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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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18 May 2008

Army Ready for Gaza Assault After Rocket Attack: Israel
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
Israel warned on Thursday that its forces were prepared to launch a major military operation in the Gaza Strip after a rocket attack that wounded at least 14 people while US President George W. Bush was in Israel. ‘The Israeli army has never been this ready to launch a large-scale operation in Gaza,’ said Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a member of Israel’s security cabinet. ‘It may be that we have no choice but to destroy all the nests of terror. Apparently we’ll have no choice,’ he told public radio. Two small Palestinian militant groups claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s rocket attack on a shopping mall in southern Israel, which came as Bush held talks in Jerusalem. Israel says Hamas bears ultimate responsibility for such attacks because the Islamist movement has been in control of Gaza since ousting forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in June.

Israelis exume Palestinian graves in Yaffa, demolishing 500 buildings
Fadi Yacoub, Palestine News Network 5/17/2008
PNN -- The Palestinian town of Jaffa on the coast inside Israeli boundaries is in serious trouble. The Municipality of Tel Aviv announced it would evict residents and destroy 500 Palestinian buildings. Bulldozing activities have also begun on what are now the ruins of graves. Corpses are being exhumed from Arab cemeteries, not just in Jaffa, but also in Jerusalem. The Israeli administration is working its policy of ethnic cleansing; there is no other way to put it. The cultural heritage of Palestine is being destroyed, along with the lives of the native inhabitants. Instead of revitalizing the buildings, they are destroying them to make way for high rises and Jewish Israeli homes, as Dr. Nazmi of the Riwaq Center has told a PNN editor. Refat Turk, a Palestinian member of the Tel Aviv Board, said, "There is a cemetery for Muslims and one is 80 acres wide, filled with

Two sick patients, one infant and one adult, die due to ongoing siege on Gaza
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/17/2008
Rami Abdo, spokesperson of the Popular Committee Against the Siege, reported on Saturday that an eight-month old infant and a 45-year old man died due to the ongoing siege in Gaza after suffering from serious illnesses and were not allowed to leave the coastal region for medical treatment in abroad. Several patients died in Gaza last week. Abdo stated that Fahidh Tawafeen, 8 months old, suffered from leukemia and her family filed an appeal to the Israeli Authorities more than twenty days ago to allow them transfer her to a hospital outside the Gaza Strip but received no response and the child died at the Al Aqsa Hospital in the central Gaza Strip. Also, medical sources reported on Saturday morning that Hosny Sobhy Salah, 45, died of a heart condition at a Gaza hospital. The siege on Gaza emptied its hospital from medical equipment and even medications, and Salah had no more medication available.

Bush castigated by leading Palestinian
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 5/17/2008
President George Bush yesterday tried to reassure sceptical Arab leaders that by the end of the year he wanted a Palestinian state "defined", after being criticised for missing an opportunity to highlight the matter when he lavished praise on Israel last week. Speaking before Mr Bush met the President of Palestine, Mahmoud Abbas, in Sharm el-Sheikh, a leading Palestinian negotiator and moderate, Saeb Erekat, said: "He should have told the Israelis no one can be free at the expense of others. He missed this opportunity and we are disappointed. "The US President, fresh from a trip to Saudi Arabia in which he failed to persuade King Abdullah to raise oil production by more than a token 300,000 barrels a day to ease US petrol prices, insisted that "we’ll work hard" to secure an outline agreement on a future Palestinian state by the end of his presidency.

Ex-detainee: Palestinian women are living in tragic conditions in Israeli jails
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The newly-released prisoner Samar Subeih revealed that the imprisoned women in Israeli jails are living in heartbreaking living, health and psychological conditions, adding that the Israeli jailers put the Palestinian women in small humid cells underground that are full of cockroaches and rats. In an interview with the Palestinian center for the defense of prisoners, Subeih explained that the cells inside the Ramle prison are dark and the sunbeams cannot find their way to prisoners, adding that the chambers which the imprisoned women along with children are locked in were actually stables for horses and are unfit for human living. The ex-detainee said that the women prisoners are subjected to the Israeli policy of isolation for months on end, pointing out that one of the most workable ways to force the Israeli prison administration to end prisoners’ isolation is hunger strike.

Settlers attack Asira al Qibliya
International Solidarity Movement 5/17/2008
Nablus Region - Photos - The village of Asira al Qibliya again came under attack by settlers from the nearby illegal, Israeli settlement of Yitzhar on Friday 16h May. Residents of the village, located 3km south of Nablus, report that at approximately 2pm on Friday, one adultIsraeli settler entered the lands of the village, and began throwing stones at the houses nearest the top of Mount Salman, where the illegal settlement is located. After fifteen minutes, he was reportedly joined by another 30 adult settlers, some armed with M16 machine guns and handguns, all throwing stones at the villagers’ houses. When approximately ten of the villagers went to confront the settlers, up to 15 Israeli military jeeps arrived and began to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at the villagers. Residents of the village report that the Israeli soldiers stood by as the settlers threw rocks and tried to. . .

Israeli forces withdraw from southern Gaza, leaving farms destroyed
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Israeli forces withdrew from the Al-Shoukah area east of the city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, bring to a close an incursion that began at dawn. Witnesses said Israeli tanks left behind a swath of destroyed farmland and other property. Eight dunams (one dunam is 1000 square meters) of land belonging to farmer Yasser Jaber, and the largest chicken farm in the Rafah area were destroyed. Israeli troops siezed three Palestinians in the attack. Five others were detained and released later in the day. Palestinian sources said that Israeli forces drove 500 into the Gaza Strip and are combing the area between the Kerem Shalom crossing point and Sufa crossing point. Muawiya Hassanain, the director of the ambulance and emergency department in the Palestinian Health Ministry, said that no injuries were reported in connection with the incursion.

Poultry farms’ losses due to IOF destruction estimated at $1.5 million
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
RAFAH, (PIC)-- The agriculture ministry in the PA caretaker government in Gaza on Sunday said that the poultry breeding farms in Shoka area, Rafah district, south of the Strip, have lost more than 1. 5 million dollars due to the Israeli occupation forces’ destruction streak. The ministry in a statement said that ten poultry farms were destroyed on Saturday in Shoka, east of Rafah, at the hands of IOF troops within a few hours. It pointed out that the losses were coupled with vast bulldozing of cultivated lands planted with citrus, olive and almond trees in addition to other crops. The IOF targeting of poultry farms was meant to deprive the Gaza populace from "white meat" after it deprived them of "red meat" when it closed down all Gaza crossings almost a year ago, the ministry pointed out. The ministry expressed dismay at the Arab and international silence towards the Israeli. . .

Weekend sees more rocket fire from Gaza
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
Qassam rockets and mortars from the Gaza Strip continued to strike communities bordering the costal territory over the weekend, and the Israel Defense Forces remained on high alert in the area. No injuries were reported as a result of the Palestinian bombardment. Early Friday morning, the Israel Air Force attacked a group of armed Palestinians in the northern Gaza Strip a short while after they fired mortars at Israel. An IAF aircraft fired a missile at the gunmen and struck them, the Israel Defense Forces reported. Yesterday, an IDF patrol arrested a young Palestinian who had crossed the separation fence near Na’alin. A search revealed that he was armed with a knife, and he was taken for questioning. Also yesterday, Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told Israel Radio that Hamas’ military arsenal is almost on par with that of a sovereign state and said that a military campaign against Hamas could go on for years.

Two youth kidnapped near Bethlehem
IMEMC News, International Middle East Media Center News 5/17/2008
Palestinian sources in Bethlehem city reported on Saturday that Israeli soldiers invaded the town of Tiqua’, east of the city, broke into several homes and clashed with dozens of youth before kidnapping two. The sources stated that at least five military vehicles invaded the town and soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets and gas bombs at dozens of youth who hurled stones and empty bottles at the invading forces. Soldiers also broke into and searched dozens of homes especially homes located close to a main road used by Palestinians residents and Israeli settlers. Soldiers detained several youth and struck them with batons before kidnapping two of them and taking them to an unknown destination.

Israeli army seizes four teenagers accused of attacking settlement
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – The Israeli military invaded the West Bank village of Qaryut, south of Nablus, on Friday afternoon, seizing four young Palestinians. The head of the village council, Abed An-Nasser Badawi, told Ma’an that the Israeli army fired sound grenades and deployed teargas in residential areas of the village. Badawi identified the arrestees: 16- year old Mahmoud Nafez al Bum, 15-year-old Rabee’ Jaser Al-Bum, 17-year-old Mu’men ash Sheikh Musa, 16-year-old Mohammad Usama. The Israeli army accused the teenagers of setting fire in a watchtower and a number of electric poles in the illegal Israeli settlement of Alielah. No injuries were reported. [end]

Israeli forces withdraw from southern Gaza after kidnapping three civilians
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/17/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army left the city of Rafah located in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday midday. Witnesses said that Israeli tanks and bulldozers invaded Al-Shouka area east of Rafah today at dawn. They added that Israeli bulldozers uprooted vast areas of farmlands, and destroyed property in the area. Local sources stated that five Palestinians were kidnapped by the invading forces, two were released later on and three were taken to an unknown location. Medical sources reported no injures in the attack. Palestinian resistance groups said that their fighters clashed with the invading forces, both sides reported no injures. [end]

Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, Al-Quds Brigades shell Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the armed wing of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), claimed responsibility for launching a homemade projectile at Sderot, an Israeli town that borders the Gaza Strip. The brigades said in a statement that the shelling was in response to Israeli massacres of Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Separately, the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for launching two projectiles at Sderot. [end]

Palestinian fighters shell Sufa crossing
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - The Abu Ali Mustafa and Ahmad Abu Reesh Brigades, claimed joint responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at the Sufa border crossing in the Gaza Strip on Saturday. Both brigades claimed responsibility for multiple attacks on Israeli targets east of the Gaza airport. They affirmed in a statement that "these attacks are confirming our stance of resistance, our national principles and the continuation ofthe fight against occupation." [end]

Homes ransacked in dawn incursion in Qabatiya
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Jenin - Ma’an – Israeli forces invaded the West Bank town of Qabatiya on Saturday morning at dawn in search of members of the armed wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades. Sources in Islamic Jihad said that five Israeli armored vehicles entered the town. Israeli soldiers broke into two homes belonging to members of the Al-Quds Brigades. The troops ransacked the two houses, damaging furniture and interrogating the families of the Palestinian fighters. [end]

Hamas: Fatah forces kidnap three movement activists in the West Bank
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/17/2008
Hamas sources reported on Saturday that Palestinian security forces of President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah have arrested three supporters of Hamas in the West Bank, on Saturday at dawn. The sources added that the arrests took place in the northern West Bank city of Nablus and nearby Refugee camp of Al Ein. Meanwhile Hamas added that one of its supporters was detained and interrogated by the Fatah forces in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem on Friday at night. [end]

Three Hamas supporters ’arrested’ in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Nablus – Ma’an - The Hamas movement said that the Palestinian security forces arrested three of its supporters in the West Bank on Friday night. Hamas said that the security forces arrested Mahmoud Al-Masri from Al-Ein refugee camp near the city of Nablus, Tha’erMansur, also from Nablus. In Tulkarem, the security forces detained Faris Abed Rabu after summoning him for interrogation, Hamas claimed. [end]

Israeli court reads indictment against Sheikh Salah and four of his colleagues
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli magistrate’s court in the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948 read Sunday the fabricated indictment against Sheikh Raed Salah, the head of the Islamic Movement, and four others regarding the file of Bab Al-Magharba gate within a plan to prosecute the Islamic figures who defend the Aqsa Mosque and the Islamic holy sites against Zionist schemes to destroy them. The indictment was filed in February 2007 against a backdrop of the Israeli assault on the Bab Al-Magharba in occupied Jerusalem and included charges of allegedly attacking Israeli policemen and sparking riots. The defense lawyer stated that the indictment is political and aimed to prevent Sheikh Salah and his colleagues from protecting the Aqsa Mosque against the real Israeli threats and to neutralize all Palestinian figures who are influential in the issue of the Aqsa Mosque; thus, the IOA can pass freely its destructive project at the Bab Al-Magharba.

VIDEO - Counterpunch: Paramilitary police attackAl-Nakba march
Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, International Solidarity Movement 5/17/2008
It has been a week of adulation from world leaders, ostentatious displays of military prowess, and street parties. Heads of state have rubbed shoulders with celebrities to pay homage to the Jewish state on its 60th birthday, while a million Israelis reportedly headed off to the country’s forests to enjoy the national pastime: a barbecue. But this year’s Independence Day festivities have concealed as much as they have revealed. The images of joy and celebration seen by the world have failed to acknowledge the reality of a deeply divided Israel, shared by two peoples with conflicting memories and claims to the land. They have also served to shield from view the fact that the Palestinians’ dispossession is continuing in both the occupied territories and inside Israel itself. Far from being a historical event, Israel’s “independence” — and the ever greater toll it is inflicting on the Palestinian people — is very much a live issue. -- See also: Counterpunch article

Citizens protest destruction of Muslim cemetery
Anat Shalev, YNetNews 5/17/2008
Jaffa’s Arab residents hang posters protesting destruction of Muslim cemetery after sale of land to private hands. Councilman Turk: Residents must defend holy sites - Posters bearing the slogan ’Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? ’ above a praying skeleton were hung throughout Jaffa during the weekend. The posters were put up in protest against the decision to destroy a Muslim cemetery in Jaffa’s Tel-Kabir neighborhood and build a commercial center in its stead. The residents’ anger is mostly directed at the Board of Trustees, the organization they had trusted to support them in their property battle. A legal debate over the property has been going on for 35 years, ever since the board approved the sale of the cemetery’s land to a private party. Recently the High Court determined that the sale was legal, and demanded that the Waqf transfer the graves to another location.

Palestinians beaten, sexually humiliated by Israeli captors, ex-prisoners say
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Beatings and sexual humiliation are among the torments suffered by Palestinian detainees at an Israeli prison located near the West Bank city of Ramallah, new testimony from prisoners indicates. Twenty-one-year-old Ramallah resident Sultan Abdullah Sulieman was recently released from the Ofer Prison, officially known as Incarceration Facility 386. In interviews with lawyers from the Palestinian Prisoners Society, he said that he spent forty days in solitary confinement in the facility. Sulieman said that during one interrogation session, Israeli soldiers brought an "Iraqi girl" called "Nora" into the room. "Nora" danced "seductively" in front of Suleiman, moving close to him before moving away, he said. Suleiman said that the Israeli soldiers beat him on his feet and legs, at one time making him unable to walk for two weeks.

Haaretz: Plan puts shul in Arab part of Jerusalem
Akiva Eldar, International Solidarity Movement 5/17/2008
The Jerusalem municipality has begun the process of approving a plan for a new housing complex, including a synagogue, in the heart of the Arab neighborhood of Silwan south of the Old City. The plan, submitted by the right-wing Elad association, includes 10 apartments, kindergarten classrooms, a library and underground parking for 100 cars. Documents show the land the complex is to be built on belongs to the Israel Lands Administration (ILA); however, the ILA said it was unaware of the plan. The municipal spokesman said Elad had leased the land, and therefore the plan does not require ILA approval. A municipal document dated January 21, 2008 notes that all necessary recommendations had been received in the planning file. The area slated for the new project is located 200 meters from the Old. . . -- See also: Ha''aretz article

Closure of West Bank to be lifted
Palestine News Network 5/17/2008
PNN -- The closure of all Palestinian lands within the West Bank is expected to be lifted this evening. Movement should ease up a bit. Israeli Army Radio quoted Israeli military officials Saturday afternoon as saying that Israeli closures imposed on the West Bank 11 days ago have come to an end. The closures began 11 days ago due to the Israeli Holocaust Day, the day of their founding, which is also the Palestinian Nakba, and the visit by US President George Bush for the Israeli celebrations.

Former defense officials call for indirect talks with Hamas
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
Former senior defense and security officials have called on the government to conduct indirect negotiations with Hamas on a long-term cease-fire. Among the signatories of the letter, whose content was made public Friday on Channel 2, were former Mossad head Ephraim Halevi; former chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak; Brigadier General (res. ) Shmuel Zakai, former commander of Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip; and MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz), among the architects of the Oslo accords and the Geneva Initiative. Copies of the letter were sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. The letter recommends against a large-scale military operation in Gaza, which the signatories say will end with a cease-fire in any case, but after heavy losses on both sides. "Recognizing that ending the Hamas regime in Gaza is not a realistic goal. . .

Livni, Barak to discuss Shalit deal with Mubarak
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/17/2008
Jerusalem officials lower expectations as foreign affairs minister, defense minister head to Sharm el-Sheikh to meet with Egyptian president. Cairo efforts to while Cairo continuestries to gain support for proposed truce deal. Opposition leader Netanyahu catches a ride on Livni’s charter plane, will meet with IAEA chief - Foreign Affairs Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak will depart early Sunday morning to join Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss the proposed truce between Israel and the Palestinian factions as well as the ongoing efforts to secure the release of kidnapped soldier GiladOpposition Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu will catch a ride on Livni’s charter plane to save costs and, likewise, is also scheduled to meet with the Egyptian president. Netanyahu is also expected to meet with the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei.

Hamas to Send Delegation to Egypt for Gaza Truce Talks
Agence France Presse, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
The Palestinian Hamas movement will send a delegation to Egypt to discuss a proposed truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip where the Islamists seized power nearly a year ago, a spokesman said on Friday." Hamas will send a delegation to Egypt on Monday to discuss a period of calm in Gaza," Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha told journalists, adding that the delegation would discuss conditions set by Israel. Egypt has been brokering the negotiations and on Monday its intelligence chief Omar Suleiman presented Israeli officials with truce proposals that had already been approved by 12 armed Palestinian factions, including Hamas. Egypt has been acting as mediator because Israel refuses to negotiate directly with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organisation. Hamas, which seized control of the Gaza Strip in June last year, hopes that in exchange for halting rocket attacks on southern Israel, the Israelis will lift their crippling blockade of the impoverished territory.

Suleiman: Major IDF op expected if Shalit isn’t released
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/17/2008
Egyptian intelligence chief meets with deputy Hamas politburo chief in Cairo, demands movement relax its conditions in terms of prisoner swap deal. Otherwise, he says, Israel will launch wide-scale offensive against Palestinian factions in Gaza - Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has warned deputy Hamas politburo chief Moussa Abu Marzouk that if kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit is not released Israel will launch a major offensive in Gaza, the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reported Saturday, quoting Palestinian sources. According to the sources, Suleiman said that the Israel Defense Forces would carry out severe attacks against the Hamas movement and the other Palestinian factions in the Strip, should they refuse to sign a prisoner exchange agreement, which would include the release of the abducted Israeli serviceman. The newspaper also reported that Hamas is inclined to relax its conditions in order to complete the deal, but objects to the prisoner lists submitted by Israel.

Haneyya calls on Egypt to open Rafah crossing if Israel refuses calm
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Ismail Haneyya, the premier of the PA caretaker government, reiterated Sunday that his government is ready to cooperate with all the initiatives to stop the Israeli aggression and to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, calling on Egypt to open the Rafah border crossing if Israel refused the truce proposal, which Hamas approved. In a televised speech on the 60th anniversary of the Nakba, Haneyya said if the Israeli occupation rejected the calm, then Egypt is invited to open the Rafah crossing and to break the siege because Egypt is not a broker, but an ally and supporter for the Palestinian people and their inalienable rights. The premier underlined that many European envoys filed reports with the EU stating that the Rafah crossing met the required conditions and is ready to operate after they visited Gaza during the last two days and inspected the crossing.

Olmert talks about decisive action against Gaza; Hamas unshaken
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM,  (PIC)-- Prime minister of the Israeli occupation government Ehud Olmert has hinted on Sunday that he was mulling taking a decisive decision against Hamas Movement in the Gaza Strip in a bid to stop Palestinian retaliation to IOF troops’ crimes. Palestinian resistance factions have said they were able to develop their home-made primitive weapons and succeeded in making them more effective as evident with the latest missile attack on the 1948-occupied Ashkilon city, in which 15 Israelis were reportedly wounded. "It is enough to say that we are of full conviction that situation in the south must not continue", Olmert was quoted as saying at the start of his cabinet meeting Sunday. He also added that the zero hour for a decisive action against Gaza was approaching, noting that his government was "pondering the options on how to administer matters in Gaza Strip very soon".

Sderot and Shalit, hostages together
Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
"We are holding indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas," was the way Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s chief of intelligence, described his mission to Israel. Egypt, according to Suleiman, is just a mediator on a neutral mission of goodwill. The reality is different. Egypt needs the lull no less than Israel or Hamas. Egypt, like Hamas, needs the Rafah crossing open no less than Israel needs, at least for a while, the threat to Sderot and Ashkelon lifted. The proposed tahadiyeh [truce] Israel has been offered is not coming from Hamas alone, but is a joint Egyptian-Hamas offer - arguably more from Egypt than from Hamas. According to the public statements of the Hamas spokesmen, Egypt has given them guarantees that even if Israel rejects the proposal, Egypt will open the Rafah crossing.

Is Israel breaking its own taboo on talks with Hamas?
Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
Participants at a recent inner cabinet meeting were listening to details of the Egyptian mediation initiative between Israel and Hamas on a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip recently, when a senior minister reportedly reminded those present that Israel does not negotiate, directly or indirectly, with Hamas. Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin interrupted, saying there was no other way to describe the talks. A letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the details of which were revealed Friday, called for the indirect and secret talks with Hamas to be recognized. As for Israel’s greatest concerns - that Hamas will use a lull in hostilities to rearm and that Egypt’s promises to fight weapons smuggling bear no weight - the writers of the letter offered no solution.

Striking deals for Shalit, tahadiyeh
Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
The indirect negotiations Israel has been conducting with Hamas through Egyptian mediation in an effort to reach a tahadiyeh - a temporary cease-fire - in the Gaza Strip will continue this week. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will meet with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt at the Sinai resort of Sharm el-Sheikh tomorrow, where they will attend an economic conference Egypt is hosting. The talks with Mubarak are expected to focus on efforts to reach a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, and Israel’s demand that any deal also include progress in a swap that would bring about the release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned in Israel. For its part, Hamas is denying claims Egypt warned the group that unless a deal for the exchange of prisoners is forthcoming, Israel’s response will be severe.

Ex-IAF Chief: Expect thousands of rockets on Israel in future war
Haaretz Service and The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/18/2008
The Israel Air Force’s outgoing commander-in-chief has said that during a future war Israel’s home front is likely to be bombarded with thousands of missiles and rockets in the possession of Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria. Major General Eliezer Shkedi made the comments in an interview with Israel Radio which was aired Saturday. He also said that the strengthening of Syria and Hezbollah is very worrying. Hezbollah guerillas fired some 4,000 Katyusha rockets at northern Israel throughout the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Shkedi told Israel Radio that during the war, Hezbollah attempted to launch armed drones which the IAF succeeded in downing. The threat of this form of attack still exists, he said, and while its answer is complicated the air force has improved its capability of discovering and identifying unmanned aerial vehicles.

Armed Palestinian groups in Gaza prepared for large-scale Israeli attack
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Palestinian armed resistance groups said on Saturday that they are ready for any military operation Israel may launch in the Gaza Strip. The spokesperson of the Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, Abu Ubeida, said, "I think that the [Israeli] occupation is unable to carry out any large-scale ground operation, but it could shell our homes and kill people from the air." "Gaza will not receive them with roses," he added. These comments came in response to media reports that Israel is considering an escalation of attacks in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported this week that the Israeli military is considering assassinating high-profile fighters affiliated to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Palestinian leaders are also awaiting news of Israel’s response to an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire with the armed groups.

Reuters Demands Explanation from Israel for Death of Cameramen
Reuters, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
A month after journalist Fadel Shana was killed by an Israel Defense Forces tank crew in the Gaza Strip,renewed its demand on Thursday for a prompt explanation from the Israeli army of why it fired on its cameraman. Shana, a 24-year-old Palestinian, was killed on April 16 along with eight mostly teenage bystanders by darts known as flechettes that burst out of a tank shell in mid-air. Shana had been filming about 1. 5 km (a mile) from two Israeli tanks. The IDF army said it had completed an initial field investigation that had determined the soldiers had followed orders and acted appropriately. But military lawyers still had to study the case before the army could give a full account." A month has passed since Fadel Shana was killed by Israeli forces while responsibly going about his professional duties," saidMiddle East Managing Editor Mark Thompson.

Thousands of black balloons released as people commemorate the ongoing Nakba
1948 Palestine, International Solidarity Movement 5/17/2008
Ramallah Region - Photos - On Thursday 15th May, thousands of people gathered in Ramallah to mark the 60th anniversary of al-Nakba (the catastrophe) to remember the forcible expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian people from their homes in 1948. Crowds marched from refugee camps around Ramallah, converging in the centre of the city where the crowds gathered for speeches and traditional dancing. From Kalandia camp thousands of black balloons were released, along with balloons in Bethlehem and Jerusalem - one for every day of the Palestinian dispossession. While the black balloons signified the mourning of lost land and rights, attached were notes from children around Palestine stating their hopes for the future. One note simply read, " I hope to someday be able to swim in the sea." Down the road at the Kalandia checkpoint that prevents so many Palestinians from reaching Jerusalem,. . .

Al-Haq report: 60 years of Nakba - Israel’s continuing policy of forcible displacement
International Solidarity Movement 5/17/2008
Al-Haq: 15 May 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Palestinian “Nakba,” the “catastrophe” that led to the forcible displacement of more than half of the population of Historic Palestine. For 60 years, the Palestinian refugees have been denied their internationally guaranteed right to return to their homes. While the State of Israel is celebrating its independence, the fate of the Palestinian refugees and those subsequently expelled over the course of Israel’s 40 years of occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains unresolved. Click below to download/open Al-Haq´s position paper examining the rights of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons under international law, and the legal responsibilities of Israel, the United Nations and third states in regard to those rights. -- See also: Al-Haq´s position paper

MKs demand briefs on PA, Syria talks
Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
Fifteen members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee are demanding an urgent session on the discussion of core issues with the Palestinian Authority. They are demanding reports from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and chief negotiator Udi Dekel on the matter, and are demanding that Olmert report on the exchange of messages, via Turkey, with Syrian President Bashar Assad. In a letter to committee chairman MK Tzachi Hanegbi, the MKs stated that there is no suitable parliamentary oversight of Israel’s contacts with the PA and Syria. "We, 15 members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, appeal to you out of concern for the Knesset’s position as supervisor of all government activities - and out of a sense that the prime minister, unlike his predecessor, is dictating an approach that ignores the committee in everything related to foreign affairs," they wrote.

Blair: West Bank security key step to Palestinian state
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Quartet Envoy to the Middle East, has defended the ongoing peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, and the internationally-backed security redeployment in the West Bank. In an interview published in the Jerusalem Post on Friday, Blair said that the Fatah-allied Palestinian security forces are being trained to make them more effective. Most recently, hundreds of Palestinian security officers moved into the city of Jenin. Blair said he hopes that Israel will be able to rely on the Palestinian Authority’s forces to suppress attacks against Israel. "If there is not some credible change on the ground for the Palestinians, it is far harder for them to make the compromises necessary for peace," Blair said. Similarly, "if the Israelis cannot see any prospect of the Palestinians achieving. . .

Palestinians factions to Blair: The resistance is a red line no one can overstep
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian resistance factions strongly denounced Friday the recent statements of Tony Blair, the envoy of the quartet committee to the middle east, in which he stressed that the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank were designed for protecting and guarding the Israeli occupation, highlighting that the resistance is a red line that no one could overstep.  "The Palestinian security personnel currently being trained in Jordan are being prepared far more effectively than those that  failed to resist Hamas’s takeover of the Gaza Strip last June," Blair said on Thursday. Abu Obeida, the spokesman for Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, underlined that the PA leadership and its unconstitutional government in Ramallah is not loyal to Palestine and their people and works on relieving the Israeli occupation of a heavy burden represented in the Palestinian resistance.

PRC spokesperson: major assault on Gaza would provoke attack in the ''heart of Israel''
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Palestinian fighters will strike at "the heart of Israel" if the Israeli military launches a major offensive in the Gaza Strip, the spokesperson of the radical Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), Abu Mujahid, said on Saturday. Abu Mujahid told Ma’an that the PRC would keep "many and various options" on the table should Israel escalate its attacks in Gaza. He also said that a ceasefire with Israel is "the exception of the basic rule of dealing with the occupation which is based on the necessity to continue striking against it. The resistance is ready to all options of confrontation in case Israel rejected the Egyptian truce initiative or to attempt to get away from it by adding more difficult conditions to it." Abu Mujahid added that "the Israeli leaders are walking against history they do not know the more the Palestinians are attacked the more determined they become to win their rights of Freedom and Return.

Hamas: Blair’s comments show international meddling in Palestinian internal politics
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – Hamas criticized former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, the International Quartet’s envoy to the Middle East, on Saturday for comments he made about strengthening the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) security forces. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri said that Blair’s remarks in an interview with the Jerusalem post were "a clear confession of the involvement of international actors including the Quartet in the internal Palestinian fighting." Blair indicated that PA forces currently participating in a US-funded training course in Jordan would be better than the forces that were defeated by Hamas during the fighting in Gaza in June 2007. Abu Zuhri, added that "These actors are still going on with their role of arming and training the Palestinian sides one against the other … these statements are proof.

Hamas leaders travel to Cairo for truce talks on Monday
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas leaders are heading to Cairo on Monday to resume talks with Egyptian officials on the issue of a ceasefire with Israel. Hamas spokesperson Ayman Taha said Egyptian officials would deliver Israel’s response to an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire. Egyptian intelligence chief Umar Sulaiman was in Israel last week to present the plan. The Hamas delegation was originally scheduled to travel to Cairo on Friday, but the trip was delayed without official explanation. Taha reaffirmed Hamas’ support for an Egyptian brokered ceasefire, saying, "we delivered our approval to the Egyptian side on the truce." Taha voiced hope that Israeli Prime Minster Ehud Olmert will accept the Egyptian proposal, which includes a suspension of violence and the opening of some of the Gaza Strip’s border crossings.

Hamas calls for Arab League mediation in conflict with Fatah
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Gaza - Ma’an – The de facto government of the Gaza Strip called for Arab foreign ministers to visit the Gaza Strip on Saturday as a step towards lifting the Israeli-led siege of the Strip and re-establishing Palestinian political unity. Hamas spokesperson Taher An-Nunu said, during a press conference in Gaza City, that the Arab League’s Ministerial Committee should also visit the West Bank in order order to understand the current situation between the Hamas-run government in Gaza and the Fatah-led government in the West Bank. "National unity is our key to security and to restoring our rights and national cause," Taha said. An-Nunu also praised the work of the Arab League in seeking to end the political crisis in Lebanon. An-Nunu added that "The Islamic and Arab World are asked to play a more effective role on the level of the Palestinian national cause in both of. . .

Hamas invites Arab ministerial committee to restore Palestinian unity
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
GAZA,  (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement has urged Arab states to form a ministerial committee and to send it to Gaza Strip with the aim to break the Israeli economic siege imposed on the 1. 5 million Palestinians living there, stressing the Arab depth of the Palestinian issue. Arab foreign ministers had rushed to an emergency meeting in the Egyptian capital Cairo after inter-Lebanese armed clashes erupted over the past week, and decided to immediately send a ministerial committee to Lebanon to defuse the tension. The committee, so far, succeeded in its mission as rival Lebanese parties accepted the Qatari invitation for national dialogue, and met in the Qatari capital Doha to discuss and resolve their disputes. "We always stress the need of an Arab depth to all Arab issues, be it the Palestinian issue, the Lebanese issue, or any other Arab issue that would swiftly solve problems and. . .

In Israel, Bush Outlines a Blunt Vision for the Middle East
Ilene Prusher, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
President Bush, at the height of his Wednesday-to-Friday visit here to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Israel, stood before the Knesset and laid out a vision for the Middle East 60 years down the road: an Israel that still stands tall, lives next to a Palestinian state, and is surrounded by countries where democracy and human rights reign. But his shorter-term vision, particularly in terms of his view of how things look today, sounded like a return to the stark rhetoric he became famous for in 2002 when he described Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as an axis of evil. His prepared speech was also laden with religious imagery, mapping a spiritual and ideological picture of a close US-Israel relationship that seemed unprecedented in a speech by any US president, analysts say." This struggle is waged with the technology of the 21st century, but at its core it is the ancient battle between good and evil," Mr.

Bush Leaves it to Olmert to Push Mideast Peace
Terence Hunt, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
President Bush gently urged Mideast leaders to "make the hard choices necessary for peace," leaving it to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to stand before a divided parliament Thursday and forcefully declare that this war-weary nation is ready for a historic agreement with Palestinians. On a day mourned by Palestinians as the 60th anniversary of their uprooting by Israel’s independence, Bush mentioned the Palestinians only once in a 23-minute speech to the Knesset - and then only in the context of what a Palestinian state would look like six decades from now. Some Israelis and Palestinians were disappointed that Bush failed to use his high-profile appearance to push the two sides to take the concrete steps to achieve his own goal of a peace deal before the end of his presidency. Most notably, Bush’s speech ignited a political uproar on the campaign trail back home.

Bush ’especially moved’ by visit to Israel
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 5/17/2008
In weekly radio address, US president reviews 60th anniversary visit to Israel, commends country on sights, people. ’America is proud to be Israel’s best friend in the world,’ he says - WASHINGTON- During his weekly radio address to the White House Radio, US President George W. Bush spoke about his trip to the Middle East, and said he had been deeply moved by the sights and history of Israel. "When Air Force One touched down at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, I was greeted by Israel’s President and Prime Minister," he said. "I joined them in celebrating an historic milestone: Israel’s 60th anniversary as an independent nation. And I assured them that Israel could count on America as a strong and steady ally long into the future. During our visit I had conversations with Israel’s leaders about their efforts to forge peace with the Palestinians, and our shared belief that a peace agreement is possible this year.

Hamas describes Bush’s statement as ''impudent''
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Sunday described as "impudent" American president George Bush’s speech in which he called on countries in the Middle East to confront Hamas. Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, in an exclusive statement to the PIC, said that Bush’s statements at Sharm El-Sheikh reflected the American "arrogance". "We believe that the official Arab regimes are now before a real test in face of such American haughtiness," he said, adding that the statements were in absolute "disrespect" of the regional countries. The spokesman said that Bush’s promise that Hamas would be ultimately defeated would never materialize. He affirmed that Hamas would never be defeated and defeat would only be to the Israeli occupation and the "reckless" American policies. In a similar comment the detained MP Riyadh Raddad said that Bush’s address at the Israeli parliament was not new and did not surprise anyone following up American policy in the region.

Report: US willing to mediate between Israel, Syria
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/17/2008
London-based al-Hayat newspaper quotes Israeli official as saying President Bush has asked Turkey to boost its mediation efforts, in bid to distance Syrians from Hizbullah - The US administration has asked Turkey to boost its efforts to advance the talks between Israel and Syria, in light of the recent clashes between Hizbullah members and government supporters in Lebanon, the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat reported Saturday, quoting an Israeli official. According to the report, the request was made in light of estimates that peace between Jerusalem and Damascus would help distance Syria from Hizbullah, after the recent events "proved the Shiite organization’s power and capabilities in the Lebanese arena. "The source added that the United States had hinted more than once that Israel should advance the talks with Syria, despite Washington’s previous stance which opposed the negotiations.

Bush heads to Egypt for meeting with Abbas, Mubarak
Ma’an News Agency 5/17/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – US President George W Bush flew to the Egyptian resort town of Sharm Ash-Shiekh on Saturday for a trilateral meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Palestinian sources said that Abbas will ask Bush to boost Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations and put more pressure on Israel to make concessions. Bush heads to Egypt amid mounting skepticism in the Arab world about his ability to be an honest broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict after he heaped praise on Israel during a visit there last week to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the Jewish state’s independence. In his speech to the Israeli Knesset, Bush hailed Israel as a "homeland for the chosen people," while barely mentioning the Palestinians. Palestinians are also marking the sixtieth anniversary of 1948 this week, which for them was a Nakba, a catastrophe.

Pope Benedict, please support Palestinian Christians! Petition
Palestine Think Tank 5/17/2008
Pope Benedict described Israel’s 60th Independence Day as a sign of God’s beneficence toward the Jews.   "I would like to congratulate the State of Israel on its 60th Independence Day," Yediot Achronot quoted Benedict as telling Motti Levy, the new Israeli ambassador to the Vatican, on Monday. "The Holy See is united with you, and thanks God for the full realization of the Jewish people’s aspirations to live in its homeland, the land of its forefathers." In an interview with Israel Radio, Levy described meeting the pontiff as "very moving. " According to Levy, Pope Benedict endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense but also appealed for an end to Palestinian suffering. He further voiced concern about the dwindling number of Christians in the Holy Land. PETITION Your Holiness Pope Benedict XIV, Your Holiness, we are Palestinian Christians from Jerusalem, Nazareth,. . .

Obama fires first shot in the real election battle
Stephen Foley in New York and Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 5/17/2008
Barack Obama has launched a scathing attack on the foreign policy "hypocrisy" of John McCain and President Bush, using aggressive language designed to stop the Republicans painting him as weak on US security. In a week when Mr Bush likened the Obama policy of talking to America’s enemies to "appeasement" of the Nazis, and Mr McCain endorsed the President’s controversial remarks, Mr Obama has returned fire quickly and with a vigour never mustered by John Kerry in his failed campaign four years ago. The Obama camp is trying to label Mr McCain as this year’s "flip-flopper" on foreign policy, citing a 2006 interview on Sky News when he advocated talking to the Palestinian group Hamas. The Democratic front-runner accused Mr Bush and Mr McCain of supporting a "naive and irresponsible" foreign policy, as he sought not only to combat a perceived weakness of his own, but to yoke his prospective opponent to the unpopular incumbent.

Bush firm on Palestinian state
Al Jazeera 5/17/2008
George Bush, the US president, has pledged his commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state after meeting Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president. Bush met Abbas in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Saturday, on the sidelines of World Economic Forum (WEF) talks attended by leaders from across the Middle East. "I commit to you once again that my government will help achieve a dream, a dream that you have, and the truth of matter is, a dream that the Israelis have, which is two states [Israel and Palestine] living side by side in peace," Bush told Abbas. Bush said he wanted to work with Abbas and Israel "to get a state defined"." And I do so for a couple of reasons. One, it breaks my heart to see the vast potential of the Palestinian people really wasted," he said.

McCain in Hamas ’hypocrisy’ row
Al Jazeera 5/16/2008
US Democrats have accused the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, of hypocrisy after interview footage emerged of him expressing a willingness to negotiate with the Palestinian group Hamas. In an interview with Sky News in 2006, McCain said of Hamas that as "sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them". However, on Thursday, McCain had suggested that Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama was naive and inexperienced for expressing a willingness to meet leaders of countries viewed as against the US such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. "Obama needs to explain why he wants to sit down and talk with a man who is a head of a government who is a state sponsor of terrorism that kills young Americans," he said on Thursday.

PA interior ministry denounces attack on Christian school
Palestinian Information Center 5/18/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The interior ministry in the PA caretaker government in Gaza has strongly condemned the attack on a Christian school in Gaza city at dawn Friday. The ministry in a statement on the incident described the attack as "cowardly", and charged that it aimed at harming the brotherly relations among the Palestinian people. It also described those who masterminded the attack as "suspicious parties" that only want to ignite strife and harm national unity. "Those people do not think of the country’s interest or reputation or unity of the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, and target destabilizing security", it elaborated. The ministry stressed its absolute rejection of such "malicious acts" and promised the Christians that it would "wisely and responsibly" confront those who launch such attacks. The ministry warned that it would strike with an "iron fist" all those. . .

Mazuz: Ruling on Olmert probe unlikely in next few weeks
Jonathan Lis and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz on Sunday said he doubted a decision could be reached in the near future on the ongoing corruption probe against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. "I am not certain that in the coming weeks we will make a legal decision, this is an unrealistic attitude," Mazuz told Channel Two’s Ilana Dayan in an interview broadcast on Sunday. In reference to the struggle against governmental corruption, Mazuz stated that the public is currently undergoing a painful process of cleansing, "Which in my view," he stated, "will certainly bring about a cleaner reality. ""There is no reality that is completely clean," Mazuz said, adding that he already sees a change in the areas in which the legal establishment has focused its activities. "I see that in these fields there has clearly been quite a significant change.

Min. Dichter says considering bid for Kadima leadership
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/18/2008
Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has said that he is considering running for the leadership of Kadima. Dichter said he would announce his final decision when he has fully developed his position on the matter, making the comments in an interview with Israel Radio aired Saturday. His remarks came amid a widening criminal investigation into Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who heads Kadima. The minister told Israel Radio that he could not comment on the probe, but stated that he completely trusts the judgment of the police, the state prosecution and the attorney general. Dichter stated that he did not know whether the investigation would result in an indictment being filed against the prime minister. Olmert has said he will resign if indicted. On Friday, several Kadima MKs gathered at the home of MK Isaac. . .

Livni working on ’quiet campaign’ to be Kadima heir
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 5/18/2008
Since the latest investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was announced, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has greatly accelerated her political activity within Kadima. Party sources say that last week her camp stepped up their recruiting efforts, taking hundreds of party membership applications from party headquarters. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz also went into high gear last week; his party workers grabbed over 1,000 sign-up forms. In the event that Olmert is forced to resign, his replacement will be selected, in accordance with party regulations, in a primary in which all members of Kadima are eligible to vote. This explains the sudden interest taken by Livni, Mofaz and Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit, as well, in increasing their support. Livni called key party people on the eve of Independence Day.

Police wiretaps climb sharply in peripheral areas
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
Police in the north and south of the country stepped up their use of electronic surveillance in 2007. Wiretapping increased by over 100 percent in drug investigations and by 172 percent in the fight against organized crime. The police submitted these figures to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee. Suddenly secret: The data was given to the committee two months ago, but unlike in recent years much of it was declared secret. Committee Chairman MK Menahem Ben-Sasson (Kadima) refused to open the document, on the grounds that its contents should be made freely available to the public. Chief Superintendent Gavriel Siso of the Investigations and Intelligence Department says the report was classified because the 2006 was leaked to the media before it reached the committee, "causing great embarrassment and consternation on the part of the minister of public security.

Shooting and crying, but differently
Uri Klein, Ha’aretz 5/18/2008
CANNES - The debate surrounding "Waltz with Bashir," Ari Folman’s film, will surely become most vehement when the film, in a competition at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, comes to Israel. Here are some initial impressions following a screening for journalists that was held on Wednesday. On Thursday evening the film had its official premiere. Without doubt, "Waltz with Bashir" is a very interesting and even an impressive work. It is not free of problems, but these are interesting since they illuminate the twists and turns of the Israeli soul in trying to maintain fairness and integrity while speaking of the individual and the national history shaping the individual and the place in which he is trying to survive. Folman calls his film "an animated documentary. "This is a very daring definition, apparently combining two incompatible. . .

Palestine News Network 5/17/2008
Due to an original misprint, PNN is reprinting the information regarding the Palestine Festival of Literature, although the event has passed. This piece still includes pertinent information regarding the participating authors and their works. - The Palestine Festival of Literature was inspired by the call of the late great Palestinian thinker, Edward Said, to "reaffirm the power of culture over the culture of power. "From 7 to 11 May, 16 International Authors visited Palestine in solidarity with the Palestinian People, in recognition of Palestine’s cultural contribution to the world, in affirmation of the power of the word and the responsibility of speaking it. The Palestine Festival of Literature was inspired by the call of the late great Palestinian thinker, Edward Said, to "reaffirm the power of culture over the culture of power."

Conference asks: Iraqi Israeli, Arab Jew or Mizrahi Jew?
Vered Lee, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
A violin wailed in one of the auditoriums on the Tel Aviv University campus. Violinist Yair Dalal was demonstrating the creative powers of Salah and Daoud al-Kuwaiti, two brothers considered to be among Iraq’s greatest musicians. With immense skill and delicacy, Dalal mastered the notes, careful not to bring the emotional audience to tears. His appearance was part of the conference on Iraqi Jews at Tel Aviv University this month. "Recently, a conference on Ashkenazi Jews was convened at Beit Berl College and, a few years ago, another conference focused on the ’Yekkes’ [German Jews], so I asked myself, why not have an academic conference on Iraqi Jews," says Dr. Uri Cohen of Tel Aviv University’s Chaim Weizmann Institute for the Study of Zionism and Israel. "This is a community that immigrated to Israel in the 1950s, which then numbered 130,000 people.

Lebanon gov’t challenges Hezbollah on weapons arsenal
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/19/2008
BEIRUT - Lebanon’s U. S. -backed ruling coalition challenged their Hezbollah-led rivals Saturday, demanding that top-level talks in Qatar on ending Lebanon’s18-month political crisis - which turned violent a week ago - also tackle the issue of Hezbollah’s weapons. However, the Hezbollah side insisted the group’s arsenal not be touched, according to Lebanese media reports on the first day of the negotiations in the Qatari capital. The Doha-hosted meeting between the Lebanese factions was arranged under an Arab League-mediated deal to end Lebanon’s worst violence since the 1975-1990 civil war. Following Arab mediation, the feuding sides flew to Qatar on Friday, after agreeing that the talks would lead to the election of compromise candidate Army chief Gen.

Qatar talks: Hizbullah refuses to discuss laying down arms
Reuters, YNetNews 5/17/2008
With country on brink of civil war, Lebanese rivals tackle core issues through Qatari mediation. Hizbullah representative rejects possibility of handing over weapons to government -Rival leaders tackled divisive issues at the heart of Lebanon’s political crisis on Saturday at Qatari-mediated talks aimed at pulling their country back from the brink of civil war. Government and opposition leaders left a conference room separately in the morning, after 90 minutes of tense talks ending a standoff that has paralyzed the government for 18 months and left Lebanon with no president since November. Delegates said a six-member committee established at that session and asked to lay a framework for a new election law had already made progress. Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani is holding consultations to bring rival leaders closer to a deal on the framework for a new government.

Bickering Lebanese politicians start talks in Qatar
Middle East Online 5/17/2008
Lebanon’s bickering political leaders on Saturday began Arab-brokered crisis talks in Qatar in a bid to end a long-running feud that drove their country to the brink of a new civil war. After 65 people were killed in nearly a week of fighting, the US-backed Beirut government and the Hezbollah-led opposition supported agreed to a national dialogue aimed at electing a president and forming a unity government. The talks officially started on Friday evening with a brief opening session chaired by Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani who stressed the need to preserve Lebanon’s unity and hoped the rivals would reach an agreement. He then adjourned the meeting until the first round of substantive talks on Saturday. Qatari mediation reportedly continued overnight with the emir shuttling between rival parties, according to the Lebanese pro-government newspaper An-Nahar.

Iraq forces arrest 1,100 in Mosul crackdown
Middle East Online 5/17/2008
MOSUL, Iraq - Around 1,100 people have been arrested during the first four days of a government crackdown on “Al-Qaeda” in Iraq’s main northern city of Mosul, according to the defence ministryon Saturday. Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari said there had been no clashes during the operation and that 530 of those arrested were wanted by the authorities. Three of them were senior Al-Qaeda operatives, he added. "There are no clashes or killings," Askari said, adding that the crackdown codenamed "Mother of Two Springs" was continuing in Mosul, described by US commanders as Al-“Qaeda’s last urban bastion in Iraq. ” He said security forces had also recovered 1,400 kilos (3,080 pounds) of explosives, 45 missiles, 263 mortar bombs and 175 assorted weapons during the latest crackdown. However there was no response to an offer of cash in exchange for heavy and medium weapons, officials said.


Israel’s Secret Fears
Haim Baram, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
      Israel marks its 60th birthday in a climate of increasing racism, intolerance, corruption and militarism. A nation that has long seen itself as one of the most misunderstood is now almost unable to understand the world beyond its borders. Fear and anxiety provide the mood music of the celebrations.
     The past decade has brought a sharp increase in anti-Arab sentiment, which finds many forms of expression, from sordid chants at sporting events ("Death to the Arabs") to blatant racism and attacks on Arab colleagues by right-wing pol iticians in the Knesset. In such an atmosphere, it is almost impossible for Arab citizens (or 1948 Palestinians) to identify with the state of Israel, despite the terms of their legal status. Indeed, it is increasingly difficult for them even to protect their civil rights and express themselves freely in public.
     Anyone who doubts the depth of anti-Arab feeling has only to scan the internet. On 8 May, I was commissioned by the popular news site Walla! (associated with the newspaper Haaretz) to write a short column about the Israeli national anthem, "Hatikva" (or Hope). Haaretz had asked another writer to support the anthem. I was commissioned to write against it and to suggest a more suitable one.

Israelis are Talking to Hamas

Marc Gopin, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
      There are Israeli Jews who have been talking to Hamas for years, especially Rabbi Menahem Frohman. In fact, even more Israeli Jews – official and unofficial – would be talking not only to Hamas, but also to Syria and Iran were the White House not pressuring them against dialogue with enemies of Israel.
     This is unprecedented: a third party, supposedly mediating for peace, that forbids two parties from talking to each other.
     Sober intelligence analysts at the highest levels in Israel have been arguing the virtue of negotiation and a process of offers and counter-offers – not because they are nonviolence activists, but because they are realists seeking the path of least resistance to a more stable and safe Middle East.
     They have every intention of confronting the military threat from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, but through a subtle combination of approaches, not the least of which is negotiation.
     They understand very well that an offer to an inveterate enemy that does not recognize your existence is not a capitulation, but rather a test. It is a test that will put constructive pressure on radicals to come to the table, or split among themselves. All good news for realists.

Economy of Occupation 101: Israel even expropriates foreign aid to Palestine

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/17/2008
      At a lecture given Wednesday at the Friends Meeting House in Ramallah, Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour and economist Shir Hever of the Alternative Information Center painted a grim picture of the effects of both occupation and aid on the Palestinian economy.
     Sam Bahour explained that the size of the average Palestinian business remains at roughly four employees - the same as it was in 1927. He also stated that the impact of Israel’s lockdown of the Palestinian economy from 2000 to 2002 was roughly twice as devastating as the two worst years of the Great Depression in the United States.
     Yet aid poured into the Palestinian economy by international donors to allegedly mitigate the impact of the occupation has not markedly improved the standards of living amongst Palestinians, nor has it created a sustainable and independent economy, commented Hever. "The amount of aid money coming in to Palestine is among the highest in the world," he said. "But I personally believe that aid is not just a matter of compassion, but one of political interests."

Hebron is a ghost town where joggers carry automatic rifles

Ian Jack, Palestine Think Tank 5/17/2008
      For the settlers, subsidies and tax breaks have become as important a motive as Deuteronomy.
     At Birzeit University in Ramallah last week a young woman student in a headscarf asked how it was that Nadine Gordimer, the South African novelist and Nobel laureate, could agree to visit and speak in Israel. Hadn’t Gordimer fought apartheid for years - famously fought it in her writing and her actions? And now she was about to appear at the International Writers Festival in Jerusalem, a guest in one way or another of the Israeli government. What did we think of this? Weren’t these double standards? Wouldn’t we condemn her?
     The question was asked of Roddy Doyle and myself, both of us participants in another literary jamboree, the first Palestine Festival of Literature, whose six-day tour of the West Bank and East Jerusalem ended last Monday.

Nahida Izzat - Alice in Holy-Land

Nahida Izzat, Palestine Think Tank 5/14/2008
      Alice was falling up, then rising down
     With a quantum leap, transcending
     Into a parallel universe
     Were every thing is upside down
     And nothing is what it seems to be
     In a forgotten land, once called Palestine
     In this land of wonders, Alice saw
     Murderers get Nobel peace prizes
     Thieves are the guardians
     Of peace and security
     War criminals are the law
     In this land of faith, Alice saw
     Strangers claiming that
     God gave them every thing
     For they are the chosen
     Above all others
     Despite the fact: most of them
     Don’t even believe in God
     In this land of pain, Alice saw
     Olive trees uprooted for having roots in the past
     Farmers beaten for harvesting their crops...

Wael Al Saad - Justice Lost in the Age of Power

Wael Al-Saad, Palestine Think Tank 5/8/2008
      The Dimensions of Occupation, the Occupational Lobby and the Age After
     I am not a politician or a journalist or writer but I am thinking day and night, experiencing new dimensions of consciousness and seeking answers. How can we move forward strategically in our struggle for justice and peace?
     An Insight
     Looking into the current analyses that are making the rounds, I have yet to find a collective plan or process toward a plan that will enlarge our options or change the boundary conditions of our dilemma. It seems as if all the proposed alternatives are wrong.
     Most of the analysis is done with the same logic, based on "certainty" and generally focusing on the reality of the Zionist aggressions and the failing politics of formal institutions superficially, with little self-critique, nor encompassing review of tactics or philosophy.

Talking to the Enemy

Avi Shlaim, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
      The conflict with the Arabs has cast a long shadow over Israel’s history. In the Declaration of Independence in Tel Aviv, on 14 May 1948, the founding fathers extended their hand in peace to all the neighbouring states and their peoples. Today, Israel is still at war with Syria and Lebanon and locked into a bitter conflict with the Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank. The explanation that Israelis usually give for the failure to achieve peace in the Middle East can be summed up in two words: Arab intransigence. Israel’s image of itself is that of a decent, rational, peace-loving nation that resorts to military power in self-defence only. The image of the Arabs, on the other hand, is that of a fanatical, hostile enemy that understands only the language of force. The reality is more complex.
     The general picture that emerges of Israeli statecraft in the first 60 years of statehood is one of routine, often unthinking reliance on military force and a reluctance to engage in meaningful diplomacy to resolve the conflict with its neighbours. Another trait, common to Labour and Likud leaders alike, is a blind spot when it comes to the Palestinian people and a desire to bypass them by concluding bilateral deals with the rulers of the neighbouring Arab states.

Palestine: Liberation Deferred

Rashid Khalidi, MIFTAH 5/17/2008
      The "Palestine Question" has been with us for sixty years. During this time it has become a running sore, its solution appearing ever more distant. Whether the events sixty years ago that created this question solved the previously perennial "Jewish Question" is once again open to debate. This is the case after many years when the apparent triumph of Zionism stilled doubts and drowned out the protests of those who argued that what purported to be the solution to one problem had created an entirely different one.
     It is considered by some to be a slur on Israel and Zionism, and indeed even tantamount to anti-Semitism, to suggest that these events sixty years ago should be the subject of anything but unmitigated joy. Commemoration, or even analysis, of what Palestinians call their national catastrophe, al-Nakba--the expulsion, flight and loss of their homes by a majority of their people sixty years ago--is thus considered not in terms of this seminal event’s meaning to at least 8 million Palestinians today (some estimates are over 10 million) but only because it is directly related to the founding of Israel. Palestinians presumably do not have the right to recall, much less mourn, their national disaster if this would rain on the parade of celebrating Zionists everywhere. The fact that the 1948 war that created Israel also created the largest refugee problem in the Middle East (until the US occupation of Iraq turned 4 million people into refugees) must therefore be swept under the rug. Also disregarded is the obvious fact that it would have been impossible to create a Jewish state in a land nearly two-thirds of whose population was Arab without some form of ethnic cleansing.

Mazin Qumsiyeh - Palestinian Options as the Nakba turns 60

Mazin Qumsiyeh, Palestine Think Tank 5/17/2008
      We are 126 years after the practical initiation of Zionist project to colonize Palestine and we are 60 years after the realization of that vision in the form of a Jewish ethnocentric nationalistic state. These are very short periods in human histories (the crusader kingdoms lasted much longer). History teaches us that native people are not guaranteed victory but that they always have many options moving forward.In this essay, I explore the challenges and the many options open for Palestinians as we enter perhaps the most challenging period of our history.
     George Bush’s speech in front of the Israeli Knesset "celebrating" this ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the politicide that followed included this with no bit of irony:
     "The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty. It is grounded in the shared spirit of our people, the bonds of the Book, the ties of the soul. When William Bradford stepped off the Mayflower in 1620, he quoted the words of Jeremiah: ‘Come let us declare in Zion the word of God.’ The founders of my country saw a new promised land and bestowed upon their towns names like Bethlehem and New Canaan. And in time, many Americans became passionate advocates for a Jewish state."

Core Issues for Lebanon and Beyond

Rami Khouri, Middle East Online 5/17/2008
      BEIRUT -- The agreement among all the Lebanese political leaders to hold talks in Doha, Qatar, and keep meeting until they resolve their current political impasse will probably bring peace and quiet to Lebanon for a period of time -- certainly months and perhaps even years.
     Skepticism abounds, though, alongside signs of hope and maturity. Speaking for myself, this is the third time in my life that I have lived in Beirut -- 1958, 1975 and 2008 -- when the country has been scarred by internal fighting and the entanglement of foreign powers and troops.
     A complex matrix of issues defines the current situation. Local, regional and global power relationships all have to be sorted out, and the three levels are deeply intertwined. I see two core issues at stake here, and everything else is footnotes:
     1) If the central state does not meet its citizens’ needs, how does the state work out a credible balance of power with indigenous groups and powerful armed organizations like Hezbollah -- who do respond to citizen needs more efficiently?
     2) Is Lebanon mainly an Arab-Islamic-Middle Eastern society integral to Syrian and Iranian interests, or is it a more Western-oriented, liberal society that sits more comfortably in the American and French orbits?