Al Khader village"”near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem"”held a non-violent demonstration to protest the construction of the illegal Israeli wall, demanding an end to the Palestinians Nakba and recognition of their right of return. Around 150 Palestinians, internationals, and Israeli peace activists took part in the protest, which started with a prayer near the checkpoint at the entrance of the village. As soon as the protestors gathered for the prayer, at least 30 Israeli troops blocked the checkpoint, attempting to foil the protest. The protesters marched towards the military barricade and sat in front of it for nearly half an hour. Speeches were delivered and the protest ended peacefully. Theme of today’s protest was Nakba: "Sixty year of ongoing catastrophe, sixty year of exile; sixty years of neglecting Palestinians’ rights. . .

Weekly Bil’in protest: dozens treated for tear gas inhalation
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Villagers from Bil’in, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, supported by international and Israeli peace activists conducted their weekly nonviolent protest, on Friday midday, against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village’s land. Protesters carried banners demanding the removal of the Israeli wall, settlements, and calling the international community to help Palestinians retain Jerusalem from the Israeli army. as is the case each week the protests started after the mid-day Friday prayers were finished in the local mosque, villagers from Bil’in, along with Israeli and international peace activists, marched towards the location of the Wall which is separating the village from its land. Immediately after the protest reached the gate of the Wall, soldiers showered the protestors with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets.

Ayman Taha: Hamas delays visit to Cairo
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Hamas spokesperson Aiman Taha confirmed on Friday morning that Hamas have delayed their visit to Cairo to next week. Taha told Ma’an that the visit was due to happen on Friday of this week. He said the delegation are going to Egypt to discuss the results of Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman’s meeting with the Israelis regarding the proposed truce. He also said they have not ruled out releasing kidnapped Israeli soldier Gil’ad Shalit, but this will involve conditions that differ from those set out in the truce. [end]

Hamas to delay Cairo visit for next week
George Rishmawi, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
The Islamic Hamas movement delayed a visit to the Egyptian capital, Cairo until next week, a Hamas senior official stated on Friday. Hamas was to send a delegation to discuss the Israeli response to the Egyptian proposal for calm in the Gaza Strip. Ayman Taha told reporters, "We are going to Cairo to meet an Egyptian invitation in order to brief us about the results of the meetings between the head of Egyptian intelligence, Omar Suleiman and the Israeli officials regarding calm."  Taha insisted on separating the calm from the release of the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. "We are not against releasing Shalit, however, this file has requirements to be matched. The groups that have Shalit insist on their demands," Taha said, adding that calm is related to lifting the siege imposed on the Palestinian people, open the border crossing and to end the aggression.

Livni to head to Egypt, may discuss lull with Mubarak
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Foreign minister heading to Sharm el-Sheikh for World Economic Forum, slated to meet with senior Arab officials - Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will be meeting Sunday with Jordan’s King Abdullah in the framework of the World Economic Forum to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh. Foreign Ministry officials said that Livni may also meet with senior Egyptian officials, including President Hosni Mubarak. The foreign minister will be meeting with Jordan’s king, who has been seeking to expand his involvement in talks between Israel and the Palestinians. About two weeks ago, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Abdullah in his Amman palace. The Jordanian news agency reported at the time that the king urged Olmert to set a firm timetable for accelerating negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Should Livni meet with Mubarak, this could have diplomatic implications,. . .

Herds of Jewish settlers attack Palestinian village
Palestinian Information Center 5/16/2008
NABLUS, (PIC)-- Scores of extremist Jewish settlers from the settlement of  Yizhar, on Friday afternoon, attacked residents of the nearby Palestinian village of Asira al-Qibleya to the south of the northern West Bank city of Nablus. Local sources said that around forty settlers entered the village and started throwing stones at Palestinian houses causing damage to some houses. An IOF patrol forced the settlers to leave the village, but no arrests were made in lines of the settlers who mounted the aggression. The same village was attacked last week by settlers from the same settlement. The settlers set the crop fields on fire and attacked the house of Jamal Saleh at the edge of the village. Villagers rushed to the scene to try and put the fire out and protect the Saleh family. The settlers assaulted them causing serious injuries to 16-year-old Abdelrahim Abdellatif and 44-year-old Rebhi Asayrah.

Settlers, Palestinians clash in West Bank
Ali Waked, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Palestinians say dozens of settlers rioted in village; settlers say Palestinians set wheat field on fire - Who’s telling the truth? Dozens of settlers from the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar rioted in the village of Asira al-Kabaliya, Palestinian sources reported Friday. According to the report, several Palestinians were beaten up by settlers, who also caused extensive property damage in the village. However, according to the settlers, Palestinians from a nearby village provoked the latest clash after setting a wheat field owned by Yitzhar residents on fire. The settlers said that teams who arrived on the scene to put out the fire were stoned by Palestinians, and claimed that this was the third time in the past two weeks that villagers set fields on fire. Around 6 pm Friday, police in Samaria received a report about settlers and Palestinians hurling stones at each other near Yitzhar.

Two Islamic Jihad fighters wounded in northern Gaza
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Palestinian medical sources reported that two fighters of the Al Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, were wounded on Friday evening after the Israeli air force targeted a group of fighters in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. A senior source at the Brigades stated that the Israeli air force targeted a group of its fighters who gathered in Tal Qleibo, in the northern part of the Gaza Strip. The source added that that two fighters were wounded in the attack. Abu Ahmad, media spokesperson of the Brigades, stated that the fighters are ready to counter any Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip. In an interview with Maan News Agency, Abu Ahmad said that the Al Quds brigades, and all resistance groups in Gaza will use all available means to counter a possible Israeli invasion into Gaza. Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, said that Israel is planning a major offensive in. . .

Assailants set off bomb outside Christian school in Gaza
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Unknown assailants detonated a bomb outside a Christian school in Gaza City before dawn Friday, causing no injuries. The powerful explosion was heard in surrounding neighborhoods at around 4 A. M. Damage was visible at the entrance to the Zahwa Rosary School, which is run by Catholic nuns but caters mainly to Muslim students. Police officials from Hamas, the Islamic group that controls Gaza, said they were looking into the incident. A Two nuns were in their convent adjacent to the school when the bomb went off, a school official said. The official declined to be named, saying she was frightened by the incident and concerned for her safety. The incident appeared to be the work of a poorly trained individual or group, she said - police told school officials that the bomb had been set incorrectly, and it caused little damage.

Undercover gunmen blow up entrance to Rosary Sister’s school in Tal Al-Hawa
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Palestinian sources reported early on Friday morning that unidentified gunmen blew up the door of the Rosary Sister’s school in Tal Al-Hawa in the middle of the Gaza city. The sources told Ma’an that the gunmen detonated a bomb near the door of the school at 2. 00 am on Friday morning, which resulted in some material damage. No injuries were reported. [end]

National Resistance brigades shell Nahal Oz; Abu Ali Mustafa brigades shell Ashkelon
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The National Resistance brigades, the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), claimed responsibility for launching two mortar shells at the Nahal Oz Israeli military base, east of the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening. Meanwhile, the Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility for launching one homemade projectile at Ashkelon also on Thursday. [end]

Al-Quds brigades shell Nativ Ha’tsara
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching a homemade projectile at Netiv Ha’asara, north of the Gaza Strip on Friday morning. The brigades said in a statement that this action came in retaliation for the continuous Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. [end]

An-Nasser brigades shell Erez crossing
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The An-Nasser brigades, the military wing of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), claimed responsibility for launching four mortar shells at Erez crossing on Thursday evening. The brigades confirmed in a statement that this came in retaliation for Israeli atrocities. [end]

Al-Quds brigades shell Meftahim
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Gaza - Ma’an- The Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for launching a homemade projectile at Meftahim, east of Khan Yunis, on Thursday evening. The brigades said in a statement that this came in retaliation for Israeli aggressions. [end]

Testimony: Life of a family in Sderot under the threat of Qassam rockets
Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, ReliefWeb 5/15/2008
Ya’acov Swisa, unemployed computer technician - I was born in Sderot and have lived here almost all my life. It was fun to grow up here. I always loved the place. When I was a boy, I felt as safe as could be. We didn’t even lock our doors at night. I used to wander around the market in Gaza with no fear at all. Before everything started, about seven or eight years ago, life here was normal. I worked. We weren’t well off, but we lived with dignity. I am disabled. In the past, I used a prosthesis and could get around and work like everyone else. About seven months ago, on November 6, 2007, I was at home with my small son. I went to take the garbage out and then I heard the Color Red siren, which means that a Qassam rocket has been fired. I rushed to get back inside as soon as I could because my son was alone. I walked fast, but then I lost my balance on the stairs.

This Week In Palestine - Week 20 2008
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 19 m 0s || 17. 3 MB || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. IMEMC. org, for May 10th, to through to May 16th, 2008. The Egyptian efforts to reach calm in the Gaza Strip continue, as the Israeli siege and military fire left 10 Palestinians dead. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Resistance Let’s begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank. Here’s IMEMC’s Mary Smith with the details: Bethlehem On Friday midday, the popular committee of Al Khader village"”near the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem"”held a non-violent demonstration to protest the construction of the illegal Israeli wall, demanding an end to the Palestinians Nakba and recognition of their right of return.

Israeli forces detain Palestinian in Nablus
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Israeli forces detained a Palestinian in the West Bank city of Nablus on Friday morning, after a number of Israeli military vehicles stormed the city. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an’s correspondent in Nablus that the Israeli forces stormed a number of neighborhoods in the city and arrested 22-year-old Ahmed Nasser Abu Al-Kalbat. [end]

IOF plan escalation of atrocities against Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 5/16/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli occupation forces are gearing up to escalate their aggression against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip after getting a green light from George Bush, according to an Israeli newspaper. The Jerusalem Post said  that "Defense officials" said that while the IOF "was preparing for possible military action in Gaza, Israel was still interested in obtaining a cease-fire with Hamas, via Egyptian mediation." The paper reported that the IOF escalation against Hamas is expected to start after George Bush leaves on Friday. It is obvious that Bush has given the green light for further Israeli occupation atrocities in the already devastated Gaza Strip under the rubric of "fighting terror." The Israeli President, himself a seasoned war criminal, told reporters that the best thing that Bush brought with him was giving the Israeli occupation a free hand. . .

Azzeh refugee: They are taking everything, including our words
Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 5/16/2008
Not only did the Israelis cause Al Nakba, the Palestinian Catastrophe in 1948, they continue to do so with arrests, killings, checkpoints land confiscation, settlement expansion and Wall construction. "They have taken everything from us and still want more," said one of the elderly women interviewed for Al Nakba in Al Azzeh Refugee Camp. Now the Israeli government is seeking to take away the word for what they did in 1948 and continue to do 60 years later in 2008. The Deputy Chief of the Israeli Mission to the United Nations issued the call on behalf of the Israeli Mission to ban the use of the word. This comes after a statement was issued by the spokesperson for UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in which she used the word ’Catastrophe. ’ The Israeli government refuses to honor UN resolutions, including 194, the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

PCHR Weekly Report: 16 Palestinians killed, 27 wounded in Israeli attacks
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)’s Weekly Report, during the week of 8 - 14 May 2008, 13 Palestinians, two of whom were civilians, were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. In addition, a Palestinian civilian was killed by the private Israeli security guards of "Ofra" settlement in Ramallah. Also 2 Palestinian children died from previous injuries in Khan Yunis town in the southern Gaza Strip. 27 Palestinians and Israeli human rights defender were wounded by Israeli forces. Of the 27 injured, 20 were civilians, including 4 children, an elderly woman and 2 journalists. Israeli attacks in the West Bank:Israeli forces conducted 20 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank this week. Israeli forces abducted 30 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children and a journalist, in the West Bank.

''Their independence is our Nakba''
1948 Palestine, International Solidarity Movement 5/16/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - An Nakba (the catastrophe) commemorations continued in Nablus on Thursday 15th May, with approximately 500 people gathering in the main square of the city to demand their right to return home. Organised by the National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at 60, in conjunction with many Nablus organisations, the official statement of the demonstration was "There can be no alternative to our return to our homes and properties." Commemoration of the Nakba - the catastrophe whereby approximately 700 000 Palestinians were forced to flee their lands in what is now Israel due to the onslaught of Zionist armies - fall on the day after the anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel; thus emphasizing the suffering that took place to enable the creation of a Jewish state - suffering that is still without relief.

LEBANON: Palestinian refugees stage demo near Israeli border
Google Earth, IRIN - UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 5/16/2008
DHAIRA, SOUTH LEBANON, 16 May 2008 (IRIN) - Several hundred Palestinian refugees marched to the Lebanon-Israeli border on 14 May exchanging loud-hailer greetings and storming part of the fence in dramatic scenes commemorating 60 years since they - or in most cases their forbears - were driven into exile during the creation of Israel. "People call this the memorial of `naqba’," said Sheikh Saleem Hajab, spiritual leader of Palestinian Islamist faction Ansar Allah, using the Arabic word for the "catastrophe" which Palestinians say befell them when the UN partitioned Palestine in 1948. "But we call it the memorial or return. God has given us a divine promise. We will return to our homeland." Anyone among the many tens of thousands of Palestinians displaced in 1948 - no-one knows for certain what the Palestinian population. . .

Palestinian detainees hold a hunger strike in commemoration of the Nakba
IMEMC Staff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
Spokesperson of the Wa’ed Society for Detainees and Freed Detainees,Abdullah Abu Qandeel, stated on Thursday that the detainees in all Israeli prisons and detention facilities announced a hunger strike and refused to leave their room in commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Nakba. He added that the detainees, in spite of the ongoing violations and harsh conditions they face, are determined to prove that their imprisonment and years behind bars will not affect their steadfastness. Qandeel added that the detainees "are the candle that lights the path of freedom", and that they managed always to prove that they will remain steadfast until liberation and independence. [end]

Gaza Strip inter-agency humanitarian fact sheet, Apr 2008
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - OCHA, ReliefWeb 4/30/2008
Israeli restrictions on fuel supplies to Gaza peaked in April when Israel halted supplies of diesel, petrol and cooking gas (LPG) to Gaza. UNRWA was forced to suspend its food distribution to 650,000 beneficiaries for four days due to the lack of fuel. Limited supplies of cooking gas and industrial diesel resumed before the end of the month. Market prices increased significantly in the month of April. Tomato prices, for example, rose 156%. Gazan militants attacked the Nahal Oz fuel terminal on April 9 and the Kerem Shalom goods crossing on April 18. Israeli military incursions into Gaza occurred almost every day in April, killing 21 children - the most notable being four young siblings and their mother (Muiser Mueteq) who were killed in Beit Hanoun on April 28. During these incursions, the IDF arrested 181 Palestinians from Gaza.

Hamas: Inclusion of Shalit in truce deal must be on our terms
Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff, Ha’aretz 5/17/2008
Israel has asked Egypt to incorporate a deal to free abducted soldier Gilad Shalit into Hamas truce talks being mediated by Cairo. The cease-fire talks will resume next week, Haaretz has learned. A Hamas official said that the group does not oppose including Shalit in the truce deal but would agree to such a move on its own terms, Israel Radio reported on Friday. If Egypt agrees, it would mark its return to trying to negotiate Shalit’s release, after a year’s hiatus. Egypt’s intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, will meet a delegation of Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, while the deputy head of Hamas’ Damascus-based political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzook, will travel to Cairo. Defense Minister Ehud Barak will be in Egypt on Sunday, for an international economic conference in Sharm al-Sheikh.

Israeli vice premier calls for a strategic decision to foil Hamas’s rule
Palestinian Information Center 5/16/2008
NAZARETH, (PIC)-- The Israel vice premier, Haim Ramon, said that the Israeli government should take a strategic decision to foil Hamas’s rule. Ramon said in a statement to the Israeli radio on Thursday that such a decision will entail a military connotations and that Israel is not showing enough resoluteness and determination in this regard. He called on the occupation authorities not to allow humanitarian aid to reach the Gaza Strip and for the Israeli occupation forces to quickly respond to the sources of fire of the Palestinian resistance in the Strip. Ramon also viewed that truce with Hamas as no more than a ploy which will give the movement more time to become stronger and be able to threaten, Beersheba, Asdod and probably Tel al-Rabee’ (Tel Aviv). The US president, George Bush, spoke earlier at the Knesset on the sixtieth anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba during which. . .

Barak: Restraint, Prudence and Equanimity are necessary to eliminate ''Palestinian terrorism''
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, said on Thursday that restraint, prudence and equanimity are necessary to be able to eliminate what he described as "Palestinian Terrorism" in the Gaza Strip, adding that Israel must wait for the appropriate moment to carry out a widespread military operation against the coastal sector. He pledged to halt Palestinian projectile fire into Israeli towns, bordering the Strip and said that the "ongoing terror would not destroy or deplete Israeli military abilities." This statement came during the last session of the "Afaq Al-Ghad" conference which was held in Jerusalem. [end]

Massiri predicts demise of Israel within 50 years
Palestinian Information Center 5/16/2008
CAIRO, (PIC)-- Egyptian intellectual Abdul Wahab Al-Massiri anticipated the demise of the "Zionist entity" within the coming 50 years, underlining that his prediction was based on his research. Massiri, who is specializes in Zionist and Jewish affairs and has authored an encyclopaedia entitled Jews, Judaism and Zionism,  told Reuters that Israeli writers and researchers have expressed fears of such demise which is reflected in the amount of articles written on the subject. According to Massiri, such a nightmare was very much in the minds of Israeli politicians since the creation of the state. Even David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of the Israeli occupation government, said, in 1938 in a speech, that Jewish groups in Palestine weren’t facing terrorism. Massiri said that Ben Gurion said "terrorism consists of gangs bankrolled by a foreign power.

Haneyya’s gov’t: Palestinian legal rights aren’t for sale
Palestinian Information Center 5/16/2008
GAZA, [PIC]-- The legitimate PA government of Premier Ismael Haneyya has confirmed on Thursday that the Palestinian legal rights weren’t for "sale in the bazaars of negotiations and on the tables of compromises". The PA government’s affirmation came in a statement it issued in response to the "infamous" speech of US President George W. Bush before the Israeli Knesset on Thursday as he (Bush) celebrated the 60th anniversary of the "illigitimate birth" of the Zionist entity on the usurped Palestinian land. "The Palestinian legal rights and national constants couldn’t be compromised, and the Palestinian issue couldn’t be liquidated because the resistance will remain as an ideology, culture, and practice of the Palestinian people as long as the occupation remains", the PA cabinet underlined in a statement it issued after a meeting it held in Gaza.

Bin Laden vows more jihad to rid Palestine of ’ugly occupation’
Lydia Georgi, Daily Star 5/17/2008
Agence France Presse - DUBAI: Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden slammed Western leaders for taking part in Israel’s 60th anniversary of its creation overtop Palestinian land and vowed that Muslims would fight and not give up "one inch of Palestine," in an audio message Friday. "The participation of Western leaders with the Jews in this celebration confirms that the West supports this ugly Jewish occupation of our lands and that they stand in the Israelis’ trench against us," Bin Laden said in the "message to Western peoples" posted on the Internet. "We will continue the fight against the Israelis and their allies. . . and we will not give up one inch of Palestine, God willing, as long as there is one sincere Muslim on this earth," the message added. The message, which lasted nearly 10 minutes and was posted on a Web site used by Islamist militants, came after US President George W.

Bin Laden vows to ’fight’ Israel for Palestinian land
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/17/2008
Al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden has vowed to continue the fight against Israel and not give up an inch of Palestinian land, in an audio recording released Friday. "We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies. . . and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on earth," the Saudi-born al-Qaida leader said in the tape posted on an Islamist website on Friday. Bin Laden said Israel’s anniversary celebrations were a reminder that it did not exist 60 years ago, and had been established on land seized from Palestinians by force. "This is evidence that Palestine is our land, and the Israelis are invaders and occupiers who should be fought," he said. Bin Laden noted that decades of peace initiatives had failed to establish a Palestinian state, and said the West sided with Israel.

Bin Laden warns over Palestine
AP, The Independent 5/16/2008
Osama bin Laden released a new message today saying al-Qa’ida will continue its war against Israel and its allies until it liberates Palestine. The message came as President George Bush ended his visit to Israel to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Jewish state. Bin Laden said the fight for the Palestinian cause was the most important factor driving al-Qa’ida’s war with the West and fuelled the 11 September attacks. The authenticity of the nearly 10 minute message could not be verified, but it was posted on a website commonly used by al-Qa’ida. Bin Laden said the fight for the Palestinian cause was the most important factor driving al Qaida’s war with the West. "To Western nations. . . this speech is to understand the core reason of the war between our civilisation and your civilisations.

New Bin Laden tape warns Israel
Al Jazeera 5/16/2008
Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda’s leader, has condemned Western leaders for taking part in Israel’s 60th birthday celebrations. In an audio tape message posted on an Islamic website on Friday, he says that the fight against Israel and its allies will continue, and that Muslims will not give up "one inch of Palestine". The authenticity of the tape could not immediately be verified but the voice sounds like Bin Laden’s. "Western leaders’ participation with the Jews in this celebration confirms that the West supports this oppressive Jewish occupation of our nation and that they are in the same trench as the Israelis against us," he says. The release of the tape comes as George Bush, the USpresident, ends his visit to Israelto celebrate the country’s 60th anniversary.

’Bin Laden’ message condemns Israeli anniversary
David Batty, The Guardian 5/16/2008
An internet audio message purportedly from Osama bin Laden was released today marking the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel with a vow to continue the fight against the country and its allies. The speaker said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was at the heart of an Islamic battle with the west and an inspiration to the 19 bombers who carried out the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies. . . and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on earth," he said. The purported Bin Laden said Israel’s anniversary celebrations were a reminder that the Jewish state did not exist 60 years ago and was established on land violently seized from the Palestinians.

Obama says Bush policies strengthened Iran, Hamas
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/17/2008
Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama said Friday that President George W. Bush’s policies in the Middle East have served to benefit U. S. foes Iran and Hamas. "[Bush and Republican nominee John McCain have] got to answer for the fact that Iran is the greatest strategic beneficiary of our invasion of Iraq. It made Iran stronger, George Bush’s policies," he said. "They’re going to have to explain why Hamas now controls Gaza, Hamas that was strengthened because the United States insisted that we should have democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority," he added. Obama, relishing a long-distance debate with Bush on foreign policy, said the president had contributed to Tehran’s rise in the Middle East by launching the Iraq war, which he said had removed Baghdad as a counterweight to Iran.

Debasing Israel, Defaming Obama
Katrina vanden Heuvel, Middle East Online 5/16/2008
The Commander-in-Chief is now the Smearer-in-Chief. In Israel to celebrate the country’s 60th birthday, President Bush chose to debase the event with the defamatory suggestion, made before the Israeli Knesset, that Barack Obama would appease terrorists by talking to Syria and Iran. Obama moved quickly to call it a "false political attack" by a president whose failed policies have "strenghtened Iran. ’" I would go on to point out that when it comes to talking to Syria, Israeli leaders would seem to agree with Barack Obama and not President Bush. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported, Israel and Syrian negotiators met in secret from September 2004 to July 2006, and reportedly agreed on the main points of a peace agreement. And there have been reports of interest on both the Israeli and Syrian side to meet to conclude a formal agreement this year.

Barakeh: Bush speech an application for membership into Zionist movement
Palestine News Network 5/16/2008
PNN -- Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset, Mohammad Barakeh, says that US President Bush’s speech was an application to official membership into the Zionist movement. President of the Democratic Front Party in the Israeli Parliament, Barakeh, was among those who boycotted Bush’s speech on Thursday, the 60th memorial of Al Nakba, the Catastrophe, which is also the anniversary of the founding of the state of Israel. "The Palestinian people are memorializing their misfortune. We reject the Israeli celebration of this day, and also reject our guest and his policy," Barakeh told a meeting of the Youth Democratic Front in Kafr Kassem, a Palestinian town within Israeli boundaries. He went on to say that Bush is seeking to be inducted into the Zionist movement as he reaches the end of his final term as US President.

Bush’s ’appeasement’ remark triggers furore
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
The explosive issue of how to handle America’s enemies detonated into the US election campaign Thursday after President George W. Bush implied Democrats want to appease terrorists. Democratic White House hopeful Barack Obama fought back hard, accusing Bush of plumbing the "politics of fear" with his comments in Israel while allies said the president transgressed by launching a partisan attack on foreign soil. But Republican candidate John McCain joined in a tag-team attack on Obama, who favors direct negotiations with US foes including Iran and Syria, as a key foreign policy flashpoint of November’s general election erupted. "Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush told the Israeli parliament.

Nancy Pelosi arrives in Tel Aviv
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, arrived in Tel Aviv on Friday for the celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the Israeli state. Her visit comes in the wake of US President George W. Bush’s visit to the Israeli state, during which he addressed Knesset members and reiterated US support for Israel. Israeli sources said that Pelosi heads a team of fourteen republican and democratic congress members. [end]

Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer slam Bush’s Mideast policy
Anshel Pfeffer, Ha’aretz 5/14/2008
Two representatives of the United States’ previous administration, under former president Bill Clinton, on Tuesday criticized the policies of current U. S. President George W. Bush and the conduct of the Annapolis Middle East peace process. Special Middle East coordinator in the Clinton administration, Dennis Ross, and former U. S. ambassador to Israel Daniel Kurtzer were speaking in the framework of the "Facing Tomorrow" Presidential Conference in Jerusalem. Ross, chairman of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, the group responsible for organizing the presidential conference, said that last November’s Annapolis conference was not planned properly, that all of the parties should have agreed in advance on at least some of the main principles and that more groundwork should have been. . .

Islamic Jihad: Bush’s calls to eliminate the resistance is an obvious declaration of war in the region
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Islamic Jihad said on Friday they considered US President George W. Bush’s calls to eliminate the Palestinian resistance as a tacit nod to Israel to stage a large scale invasion of the Gaza Strip and thus constitute a declaration of war in the region. The movement said in a statement that Bush’s support for the Jewish state during the Israeli sixtieth anniversary celebrations demonstrated American political and military support for Israel and was an affirmation of personal support to the beleagured Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. They said they also considered Bush’s visit as demonstrating complete disregard for the Arab leaders who support compromise. The statement said that the Israeli occupation will not rule another 60 years as Bush had claimed and it will not be able to eliminate the Palestinian resistance along with the right of return and self-determination.

Palestinian Embassy in Tunis commemorates the 60th anniversary of the Nakba
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Tunis - Ma’an - Osama Abdullah- The Palestinian Embassy in Tunisia organized a demonstration at the embassy in the capital Tunis on Thursday to mark the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba. They erected a tent to house an exhibition of pictures and names of Palestinian historical cities and villages which were demolished during the creation of the Israeli state. Many people from Palestinian committees in Tunis attended the demonstration in addition to a number of Palestinians, work with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Tunisia. The Embassy issued a statement stating a commitment to national rights, the right of return and compensation in accordance to UN resolution 194, the continuation of resistance by any means according to the international legislatives, upholding the legitimate leadership represented by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, headed. . .

Israel, US see need for ’tangible action’ on Iran
Reuters, YNetNews 5/16/2008
US, Israel agree on need for ’tangible action’ to prevent Islamic Republic from moving nuclear program forward, PM Olmert’s spokesman says after Bush visit; meanwhile, White House says US to help Saudi Arabia develop nuke energy - The United States and Israel agree on the need for "tangible action" to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman said after a visit by US President George W. Bush. "We are on the same page. We both see the threat. . . And we both understand that tangible action is required to prevent the Iranians from moving forward on a nuclear weapon," Olmert spokesman Mark Regev said on Friday. Regev described diplomatic efforts so far to exert pressure on Iran as "positive", but added: "It is clearly not sufficient and it’s clear that additional steps will have to be taken".

Iranian defense minister: Israel too weak to attack
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Israel has raised the claim of attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran mostly to cover up its weak points and harsh domestic crises,’ Mostafa Mohammad Najjar says - Israel is too weak and vulnerable to attack Iran, Defense Minister Brigadier General Mostafa Mohammad Najjar was quoted by the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) as saying Thursday. "Israel has raised the claim of attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran mostly to cover up its weak points and harsh domestic crises," Najjar said, adding that "the Israelis have made the claims on the 60th anniversary of their establishment to divert public opinion from broad corruption and weakness of Israeli officials." Turning his attention to Lebanon, the Iranian defense minister said the country’s destiny is important for the world of Islam.

Former Israeli air force commander: military confrontation with Iran not ruled out
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Major General Eliezer Schekede said on Friday that an Israeli military operation against Iran has not been ruled out and the Israeli air force are ready for all options. Schekede, who ended his duties as the commander of the Israeli Air Force this week, told Israeli Radio that Israeli aircraft flying over the Gaza Strip are facing real dangers from Palestinian projectiles. He also commented on the efforts made by the Israeli air force to avoid casualities among Palestinian civilians, pointing out there has been a 50% decrease in the civilian injuries caused by the Israeli air strikes.

American-Israeli agreement to act decisively against the Iranian nuclear project
Ma’an News Agency 5/16/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman, Marc Regev, said on Friday that Israel and the US have recently agreed to work decisively against the Iranian nuclear project. Regev added that the Israeli and American points of view on the issue are identical and they will work towards preventing Iran from possessing any form of nuclear arsenal. He described the diplomatic efforts to halt the Iranian nuclear project as ’"positive but inadequate." With regard to a military option, he said that a number of options have been proposed that are approved by Israel. [end]

Bush celebrates with Israelis, Knesset protest, arrests, demonstrations: Al Nakba in Jerusalem
Mesa Abu Ghazaleh, Palestine News Network 5/16/2008
Jerusalem -- A commercial strike, protests and marches, clashes and arrests and raids, black balloons and Palestinian flags: this was the scene in East Jerusalem for the 60th memorial of Al Nakba, the Catastrophe, as the Israelis celebrated the founding of their state and US President George Bush joined them. Golda Meir once said regarding Al Nakba, "the young will forget." Jerusalem residents and national and political figures strongly condemned the involvement of Bush in the Israeli celebrations, stressing that this is incompatible with the right of the Palestinian people and with the resolutions of international legitimacy, and confirmed their adherence to the Right of Return to the land of their fathers and grandparents, refusing to allow it to be waived. Picket at Damascus GateThe National Liberation Movement, Fateh, organized the protest at. . .

US to participate in investment conference in Bethlehem
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/16/2008
The US Embassy in Jerusalem issued a press release stating they US President George W. Bush, announced on Thursday that he is designating an official presidential delegation to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, in order to participate in the May 21 0 May 23, 2008, investment conference. The delegation will be headed by Robert M. Kimmitt, Deputy Secretary, Department of the Treasury. Other members of the delegation as published by the US Embassy are;Robert Mosbacher, Jr. , President and Chief Executive Officer, Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Larry W. Walther, Director, U. S. Trade and Development Agency, Walter Isaacson, President and Chief Executive Officer, Aspen Institute Chair, U. S. -Palestinian Partnership. Also, Dr. Ziad Al Asali, Ziad Asali, President & Founder, American Task Force on Palestine Co-Chair, U.

Jewish, Christian, Muslim clerics meet in Qatar
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
DOHA - More than a dozen rabbis, including two from Israel, were in attendance this week as this conservative Muslim sheikdom opened one of the Gulf’s first scholarly centers dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars in met in the heartland of conservative Islam, as part of a broader push by Arab governments for interfaith dialogue. The talks were not entirely smooth, and politics and disputes over the Palestinian issue did inevitably intrude, said Rabbi David James Lazar, leader of a synagogue in Tel Aviv. Yet, the benefits for him were huge, he said — especially the ability to make personal connections with Arabs and Muslims "who otherwise I would have no contact with. " "For some it’s their first chance ever to hear, not only an Israeli but to hear a Jewish rabbi speak.

In Qatar, Muslim, Jewish clerics meet
Associated Press, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Rare meeting sign of Qatar’s efforts to present moderate image as it bids for 2016 summer Olympic Games, part of broader push by Arab governments for interfaith dialogue. ’For some it’s their first chance ever to hear, not only an Israeli but to hear a Jewish rabbi speak,’ participant says -More than a dozen Jewish rabbis, including two from Israel, were in attendance this week as this conservative Muslim sheikdom opened one of the Gulf’s first scholarly centers dedicated to interfaith dialogue. The rare meeting of Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars in the heartland of conservative Islam is another sign of Qatar’s efforts topresent a moderate image as it bids for the 2016 summer Olympic Games. It’s also part of a broader push by Arab governments for interfaith dialogue, even though most still do not recognize Israel.

Slovak PM hopes to turn page, urges closer ties with Israel
Yehuda Lahav, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico called Thursday for raising the level of diplomatic relations between Israel and Slovakia, saying Slovakia would be very happy if Israel’s president or prime minister visited Slovakia on the remembrance day for Holocaust victims marked on September 9. Slovakia’s government has agreed to turn the wartime forced labor camp for Jews in the town of Sered into a museum, Fico, who attended the Israel President’s Conference in Jerusalem, said. He said his government supports the participation of Slovak teachers in courses about the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, and a few dozen teachers have already taken part. He believes that anti-Semitic incidents in Slovakia are becoming fewer and does not see anti-Semitism as a serious problem in his country.

Kadima MKs hold ’conceptual forum’
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Ruling party’s members hold oddly-timed meet to ’devise way to see Kadima’s vision realized. ’ Party is not staging a coup, says MK Isaac Ben-Israel - Several of Kadima’s Knesset members met Friday for what was dubbed a "conceptual forum". MK Isaac Ben-Israel hosted the meet at his Ramat Hasharon home, but stressed that the get-together was "not an attempt to stage a coup, or shift our political support… We just want to devise ways to push Kadima’s agenda forward. "Reportedly inspired by the recent investigation launched against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the meeting was attended by MKs Otniel Schneller, Amira Dotan, Menahem Ben-Sasson, Michael Nudelman, Shai Hermesh and Shlomo Mula." This is a group of people who want to see Kadima’s vision realized. We intend on meeting once a week," added Ben-Israel. One of the MKs invited to the forum told Ynet that while the forum

Police want to interrogate Olmert within 48 hours
Aviram Zino, YNetNews 5/16/2008
Investigators want to question PM before his attorneys see testimony of key witness Talansky - Another urgent interrogation:Police officials are in contact with the Prime Minister’s Office in order to set a time for another questioning session in the probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Police investigators want the next questioning session to be held within the next 48 hours. The Jerusalem District Court approved a few days ago Attorney General Menachem Mazuz’s request to get an early testimony from the key witness in the latest affair faced by Olmert, Moshe (Morris) Talansky - this testimony can then be used in a future trial against the prime minister over alleged bribery offenses. Talansky is scheduled to provide his testimony on May 25, and police officials are interested in interrogating Olmert before Talansky’s testimony.

VIDEO - ’There is no normal childhood’
Clancy Chassay, The Guardian 5/16/2008
A week in Gaza - Concluding his week of films about life in Gaza, multimedia reporter Clancy Chassay meets those counselling the area’s traumatised children. [end]

Cartoon of the day
Juan Kalvellido, Palestine Think Tank 5/16/2008
By Juan Kalvellido, Spanish. Graphic designer, Artist [end]

Lebanon Steps Back from the Brink War
Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 5/16/2008
After nearly two weeks of ugly skirmishes, which have claimed nearly a hundred lives, the Lebanese government of Fuad Siniora has made important concessions to the opposition. These have opened the door for a national dialogue, aided by active mediation by the Arab League. The opposition, led by Hizbullah, has responded positively and is shortly expected to restore access to Beirut’s international airport. Yet the internal power struggle is largely unresolved and the country remains hostage to the wider contest for regional dominance between the United States and Israel on the one hand, and Iran and Syria on the other. Last week, US President George W. Bush added fuel to the fire with a characteristically belligerent statement. "The international community," he declared, "will not allow the Iranian and Syrian regimes, via their proxies, to return Lebanon to foreign domination and control.

Lebanon crisis talks a diplomatic success for Qatar
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
DOHA - By hosting rival Lebanese politicians, the tiny gas-rich state of Qatar has successfully bolstered an active diplomacy which has often unsettled its neighbours, notably regional heavyweight Saudi Arabia. Qatar pulled off this success "because it is trusted by Lebanese factions who know that it will not be pushing its own political agenda when they meet on its soil," Qatari political analyst Mohammad al-Misfer said on Friday. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani was due to open the talks in a Doha hotel at 9:00 pm (1800 GMT), bringing together Lebanon’s government and the Hezbollah-led opposition. After nearly a week of sectarian fighting that killed 65 people and pushed Lebanon to the brink of a new civil war, Hezbollah and its rivals agreed to discuss ways of electing a president and forming a unity government.

Qatari emir welcomes delegates to dialogue aimed at saving Lebanon
Hussein Abdallah, Daily Star 5/17/2008
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s feuding political leaders gathered in Qatar Friday for Arab League-brokered talks aimed at ending a long-running crisis that drove the country to the brink of a new civil war. Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani read an opening statement late on Friday, welcoming the rival leaders and vowing to protect Lebanon’s future by preserving its unity. Sheikh Hamad said that Qatar was looking forward to be a place where Lebanese leaders meet for fruitful talks. "We hope that consensus is reached so we can avoid dangerous consequences," he said before adjourning the opening ceremony and announcing that the first round of talks will be held at 10:30 a. m. on Saturday. The leaders arrived in Doha on a single plane, except for parliamentary majority leader Saad Hariri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, who took a private jet to Doha.

Qatar hosts squabbling Lebanese politicians
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
DOHA - Lebanon’s squabbling political leaders are to meet in Qatar on Friday for talks brokered by the Arab League aimed at ending a long-running feud that drove the country to the brink of a new civil war. After nearly a week of fighting that left 65 people dead and some 200 wounded, the government and the Hezbollah-led opposition agreed to a new national dialogue to elect a president and form a unity government. A six-point plan was agreed in Beirut on Thursday, under the mediation of an Arab League delegation headed by Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani. Under the deal, the rivals undertook to launch a dialogue "to shore up the authority of the Lebanese state throughout the country," to refrain from using weapons to further political aims and to remove militants from the streets.

Tehran ponders the spoils of victory
Sami Moubayed, Asia Times 5/17/2008
DAMASCUS - We were watching the news coming in from Beirut, as armed Hezbollah troopers stormed entire neighborhoods of Beirut, loyal to parliamentary majority leader Saad al-Hariri. The anchor for al-Manar, Hezbollah’s TV station, was roaming the streets of Hamra, Ain Mraiseh and Quraytem, reporting on events from his party’s perspective. He was basically saying that this was not a coup launched by Hezbollah againstPrime Minister Fouad al-Siniora. Rather than take power, Hezbollah restoredauthority to the Lebanese army after overpowering March 14 in more than sixhours of fighting. Rumor had it that in a show of muscle, they were going tocross off Rafik Hariri’s name and rename the international airport afterHezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. At one point, the al-Manar TVanchor stood by Starbucks Coffee on Hamra Street and a friend watching the report muttered, "What

Christians marginalised in Lebanon crisis
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
At an upmarket jeweller’s in east Beirut’s Ashrafieh district, wealthy Lebanese Christians shop for gold and diamonds, far removed from the upheaval that has sidelined their once-dominant community. Last week’s fighting, in which at least 81 people were killed, pitted the opposition Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah against pro-government Sunni Muslim and Druze factions. But no major Christian group took part in the fighting or played a role in ending the violence. "Times change. Once we ruled militarily, and now it is Hezbollah," said 80-year-old George Aoun. Unlike the rest of the Arab World, Christians have traditionally been leading players in Lebanon. At an estimated one-third of the population, they far outweigh the proportion of Christians in any other Arab country. But the Christians became divided over loyalties to rival leaders, leaving them marginalised during the latest crisis.

Iraq government accused of neglecting IDPs
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
BAGHDAD - The problem of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries is likely to grow into a regional and international problem because the government appears to have no clear policy to tackle it, a member of parliament (MP) said on 12 May. "The government’s obvious inability to solve the problem of IDPs and refugees could lead to serious regional and international problems, as there is no clear and comprehensive policy to get them back into their homes," MP Abdul-Khaliq Zankana, head of parliament’s Displacement and Migration Committee, said. "These problems will hit Iraqi security and society. The absence of support and appropriate solutions will leave them easy prey to militias and armed gangs inside Iraq and [make them into] possible recruits to intelligence services outside Iraq," Zankana said.

Baghdad morgue is final stop in search for the missing
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
BAGHDAD - Dozens of Iraqis gather in a dimly lit room to scan hundreds of pictures on computer screens -- disfigured images of burnt faces, blown up body parts. All are looking for that one identification mark that could help them recognise whether the picture displayed on the computer screen is of their missing relative for whom many have been searching for months. "He is not among them," said Fadhila Bustan as she left the room on the ground floor of Baghdad’s main morgue. Bustan, 48, is searching for her 27-year-old son who disappeared last December. On that day, Mustafa Talib Bustan, a married man with two children, drove off to work waving to his mother, his wife Zainab and the children. "That was the last we saw of him. He never came back," said Bustan, dressed in a black hijab, a traditional Arabic robe worn by women.

Baghdad’s Sadr City conditions worsen
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
Living conditions in Sadr City, already one of Baghdad’s most impoverished slums, have deteriorated sharply following weeks of fighting between Shiite militiamen and United States-backed Iraqi troops that has killed hundreds, according to Iraqi lawmakers. “The situation has deteriorated significantly because most of the services have been stopped,” said Aliyah Nassif Jassim, a member of parliament from the Iraqia bloc, who recently visited the district as part of a parliamentary delegation. “Many civilian homes have been destroyed as a result of the air strikes and the military operations. ” A fragile four-day ceasefire agreement between radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the Iraqi government signed on May 12 has reduced but not halted fighting in the area, a Shiite neighbourhood run by Sadr militiamen.

US soldier refuses to serve in ’illegal Iraq war’
Middle East Online 5/16/2008
Matthis Chiroux is the kind of young American US military recruiters love. "I was from a poor, white family from the south, and I did badly in school," the now 24-year-old said. "I was ’filet mignon’ for recruiters. They started phoning me when I was in 10th grade," or around 16 years old, he added. Chiroux joined the US army straight out of high school nearly six years ago, and worked his way up from private to sergeant. He served in Afghanistan, Germany, Japan, and the Philippines and was due to be deployed next month in Iraq. On Thursday, he refused to go, saying he considers Iraq an illegal war. "I stand before you today with the strength and clarity and resolve to declare to the military, my government and the world that this soldier will not be deploying to Iraq," Chiroux said in the sun-filled rotunda of a congressional building in Washington.

Bush offers Saudis nuclear power in exchange for more oil
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/16/2008
U. S. President George W. Bush, visiting the Saudi capital on Friday, hoped to formalize new agreements that would give the relationship between the two countries a boost. Among them was an agreement for the U. S. to assist the kingdom in developing civilian nuclear power. Another agreement involves U. S. promises to help protect any Saudi nuclear infrastructure with training, the exchange of experts and other support services as needed. Hadley said it would not involve U. S. troops. But the rising price of oil commanded attention. Saudi Arabia’s leaders made clear they see no reason to increase oil production until customers demand it, apparently rebuffing Bush amid soaring U. S. gasoline prices. It was Bush’s second personal appeal this year to King Abdullah, head of the monarchy that rules this desert kingdom that is a longtime prime U.

Bush, McCain paint neocon dreams for Middle East
Jim Lobe, Daily Star 5/17/2008
Inter Press Service - WASHINGTON: In separate speeches delivered an ocean apart, the two standard-bearers of the Republican Party on Thursday offered rosy visions of a future designed to gladden the hearts of Israel-centered neoconservatives without offering any details about how their dreams will be achieved. In an address marking the 60th anniversary of Israel’s founding on top of Palestinian land before the Knesset in Occupied Jerusalem, President George W. Bush predicted that, 60 years from now, the Jewish state will coexist with a Palestinian homeland in a democratic Middle East where "Al-Qaeda and Hizbullah and Hamas will be defeated. "The president who led the US to war with Iraq also opined, "Iran and Syria will be peaceful nations, with today’s oppression a distant memory." "From Cairo to Riyadh to Baghdad and Beirut, people will live in free and independent societies,. . .


Siege hits Palestinians before they are born
Mohammed Omer, Electronic Intifada 5/15/2008
      GAZA CITY, 14 May (IPS) - The Israeli siege of Gaza that has restricted access to food, water and medicine is now beginning to hit unborn children and newborn babies.
     "Many babies are born suffering from anaemia that they have inherited from their mothers," Dr Salah al-Rantisi, head of the women’s health department at the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza told IPS. And the mothers are becoming anemic because they do not now get enough nutrition through pregnancy.
     That in turn happens because the Israeli blockade has choked the supply of food and medicines.
     Dr. al-Rantisi also heads the women’s health unit at Nasser hospital, where about 30 to 40 children are born every day. Many suffer from anemia, he says.
     Anwaar Abu Daqqa, 30, has lost three babies prematurely. The fetuses were malformed as a result of lack of nutrition and medicine for the mother, Dr. al-Rantisi said. And in the last case she reached hospital late because she could not find transport.
     "Premature babies born dangerously underweight is a daily and increasing phenomenon in Gaza’s hospitals," he says.

Sixty terrible years

Salama A Salama, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      While Israel celebrated 60 years since its creation, rolling out the red carpet for international dignitaries -- the likes of Bush, Sarkozy and Merkel -- who come to show support, the Palestinians were mulling over the memory of their loss, some of them now living in darkness after Israel cut off their fuel supply. Meanwhile, Arab countries were busy with the usual squabbles, their scene from Iraq to Lebanon and from Sudan to Yemen being one of bloodshed and despair.
     Over the past few decades, Israel grew bigger, carving off nearly 80 per cent of Palestinian land, along with the Golan. Having acquired nuclear arms as well as the latest defence and offence systems, Israel bullied the Arabs non-stop, while getting the world to equate resistance with terror -- a view now shared by many Arab countries.
     I am not interested in the success story of Israel. Suffice it to say that its success has been the outcome of collective efforts in which major countries, especially the US, played a prominent role. What interests me is to gauge the extent of change that happened in Egypt and the Arab world as a result of Israel’s creation. Once Israel, a foreign and cancerous body, was implanted in the region, a new dynamic emerged, one that exhausted the Arabs and stunted their political, social and economic growth.

History lessons

Hassan Nafaa, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      If the six decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict should have taught us anything it is surely that it is time to think out of the box, writes The Nakba -- the war of 1948 and the founding of Israel -- may have occurred 60 years ago but the Zionist project is much older. It began over 110 years ago and it hasn’t finished yet. In other words, the Zionists started plotting and planning long before the Arabs were aware of their designs. By the time the Arabs did catch on the Zionists were better equipped for the clash that they had anticipated and, indeed, worked to bring about. It was only natural, therefore, that they beat us, seized our land and drove out our people.
     While we succumbed to depression and loss of confidence, their victory fed Zionist self-confidence and their determination to continue towards the realisation of a project the true aims and objectives of which we had not even begun to fathom. Every time another clash erupted, as was bound to happen, mostly at their instigation, we would be surprised afresh by the ferocity of their aggression. Then we changed tack and made peaceful overtures. Whether it was to ward off their wrath or devote ourselves to reconstruction and development is immaterial since they refused to believe us. Claiming they needed to put to rest any doubts about our intentions they insisted upon "confidence-building measures" beneath which rubric their demands increased and became more unreasonable by the day. Instead of digging in our heels and reproaching them for failing to honour mutually binding treaties and understandings we acted as though we had no alternative but to cave in to their demands. Whether this was out of fear of them or because of a desire to win the approval of their allies it gave them the opportunity to twist our arms and rub our powerlessness in our faces. Now here we are, more than a third of a century since we have begun to try to live peacefully with Israel, so in thrall to our fear of Zionist cunning that even our dreams of the future have been turned into nightmares.

The Soviet hand in Israel

Rumy Hasan, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      While Balfour is usually blamed for the break up of Palestine, it was the Soviets that ensured the creation of Israel.
     As we approach the 60th anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel -- or the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (catastrophe) for the Palestinians -- one element in this conflict-ridden story that seems to be neglected is the role that the Soviet Union played.
     Western critics of Israel almost invariably think that the partition of Palestine was a product of the West, above all of the old imperial power, Britain, which held "mandate" Palestine, and the US, the dominant force after World War II. Given all the support that these two countries have given to Israel over the past six decades, and continue to give, this is perhaps an understandable assumption. Importantly, however, it is not a full, and therefore true, representation of what actually happened.
     Crucially, there are two curious, unexpected, twists to the tale concerning the superpower states that had just embarked upon their Cold War rivalry, the US and USSR. All those interested in this intriguing and surprising history would be rewarded in reading an enlightening paper by French historian Laurent Rucker, who utilises voluminous primary research from Soviet archives ("Moscow’s surprise: The Soviet-Israeli Alliance of 1947-1949", Woodrow Wilson Centre for International Scholars, Working Paper 46), the main points of which I elaborate upon, whilst drawing my own conclusions.

Remembering the Nakba, 60 years later

Report, PCHR, Electronic Intifada 5/15/2008
      "I am not sure what year I was born. But it was around 78 years ago, in Palestine." Handuma Rashid Najja Wishah sits on the patio overlooking her large garden, recalling the turbulent story of her long life. "I am a Palestinian from the village of Beit Affa" she says, tucking her long white scarf under her chin. "It was a beautiful village and we had a good life there. There was a small Jewish settlement nearby, called Negba, and we had a good relationship with the Jews. Whenever we had weddings, we would invite them to come and celebrate, and we women all used to dance dabka (Palestinian traditional dance) together. The muktar (chief) of the settlement, was called Michael. He used to arrive at the weddings with a gift, like a goat, and we would cook it and share the meat between us."
     Beit Affa was a village of around 500 people in southern Palestine, 29 kilometers northeast of the Gaza Strip. Most of the villagers were farmers, but even those who did not solely earn their living from farming had, says Handuma, "an intimate relationship with the land." Like many of the local women, Handuma married young and stayed in her village. But in 1948, after the end of the British Mandate in Palestine and the declaration of the new State of Israel on Palestinian land, mass violence erupted. "The Zionists refused the division of the land into two states, and the massacres started" she says. "The first massacre was in Deir Yassin, where they slaughtered more than a hundred people."...

Today marks 60 years of Al Nakba: growing up a refugee

Kristen Ess, Palestine News Network 5/15/2008
      In Deheisha Refugee Camp, 21 year old Ghassan Hamash is talking about returning to his village, with his grandmother and the key to their home. He said the soldiers let them pass because he was small and they were with a television crew from Al Jazeera. They asked his grandmother, "Where do you want to go? You want to look at your land?
     Ghassan says, "They let her pass to make fun of her, not so that she could be relaxed or breathe. It was so she could go and see that there was nothing she could do about her land, cry, and return to her camp. That was the point of the soldiers."
     Over 400 villages were destroyed by the invading gangs and armies in 1948 - 51, with a another couple of hundred emptied and resettled with Jews, says Dr. Nazmi of the Riwaq Center whose project is to preserve the cultural heritage of Palestine. Ghassan talks about his village....

Crossing the Line interviews author Phyllis Bennis

Podcast, Electronic Intifada 5/15/2008
      This week on Crossing The Line: Former US President Jimmy Carter met with the political head of Hamas in Syria while insisting that Hamas must be included in any future Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The visit has drawn criticism from both the US and Israel which until now have refused to take part in any official negotiations with the Hamas government. What does Carter’s meeting with Hamas mean? Is it as "historic" as some are calling it? Host Naji Ali speaks with author on Middle East issues, Phyllis Bennis about Carter’s controversial visit to the Middle East.
     Next, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, has suspended food shipments into the Gaza Strip as a result of fuel shortages brought on by the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza since June 2007. Ali speaks with UNRWA spokesperson in Gaza, Adn Abu-Hasna about the impact of the fuel shortages and aid to the people in Gaza.
     Last in the program, incarcerated Palestinian political prisoner Dr. Sami Al-Arian ends his 57-day hunger strike that he began to protest continued harrassment and abuse of power by the US Justice Department. Ali speaks with Dr. Al-Arian’s daughter, Laila, about his health and his family’s struggle to be reunited with their father.

There is no alternative to the right of return

Statement, National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba at 60, Electronic Intifada 5/15/2008
      To the People of Palestine, Whether you live within the "Green Line," in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, or in exile, you shall return, there is no doubt that you shall return.
     Today the skies will echo as you state with one united voice: "There can be no alternative to our return," all sounds will melt away as your voice rises to say "There can be no peace without our return to our original lands and homes."
     You who shall return, raise your voices and say "This is our land, this sky is our sky, this rock, tree, moon, and sea are our country, it will always be our Palestine."
     You who shall return, 60 years ago on this day was our Nakba, and today after 60 years we confirm, that we have never let the banner of return fall to the ground, and that the hour of return to our original homes and lands has come. Today we do not commemorate so we can weep over what was lost, we come together to march forward; to march home.

Clinton’s ‘Final Solution’ to the Persian Problem

Robert Weitzel, Middle East Online 5/14/2008
      “To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blindsided by it . . . An evil unchecked is the prelude to genocide.” - Dr. Mordechai: The Ezekiel Option.
     There are over 70 million human beings living in Iran, 17.5 million of whom are under the age of fifteen. Hillary Clinton vowed to attack Iran and “totally obliterate” the majority of the Persian race in a furnace of primordial fire should the Iranian government attack Israel with nuclear weapons, which they do not now possess or are likely to for some time—if ever.
     Hillary’s “final solution” to the Persian problem bests Adolf Hitler by a magnitude of ten.
     Missing in Clinton’s campaign trail pandering to America’s pro-Israel lobbies and the mushrooming evangelical Christian Zionist movement is the “inconvenient truth” that Israel has the most modern and most deadly army in the Middle East thanks to an annual $3.5 billion in American aid—one third of the US aid budget.

No going back

Lucy Fielder, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Druze allegations and Hizbullah actions have shattered the tenuous calm
     "Lebanon in the dragon’s mouth", reads the headline of pro- opposition Al-Akhbar, the morning after west Beirut fell to Hizbullah and its allies. A week after a dramatic escalation between the government and Hizbullah plunged the country into its worst violence since the civil war, the landscape had been transformed, reports Lucy Fielder Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora’s government, forced to back down on the attempted clampdown on Hizbullah’s weapons, which prompted the crisis, looked weak and besieged in its Serail on the hill, with the usual chorus of Western support ringing hollow.
     Hizbullah was in indisputable control of Lebanon, having swept western Beirut with Shia ally Amal, subduing districts loyal to Sunni parliamentary majority leader Saad Al-Hariri and seizing strategic locations in Druze chieftain Walid Jumblatt’s Shouf mountain stronghold.

Skirting the precipice

Ayman El-Amir, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Despite the sad sight of casualties, recent events in Lebanon may have sent tremors strong enough to break the current political deadlock.
     Last week, Lebanon marched briskly to the brink of civil war and then stepped back. The powerless government of Prime Minister Fouad Al-Siniora, backed by its Western allies and Arab moderates, attempted to de-claw the multi-sectarian coalition of Hizbullah but the coalition pushed back. It was more than a test of wills; rather a grim reminder of the 15-year long civil war of 1975-1990, of which no one wanted a replay. At the cost of several dozen victims in various sections of Beirut and Tripoli, Mount Lebanon and Al-Shoaf, the skirmishes may provide a breakthrough in the political stalemate that has gripped Lebanon for almost a year now. The Lebanese army is poised to play the role of powerbroker.
     It would seem that the crisis began when pro-West Druze leader Walid Jumblatt tipped off the Siniora government about a private fixed-line telecommunications network run by Hizbullah as part of its military defence system. Security cameras were also set up outside the airport to monitor traffic in a secure landing and take-off area of the airport. In addition, it was pointed out that the director of Beirut International Airport security, Wafik Shukair, was a Shia. The telecommunications network was in place before the Israeli offensive on Lebanon in July-August 2006. It played a key role in throwing back the invasion and has since become instrumental to the military capacity of Hizbullah. The impotent Siniora government suddenly "discovered" the existence of the network, the prime minister considered it a threat to state security and even went as far as stating that "Lebanon is an occupied country" by the same Hizbullah that defended Lebanon against the Israeli invasion two years ago.

Twilight Zone / Home from the sea

Gideon Levy, Ha’aretz 5/15/2008
      It’s impossible to convey his heavy Southern accent on paper. "So help me God, man" appears in almost every sentence. He stands in the vegetable garden in his home, with the Hebron Hills in the background, wearing a wide-brimmed white hat and Ray-Ban sunglasses, planting olive trees. When he began to speak, I rubbed my eyes in amazement: Alabama in the South Hebron Hills? America in Palestine?
     In the remote village of Tarrameh, not far from the Adurayim army base, lives a U.S. citizen, a former sailor and diver, an electrical engineer who fought in Vietnam and whose son is serving in the U.S. Marines. His arms are tattooed all over and he lost three fingers on his left hand under circumstances he is not willing to reveal. Rumor has it that he lost them in Vietnam, but he is not willing to talk about Vietnam.
     Sayyal Ghanam left this village at the age of 12, after his parents died. He hitchhiked on trucks for three days to reach Aqaba and later convinced a Greek ship captain to allow him to join his crew. He was at sea for many years - a Palestinian sailor, who when he reached dry land worked as a shipbuilder in the shipyards of the U.S. Navy in Mobile, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for decades, was married to two American women in succession and had three American children. About six years ago, he decided to return to his native village and build himself a house.

Because it is our right

Anayat Durrani, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/15/2008
      Sixty years on
     against the occupiers wishes
     We Exist
     sons and daughters
     of Ramleh, Haifa, Nasira
     Jimzu, Imwas, Deir Yassin
     We Remember
     the villages destroyed
     towns stripped of Arab names
     manufactured, renamed, disguised
     our homes filled with Palestinian memories
     painted over with foreign colors
     a bridal shop in Ramleh
     selling strangers their happy dreams
     in my house on our land
     the house great grandfather Ali built
     We Continue...