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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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23 May 2008


Israeli forces kill five Palestinians in Rafah, arrest 25
Palestine News Network 5/23/2008
Gaza / PNN -- The number of dead Palestinians left in the wake of the latest Israeli invasion of the southern Gaza Strip’s Rafah rose to five by early Friday afternoon. Israeli forces withdrew from the city to the Sofa Crossing, northeast of Rafah, which then gave a chance for Palestinian ambulances to transport the dead and wounded to Abu Yousef Najjar Hospital. Palestinian sources said that three of the Palestinian citizens killed are Ibrahim Madi, Muhanad Al Awad and Mohammed Rizak. The invasion began at dawn Friday during which Israeli forces broke into homes and conducted invasive searches throughout the area. They brought with them at least 20 tanks, armored personnel carriers (APCs), and other military vehicles. Israeli forces attacked the southern Gaza Strip’s Rafah and killed three Palestinians before noon on Friday.

British, US Agencies: Israel’s siege on Gaza causing severe economic, health crisis
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
With the people of the Gaza Strip beginning their third year of living under siege, a representative of the US Agency for International Development told the Palestinian news agency Ma’an on Thursday that the siege impedes investment and makes the development of the Palestinian economy impossible.  At the same time, the British Department for International Development has warned that the situation is"extremely serious and that there are significant risks to public health. "British minister Baroness Crawley stated, "Due to fuel shortages, 60 million litres of raw and partially treated sewage flow into the Mediterranean each day and 90 per cent of mains water is polluted. Hospitals have between one and five days of fuel supply remaining", adding, "Electricity cuts and low supplies of fuel for generators mean that hospitals are at risk of being unable to keep essential equipment running such as refrigeration for vaccines".

UN: No. of roadblocks in W. Bank up 7 percent from last Sept.
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
The United Nations said in a report Friday that the number of Israeli obstacles in the West Bank has increased by 7 percent since last September, despite an Israeli pledge to ease Palestinian movement in the area as part of fledgling peace talks. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Jerusalemsaid the overall number of obstacles increased from 566 on September 4, 2007 to 607 on April 29, 2008. The shift included the construction of 144 new closures and the removal of 103 in the same time period. The UN agency, OCHA, added that the army removed an additional seven closure obstacles so far in May. It said its findings amounted to a slight deterioration in overall access in the reported period. The report came out shortly after visiting French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner criticized. . .

Israel, Syria to resume talks shortly in Turkey
Reuters, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Turkish official says both parties agreed to meet regularly, next round will be in Istanbul in a week or 10 days - Israel and Syria will resume indirect peace talks shortly mediated by Turkey, Turkish and Israeli government officials said on Friday. Israel and Syria on Wednesday announced they had begun an open dialogue with the aim of a comprehensive peace, the first confirmation of negotiations between the long-time enemies in eight years. "The two parties agreed to meet regularly. The next round will be in Istanbul in a week or in 10 days," said a Turkish government official, who declined to be named. "The two parties agreed to meet regularly. The next round will be in Istanbul in a week or in 10 days," said a Turkish government official, who declined to be named. IsraeliPrime Minister Ehud Olmert’s spokesman Mark Regev also confirmed he expected another round in Turkey shortly.

Israeli soldiers harass volunteers on site claimed by settlers
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an- A group of Palestinian and international volunteers playing outdoor games at an abandoned Israeli military base were confronted by four Israeli settlers in the West Bank village of Beit Sahour, near Bethlehem, on Friday morning. Witnesses said one of the settlers was armed. The settlers left area, but were quickly replaced by 17 Israeli soldiers and border police in full combat gear, who arrived in six jeeps and a humvee. The Israeli troops briefly detained one Palestinian man, 33-year-old Auni Joubran, from Bethlehem. The soldiers forced the volunteers to leave the area. The volunteers are part of a group that organizes activities for youth groups to build communication and leadership skills. A park complete with a playground and climbing was recently built next to the abandoned military base.

Nonviolent Palestinian resistance continues in spite of Israeli attacks and arrests
Palestine News Network 5/23/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag -- The nonviolent resistance continued its weekly demonstrations in southern Bethlehem on Friday. In Umm Salamuna Village, residents and supporters walked together toward the Wall that is hemming them in. Israeli soldiers prevented the group from moving and attacked several. Seven foreign supporters were arrested. The nonviolent march of 250 began with demonstrators singing as they walked from the secondary school with members of the local media in tow. Dozens of soldiers blocked the path with jeeps, their machine guns and rolls of barbed wire. Israeli forces fired concussion grenades and gas, while beating many. One Palestinian was severely injured. The soldiers also arrested seven foreign supporters and took them to the military jail inside the Gush Etzion Settlement bloc built on southern Bethlehem lands.

Settlers briefly invade abandoned army base in Beit Sahour
Arron Lakuf, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
On Friday morning, a group of NGO workers in Beit Sahour found five settlers on an abandoned military base near Sheppard’s Field, outside the city center. After the settlers noticed the NGO workers, they immediately called the Israeli army to intervene. The settlers left soon after, and the army arrived to find that a group of around 20 internationals and Palestinians had assembled and was playing games in the abandoned army base. The army then gave the group five minutes to leave. The group left after the warning, but the army detained one Palestinian man, Awni Jobran of the Holy Land Trust, and released him after a brief period. A group of settlers had also invaded the same location last week, stayed for a few hours, and left pro-Israeli graffiti on the buildings. Local activists are hoping to maintain a presence on the site in order to dissuade Israeli settlers from coming to set up a permanent settlement.

The Qassam Brigades confront an IOF incursion, blow up tank
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- The Qassam Brigades said that an IOF tank exploded when it was hit with two RPG’s fired by the resistance, Friday morning, during an incursion of occupation forces into the Fakhari neighbourhood to the east of the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis. A statement published by the Qassam Brigades said that its fighters fired two RPG’s at 5:40 am at an occupation tank that rolled into the Fakhari neighbourhood to the west of the Sofa crossing, adding that the two missiles hit the tank directly resulting in the explosion of the tank. The Qassam fighters also fired ten mortar bombs at the invading occupation forces. The statement further warned that the Qassam fighters were ready to confront "Zionist enemy conceit" and resist any invasion of the Gaza Strip, promising to "teach the occupation hard lessons at the doors of the Gaza Strip.

Soldier moderately wounded by anti-tank missile in Gaza
Hanan Greenberg, YNetNews 5/23/2008
IDF forces exchange heavy fire with Palestinian gunmen in southern Strip during army’s activity against terror infrastructure in the area; soldier’s vehicle hit by anti-tank missile. Hamas claims responsibility, IAF retaliates - An IDF soldier was moderately wounded during exchanges of fire with Palestinian gunmen in south Gaza Friday morning. The soldier was injured when an anti-tank missile was fired at the vehicle he was travelling in during his unit’s activity against terror infrastructure in the Strip. He was evacuated by helicopter to the Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. The Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ armed wing, claimed responsibility for the missile attack. In response, Israeli aircraft opened fire at gunmen armed with anti-tank missiles in the area. A hit was identified.

Israeli soldier injured in military operation near Sufa crossing, Al-Qassam brigades claim responsibility
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli sources announced on Friday morning that an armed Palestinian fired a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an Israeli patrol during an Israeli military operation near the Sufa crossing east of Rafah, injuring an Israeli soldier. He was transferred to Beersheba hospital. The Al-Qassam brigades, the military wing of Hamas, claimed responsibility for launching a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at an Israeli military vehicle east of Rafah confirming that the Israeli forces fired two missiles at them in response. [end]

Abu Ar-Rish brigades shell Sufa military post
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Abu Ar-Rish brigades, a military wing of Fatah, claimed responsibility for launching a homemade projectile at Israeli military vehicles at the Sufa military post on Friday. The brigades said that this came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli aggressions. [end]

Qassam damages greenhouses in western Negev
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Following IDF raid in Gaza, rocket landing near Sderot sets fire to nearby wheat field, no injuries - Palestinians fired two Qassam rockets mid-day Friday towards the western Negev, causing no injuries. However, one of the rockets landed in an area of greenhouses near Sderot, causing fire to a nearby wheat field. The second rocket landed in an open area and caused no harm. The rocket barrage came a few hours after IDF soldiers exchanged fire in two different areas in the Gaza Strip. One of the soldiers sustained moderate wounds after an anti-tank missile was fired toward the vehicle he was riding in during activity against terror infrastructure in the southern Strip. The IAF struck the gunmen in response, killing one of them. Calling For HelpGaza-region mayors to Olmert: do something about Qassams / Seven southern municipal leaders send harsh. . .

Three injured during the weekly protest of Bil’in
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
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 and settlements. 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. Three protesters were injured by the Israeli army fire. Those injured were identified as Eyad Burnat, from the friends of Bil’in Society, Ibraheem Burnat, a local activist and Mohamed Abu Sayad.

Human rights reports on Israeli violations this week
Palestine News Network 5/23/2008
Gaza / PCHR - The weekly roundup from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports on the period of 15 through 21 May. Four Palestinians, including a farmer and a child, were killed by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, while one Palestinian died from previous injuries in Khan Younis City in the southern Gaza Strip. Thirteen Palestinians, including four children and a farmer, were injured by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. One Palestinian youth was killed by Israeli forces at Huwara Checkpoint in Nablus. Israeli forces conducted 27 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, and three into the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces razed 121 donums[1] of agricultural land in the central and southern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces began digging a large trench inside the Gaza Strip east of Khan Younis. Israeli forces arrested 40 Palestinian civilians, including 11 children,. . .

Palestinian doctors: Israeli siege on Gaza causes more death among children
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian doctors have warned on Thursday that the Israeli blockade on Gaza Strip was taking its heavy toll on Palestinian children as death rate among newly-born children sharply increased due to lack of medical equipments and electricity. They also underlined that the embargo wasn’t also affecting newly-born babies, but rather, they explained, it was inflicting "catastrophic" psychological and health problems among Gaza children in general. "The [Israeli] siege means no electricity, which also means that all medical equipment in Gaza hospitals stopped operating, leading to the sharp increase in death rate among newly-born babies", said Dr. Younis Awadallah of the primary health care in the PA health ministry. According to Awadallah, the lack of electricity [due to the siege] led to the termination of many water pumps that caused a severe shortage in potable water,. . .

Weekly nonviolent demonstration moves to Nillin Village
Hindi Mesleh, Palestine News Network 5/23/2008
Ramallah -- The western Ramallah village of Bil’in is the poster-child of nonviolent resistance. For years locals and foreign supporters have demonstrated every Friday against the Wall, settlement expansion and land confiscation. They have remained undeterred by Israeli attacks with gas, sticks and bullets, and the arrests. However, today the demonstration is moving next door. The village at risk is Nillin. Organizers say, "This urgent demo is being organized because since Tuesday the Israeli army has been working on confiscating the land of the village to start building the Wall and expanding the nearby illegal settlement." The Israeli High Court ruled that the route of the Wall was to be moved further away from the village, yet the Israeli army did not move it and is instead going ahead with more land confiscationfor both the Wall and the settlement.

VIDEO - Israel’s reply to a non-violent Nakba protest INSIDE Israel
AlArz TV, Palestine Think Tank 5/23/2008
This is from the Israeli licensed march of Palestinian families at the old destroyed arab village of Safurye. About half way through the clip CNN’s own Ben Welderman gets harassed too and barks back. If this is how Israel treats Palestinians who are citizens of Israel you can only imagine how it treats Palestinians that they occupy. Remember, this demo was licenced by the Israeli authorities! This message was sent by Henry Lowi: The footage on the You Tube link below, taken in the Galilee at a demonstration of Nakba victims who are Palestinian citizens of Israel, along with their Israeli supporters, shows the Israeli Police behaving like the storm-troopers that they are. (Some people will object to my use of the metaphor "storm-trooper". What do they say? "Crowd control officers behaving overly aggressively"? Sorry, that won’t do.

IOF troops kill Palestinian man; wound 12 others at Mintar march
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- At least one Palestinian man was killed, and twelve others were wounded with Israeli bullets as IOF troops stationed at the Mintar crossing point opened their machinegun at hundreds of Palestinian citizens protesting the unjust siege. Palestinian medical sources confirmed to the PIC correspondent that the fatality, who was identified as Abdul Kareem Ahl (22 years), sustained a bullet in the head, describing condition of the wounded Palestinians as between moderate and serious. According to PIC sources, a number of IOF tanks advanced quickly towards the agricultural fields close to the crossing, surrounded the demonstrators and randomly shot at the peaceful protesters. The Gaza Strip had been under crushing economic siege imposed by Israel and its regional and international allies led by the USA for two years now, inflicting severe damage to the Palestinian infrastructure. . .

UN says more roadblocks were installed by Israel in the West Bank
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
The United Nations stated in a press release on Friday that Israel increased the number of roadblocks in the Palestinian territories since September last year although it officially pledged to reduce them. The United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that since September 2007until Aprilthis year the Israeli army installed 41 additional roadblocks, and that the total number of roadblocks is now 607 while the number was 566 in September last year. The UN report indicated that Israel erected 144 new checkpoints and removed 103. The UN added that these roadblocks are restricting the mobility of the Palestinian people and goods and that even UN staff living in the West Bank are affected by these roadblocks as they hinder them from entering Jerusalem. In spite of Israeli allegations of easing restrictions imposed on the Palestinians, closures,. . .

Israeli warplanes almost shoot down Tony Blair’s plane
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
Israeli fighter jets scrambled to intercept an unidentified aircraft suspected to be hostile this week, only to find out that it carried none other than International Mideast peace envoy Tony Blair, a top military official said Friday. Blair, the former British prime minister, was flying on a private plane from the World Economic Forum summit in Sinai, Egypt to an investment conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on Wednesday when his plane penetrated Israeli airspace and failed to respond to repeated control tower radio calls demanding it identify itself, the official said. As is common practice in such a case, the Israeli air force scrambled two fighter jets to intercept the aircraft. They flew above Blair’s plane and quickly established contact with the cockpit, whose pilot informed them of the famous traveler on board, the official added.

Israeli forces kill five in Gaza attacks
Adel Zaanoun, Daily Star 5/24/2008
Agence France Presse - GAZA CITY: Five Palestinian fighters were killed and an Israeli soldier wounded on Friday as the Jewish state conducted new attacks on the Gaza Strip despite Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce around the impoverished territory. Three Palestinians were killed in an air strike called in support of invading Israeli ground forces near the city of Rafah, Palestinian emergency services said. All three were members of the Islamist Hamas movement’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas said in a statement. The gunmen were involved in an exchange of fire with Israeli troops who penetrated 1. 5 kilometers inside the Gaza Strip, which has been run by Hamas since it ousted forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in June 2007, witnesses said. Seven Palestinians were wounded and Israeli forces also abducted 15 people whom they took with them. . .

The Israeli army tanks leaves Gaza after killing five and kidnapping 25 others
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army has killed on Friday five Palestinian fighters and kidnapped 25 other civilians during two invasions targeting the southern and central parts of the Gaza Strip. Al Qassam Brigades said that Mohaned Awwad, 23, Ibraheem Madi, 20 and Mohamed Abu Rizek, 23, three of the brigades’ fighters were killed during an army attack targeting the Khan Younis and Rafah areas in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Witnesses said that tanks invaded residential areas located near Rafah and Khan Youins and clashed with local resistance fighters; Israeli unmanned plan fighter missiles at the fighters and killed three of them. In the meantime during another invasion targeting areas in the central Gaza Strip, Israeli tanks and bulldozers destroyed Palestinian owned farm land, before leaving Israeli troops clashed with local resistance fighter and killed two on them.

Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza leaving 5 dead, a number injured
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The bodies of three of Hamas’ Al-Qassam fighters were found near the Sufa crossing, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on Friday. Medical sources confirmed the identities of the three dead as Ibrahim Maddi, Mohammad Abu Rizeq and Mohannad Abu Awwad. The Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, also found the bodies of two of their fighters east of Al-Bureij, after the Israeli withdrawal. They named the dead as Hussam Abu Abdo and Ra’ed An-Na’eq. In addition, an Al-Quds brigades activist and a member of Fatah’s military wing, the Al-Aqsa Brigades, were injured in armed clashes with the Israeli troops in the central Gaza Strip. Dr. Mu’awiya Hassanein, the chief of ambulance and emergency services in the Palestinian health mnistry said that ambulances and Red Crescent members were prevented from reaching the wounded.

Hamas declares full alert in Gaza, vows unprecedented resistance tactics
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
GAZA, [PIC]-- The Hamas Movement has declared on Thursday full alert status among its fighters in anticipation of possible military showdown with the IOF troops in case Egypt’s efforts for truce failed. For its part, the armed wing of Hamas, the Qassam Brigades, said they were gearing up to confront and to repel the Israeli occupation army in case they ventured into the populated Strip, vowing new and unprecedented military tactics that will "stun the invaders". The Gaza-based Al-Resalah newspaper quoted sources in the QB as affirming that fighters of Hamas were ordered to deploy along the Gaza borders and to remain vigilant against possible IOF incursion. According to the paper, the QB has prepared tens of martyrs, bobby-trapped cars, and planted bombs, in addition to hundreds of rockets that would be unleashed on Israeli settlements in the event of war.

IDF kills 5 gunmen in Gaza, Palestinian sources say
Reuters, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Heavy clashes erupt between Israeli soldiers, Hamas gunmen near Rafah in the southern Strip. Palestinians say 30 men arrested in raid - Israeli troops killed three Hamas gunmen on Friday in clashes with militants in the southern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical workers said. Heavy clashes erupted before dawn east of the southern city of Rafah when Israeli troops entered an area known as Sufa in the Hamas-controlled territory. Separately, the Islamic Jihad militant group said two of its fighters were killed by Israeli soldiers in the central Gaza Strip. An Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers fired at a group of gunmen who had tried to plant a bomb near Israel’s border fence with the Gaza Strip. She said troops had been operating in the area since Thursday evening and clashed with militants.

Palestinian shot by Israeli guard in Ar-Ramlah
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - A Palestinian civilian was severely wounded when an Israeli settlementguard opened fire on him, shooting him in the head in Ar-Ramla northern Israel, on Thursday eveningIsraeli sources quoted the guard as saying that the Palestinian civilian was driving his car strangely at the entrance to the Duleiv settlement. Theguard claimed the man refused to stop. The sources added that aPalestinian and an Israeli Jew were also in the car. According to Israeli investigations, a 16-year-old from Beni Borak was travelling in the car with the two Palestinians in the village of Kharabta towards the settlement of Duleiv. The Israeli guard then claimed that the driver tried to deliberately run him over as he tried to storm the gate of the settlement. He said he initially opened fired on the car’s tires.

Israeli security guard in West Bank settlement shoots Palestinian taxi driver in head
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
On Thursday night about 10 pm, a Palestinian taxi driver was shot in the head and critically wounded by an Israeli security guard who said that the driver refused to stop on command. The taxi driver, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, was driving an Israeli soldier and a teenage Israeli girl to a Jewish girl’s school inside the settlement of Dolev when the security guard for the school stepped in front of the car and demanded that he stop. When the driver didn’t immediately stop, the security guard shot him in the head. The driver was later transported by helicopter to an Israeli hospital. He is now being detained by Israeli police for questioning, despite having been shot in the head earlier in the evening. The two passengers, the Israeli soldier and the Israeli teenage girl, have also been detained for questioning.

Israeli occupation digs a trench alongside border security fence
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)-- IOF troops started digging a trench to the west of the border security fence east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. Local sources told PIC correspondent on Friday that the IOF have started the digging about a week ago, starting from the occupation military position close to the Faraheen neighbourhood east of Abasan al-Kabira and continued south along the border-line untile they reached the Khuza’a neighbourhood. A report issued by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said that the digging is taking place daily starting early morning until evening and that the IOF frequently open fire towards Palestinian agricultural fields. The report said that the trench, which is about three meters wide five meters deep, is being dug about 70-100 meters west of the border fence (ie inside the Gaza Strip).

PA security forces detain nine Hamas members across West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Nablus - Ma’an - Hamas said that the Palestinian Authority security forces detained nine Hamas members across the West Bank on Thursday evening. Hamas said in a statement that the Palestinian security forces detained Mohammad Moussa and Abdallah Ghneim in Al-Khader village near Bethlehem. In Ramallah, they detained Hazem Al-Khatib, Hamza and Mo’ath Abu Jom’aa and Mohammad Ash-Shalabi in the town of Beitounia western Ramallah city. In Tulkarem, they detained Nidal Abu Thariffa and Issam Al-Jetawi who, was released ten days ago from Israeli custody. [end]

PFLP and Islamic Jihad claim joint attack on Israeli force
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberationof Palestine (PFLP) and the Al-Quds brigades, the military wing of Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for a joint bombing operation in which they hurled two inflammable bottles at a special Israeli force near Nissanit early on Friday. The brigades said in a joint statement that this came in retaliation for Israeli atrocities in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Abu Ali Mustafa brigades target Israeli bulldozer with RPG east of Khan Yunis
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - The Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed responsibility for launching an RPG at an Israeli bulldozer east of Khan Yunis on Friday morning. The brigades said in a statement that they ambushed a special Israeli force and clashed with them east of Khan Yunis. They confirmed that this action came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli aggressions. [end]

Israeli forces detain four Palestinians in Ramallah and Hebron
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli forces detained four Palestinian citizens across the West Bank, claimed they are "wanted". Israeli sources confirmed that the Israeli army detained four of the so-called "wanted" in Ramallah and Hebron early on Friday morning, adding that the arrestees were transferred to interrogation centers. [end]

Abu ’Ammar brigades launch projectiles at the western Negev
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Fatah’s Abu ’Ammar brigades claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at the western Negev late on Thursday evening. The brigades confirmed in a statement that this came in the series of retaliations for the ongoing Israeli aggressions and incursions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. [end]

Palestine Today 052208
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 5/22/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 3 m 0s || 2. 75 MB || Welcome to Palestine Today, a service of the International Middle East Media Centre, www. imemc. org, for Thursday, May 22nd, 2008. The Israeli army kills two Palestinian civilians in Gaza, and kidnaps at least 7 others in the West Bank, these stories and more coming up stay tuned. The News Cast On Thursday afternoon, one Palestinian civilian was killed and 14 others injured when Israeli troops opened fire during a peaceful demonstration at the Al Mentar crossing, in the eastern part of the Gaza Strip. Medical sources identified the slain as Abed Al Kareem Aheel, 24; medics said that 3 of the wounded are in critical condition. The demonstration’s participants were protesting the 11 month Israeli siege on the Palestinian coastal region.

This Week In Palestine - Week 21 2008
Ghassan Bannoura - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| Time 11m 0s || File 10. 0 MB || This Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www. IMEMC. org, for May 17h, through to May 23rd, 2008. As the Palestinian Investments Conference concluded this week in the West Bank, Israeli army attacks on Gaza left 18 Palestinians dead. These stories and more, coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Resistance We begin our weekly report with the nonviolent actions in the West Bank. The IMEMC’s George Rishmawi has the details: 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 and settlements.

Egyptian man killed by Israeli forces on Israel-Egypt border
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
On Thursday, Israeli forces turned over to Egyptian officers the body of a man they claimed was shot while attempting to cross the Egypt-Israel border illegally. The man was a Bedouin, a group known for being nomadic shepherds that are indigenous to the area. The man was identified as Ayesh Suleiman Moussa, 32. His body was turned over to Egyptian authorities at the Awja crossing in the central part of the Sinai peninsula. Israeli forces who shot the man claimed only that he was attempting to cross illegally, but would not give more information about the attack. They did not say they will conduct any kind of investigation of the incident. Egyptian Bedouins, and those living inside the borders of Israel, often find themselves targeted by Israeli forces, because the Israeli authorities continue to refuse to acknowledge their right to a citizenship of any kind.

Israeli youth encouraged to burn Christian texts
Middle East Online 5/23/2008
TEL AVIV - Israeli police are investigating allegations that the deputy mayor of a Tel Aviv suburb organised the burning of copies of the New Testament before hundreds of students at a Jewish religious school, a justice official said on Friday. Uzi Aharon, of Or Yehuda suburb, is under investigation over suspicions of committing an act hurting people’s religious feelings, a justice ministry spokesman said. Aharon was quoted in the Maariv daily newspaper as saying the book burning was a reaction to increasing "missionary activity" in Or Yehuda. According to the daily, several residents complained and town’s deputy mayor drove around the neighbourhood with a loudspeaker urging people to hand the texts to Jewish religious students. They reportedly collected the texts and later burned them in a bonfire. In an interview with Israeli Army Radio, Aharon said that he indeed. . .

Israeli settlement expansion can’t be justified, French FM says
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Friday criticized ongoing Israeli settlement construction, and added that Israel can do more to lift restrictions on Palestinian movement. "Nothing justifies the settlement expansion which constitutes an impediment to peace, as well as an obstacle obstructing the development of the Palestinian economy," Koucher told delegates at the closing session of a Palestinian investors’ conference in Bethlehem. Government spokesman Mark Regevsaid settlement construction continues only in Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, which Israel does not consider settlements, and inside large West Bank settlement blocs that Israel intends to retain in any final peace accord. Kouchner also said Israeli restrictions on Palestinian mobility remain significant.

Livni due in France Sunday to discuss peace process with Sarkozy
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Israeli FM, French leader to discuss renewed talks with Syria, Palestinian track and latest developments in Lebanon. During visit Livni will address event marking Israel’s 60th anniversary -Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni is scheduled to leave for Paris on Sunday to meet with President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace. The two are expected to discuss the renewed talks between Israel and Syria, the Palestinian track and the recent developments in Lebanon. Sarkozy is expected to arrive in Israel on June 22. During the trip Livni is also scheduled to meet her French counterpart, Bernard Kouchner, and speak at an event marking Israel’s 60th anniversary at Trocadero Square near the Eiffel Tower. Some 15,000 members of Paris’ Jewish community are expected to attend. Prior to her departure the foreign minister will participate in a ceremony that will be held prior to the departure of an El Al plane carrying humanitarian aid to China and Myanmar.

French FM: Nothing justifies settlement expansion
Associated Press, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Bernard Kouchner attends closing session of Palestinian business conference, criticizes Israel’s network of roadblocks in West Bank. ’Settlement expansion obstructing development of Palestinian economy,’ he says - A Palestinian business conference has raised investments for projects worth $1. 4 billion, including in housing, high-tech and telecommunications, the Palestinian prime minister said Friday. The investments could create as many as 35,000 jobs, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said at the end of the three-day conference, which drew more than 500 foreign investors, many from the Arab world, along with hundreds more from the Palestinian territories. Fayyad declared the conference a success. "This is the start of moving the wheel of the economy, with a view toward the leading role of the private sector," said Fayyad, an economist.

Egypt takes a step back from Bush embrace
Adam Morrow and Khaled Moussa al-Omrani, Electronic Intifada 5/23/2008
CAIRO, 23 May (IPS) - On his trip to the region this week, US President George W. Bush dismayed even his staunchest Arab allies by expressing unprecedented levels of US support for Israel. In a rare sign of Egyptian displeasure with Washington, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left a major economic summit before Bush had a chance to deliver a scheduled address. "The incident revealed serious tensions between Cairo and Washington," Emad Gad, expert on Israeli affairs at the semi-official al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, told IPS. Bush’s tour, which ran from 13-18 May, brought him to Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The visit follows an earlier trip to the region in January, when Bush met regional leaders with the stated aim of kick-starting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. According to Bush aides quoted in the press, the trip was scheduled to allow the US President

Jordan’s hotels reject Israeli embassy party request
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
AMMAN, (PIC)-- The Israeli embassy in Jordan found no place in the Jordanian hotels to celebrate the 60th "birthday" of the Hebrew state on usurped Palestinian land after those hotels rejected a request made by the Israeli embassy in Amman in this regard. The hotels took a similar decision last year, prompting the embassy to hold the party within its premises. The supreme executive committee for the protection of the country and for the resisting normalization welcomed the hotels’ decision, and described it as "national act" that reflect the Jordanian people’s sense against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In the southern city of Karak, the Muslim Brotherhood organized a rally attended by swarms of Jordanian masses, in which the group stressed the importance of the Palestinian issue for Arab and Muslim Ummah.

Analysts: Bush bid to isolate Iran, Syria backfires
Middle East Online 5/23/2008
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration’s campaign to isolate Iran and Syria has backfired as the two countries ended up this week sidelining the United States, analysts said. Supported by Iran and Syria, Hezbollah bolstered recent military gains in a deal with Lebanon’s government while Syria emerged from the shadows with the announcement of indirect talks with Israel, they contend. Few would dispute that Iran’s regional influence has risen since 2003 when US-led forces invaded Iraq, overthrew Saddam Hussein and empowered once downtrodden Shiite Muslims close to Iran. For Brookings Institution analyst Ammar Abdulhamid, a Syrian scholar and dissident, said: "You end up realizing there is a strategy being worked out between Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, and they have actually managed to make quite strong headway in the last few days.

Israeli agreement with Syria more likely than with Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israel has reached the conclusion that the possibility of reaching a peace deal with Syria is more likely than an agreement with the Palestinians, the Isaeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz said on Friday. According to Ha’aretz, the implementation of any Israeli-Syrian agreement will happen faster than the implemention of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. There are a number of factors indicating this, the newspaper says. Disagreements with Syria lie in territorial issues. Syria is demanding the return of the Golan Heights, whereas the Palestinians’ demands and the complicated and deep disagreements regarding a number of issues require concessions from both sides. Moreover, the separation and fragmentation taking place in the internal Palestinian political arena, resulting from the isolation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and the purported weakness of. . .

Amid talks, Golan gets first mall, and development booms
Yuval Azoulay, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
As Turkish envoys were mediating Israeli-Syrian talks in Istanbul, construction workers in Moshav Bnei Yehuda were putting the finishing touches on the first mall in the southern Golan Heights, which will open next month. According to the mall’s owner, Terrace Investments, it is meant to serve the needs of the "large population of tourists who visit the area," as well as local residents. The two-story shopping center, called Nof Golan, will cover an area of 3,000 square meters. Ofer Zilberberg, of neighboring Kibbutz Gashur, said the mall is just one example of the Golan’s rapid development in recent years. "There is great vigor here: expanding communities, investment in agriculture and a great deal of entrepreneurship, the establishment of small businesses," he said.

Iran reportedly irate over Israel-Syria peace talks
Barak Ravid and Amos Harel, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
Sources close to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday said that he was unable to conceal his disappointment and surprise at the news of renewed Israeli-Syrian peace talks. In an interview with the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, the sources said that Ahmadinejad characterized the reports as a violation by Damascus of the two countries’ mutual responsibilities toward one another. The sources added that the Iranian leader also received detailed information about the secret negotiations weeks before the Syrian foreign minister’s recent visit to Tehran. According to the newspaper, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council is preparing a response to a letter from Syria that mentioned its contact with Israel. An Iranian editor also revealed to al-Sharq al-Awsat that the council instructed Iranian communications. . .

Could Israel-Syria peace defuse major conflicts?
Middle East Online 5/23/2008
TEL AVIV - Peace between Israel and Syria could defuse some of the most explosive conflicts in the Middle East and weaken Iran’s growing influence there, Israeli analysts said. Israel and Syria, technically in a state of war since Israel was born 60 years ago, announced on Wednesday that they had resumed indirect negotiations under Turkish mediation after an eight-year freeze. The surprise announcement followed months in which reports of discreet peace overtures alternated with belligerent rhetoric. The Israeli-Syrian border has remained calm for nearly 25 years, but the two enemies challenged each other regularly in Lebanon for 18 years until Israeli troops withdrew from the country’s south in 2000. And while Israel has military superiority in the region, it claims that Syria is one of its biggest strategic threats.

Bill would require Golan referendum
Shahar Ilan, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
A special Knesset committee is currently preparing a bill that would require holding a referendum or elections before ceding any territory under Israeli sovereignty - including the Golan Heights. A majority of MKs support the bill, but the cabinet opposes it. Experts told the committee that the cost of a referendum would be about NIS 200 million, not including any financing for parties’ campaigns for or against it. An existing law already mandates a referendum before ceding any territory under Israeli sovereignty, but it also states that this requirement will not apply until a Basic Law detailing the procedures for holding a referendum is passed. Since passing such a Basic Law seems to be nearly impossible in today’s political constellation, the current bill eliminated the need to enact a Basic Law.

VIDEO - IDF reservists greet news of Israel-Syria talks with cynicism
Haaretz Staff and Channel 10, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
Haaretz. com/Channel 10 daily feature for May 22, 2008 - Israel Defense Forces reservists on the northern border reacted cynically to Wednesday’s news of indirect peace negotiations being conducted officially between Israel and Syria. The veteran soldiers also, however, voiced a desire to see Israel and its northern neighbors have peaceful relations. [end]

Anti-siege committee urges the world to save Gaza children
Palestinian Information Center 5/23/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Gaza-based anti-siege committee has urged on Thursday international and Arab concerned parties to immediately intervene to put an end to the Israeli siege against Gaza Strip, and to stop the accelerated deterioration in all aspects of life there. In press statements he issued in this regard, Rami Abdo, the spokesman of the committee, described the Israeli siege on Gaza strip as the "ugliest closure and suffocation system the modern history had ever known", saying that most of the Strip’s inhabitants couldn’t find potable water to drink in addition to piles of garbage spread in the streets. He added that the Palestinian people in the besieged Strip were using peaceful means and activities in order to lift the blockade, but, he explained, the Israeli occupation was apparently pushing the Palestinian people into a situation in which they would take some other means that could affect the entire region.

Fayyad: $1.4 billion pledged for Palestinian economy at Palestine Investment Conference
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an – The Palestine Investment Conference, held in the West Bank city of Bethlehem this week, has led to pledges of 1. 4 billion US dollars for Palestinian business projects, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told a news conference on Friday. Fayyad said he expected investment in the projects to create up to 35,000 jobs in the West Bank. The 1. 4 billion US dollars includes about 550 million US dollars from major Arab investors for a new West Bank town and a shopping complex. He also announced a joint work strategy between the Palestinian government and the private sector "to strengthen coordination and integration between them in order to advance the national economy." Fayyad said that both sides will "keep working jointly through organized dialogue and continuous coordination which ensures effective dealing with any developments with maximum joint responsibility.

For many this was a chance to invest in the future of Palestine against the occupation
Palestine News Network 5/23/2008
Bethlehem / Najib Farrag - The Jordanian businessman of Palestinian origin, Abdel Rahman Abu Seif, speaking to journalists and the media on Friday slammed what he saw while traveling through the Allenby Bridge until his arrival in Bethlehem at the Palestine Investment Conference. "These occupation procedures are to sabotage the conference and lead to its non-success. I saw a lot of military checkpoints. My colleagues and I were stopped along the road numerous times and each time the soldiers applied the same procedures. And these, which we do not live with on a daily basis, tried even our patience." When a correspondent from Israeli television Channel One conducted an interview, he spoke in sharply different terms. At first he refused to give the interview. "I do not want to talk to you," he said. "However the reporter did not turn off the television camera so I said, ’I wonder. . .

US Trade and Development Agency pledge $480,000 to Palestinian communications company
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Promoting the expansion of wireless internet connectivity in the West Bank is the goal underlying a 480,000 US dollar grant USTDA Director Larry Walther signed at the Palestinian Investment Conference in Bethlehem. USTDA awarded this grant to BCI Communications & Advanced Technologies Ltd. (BCI), which is headquartered in Ramallah, for technical assistance on the deployment of a WiMax system. The grant signing marks the first USTDA assistance in the Palestinian Territories since 1995. At the grant signing ceremony in Bethlehem, USTDA Director Larry W. Walther stated, “This technical assistance represents a strong step forward for our program in the Middle East. The project is an opportunity for USTDA to support, through working with the private sector in the West Bank, the development of important information and communication technology infrastructure and enhanced. . .

Palestine Investment Conference - Changing the face of the crisis
Aaron Lakoff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
The Palestine Investment Conference (PIC), taking place in Bethlehem from May 21-23, has enthusiastically declared "Palestine is open for business". The conference, which draws together around 1200 Palestinian, Israeli, and international private investors and government delegations, is aimed at jumpstarting the process of integrating Palestine into the global economy. While $2 billion USD worth of projects are being planned and inked at the PIC, almost entirely absent from the agenda is any mention that the Palestinian territories have been under the longest illegal military occupation in recent history. While some are optimistic at the economic opportunities that such a conference could bring to the impoverished West Bank and Gaza Strip, others are critical of the conference, charging that it is being used as a tool to normalize Israeli apartheid policies in the region.

Mayor of Hebron: free trade agreements benefit Palestinian investment
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Hebron - Ma’an - Hebron Mayor Khaled Osaily says there are huge investment opportunities in Palestine because of free trade agreements with the United States, the European Union and the Arab countries. Speaking to Ma’an at the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem, Osaily described the conference as "a political demonstration to support the Palestinians." "Economically, it shows a willingness of the participants to come to Palestine and explore the possibilities of doing business which is extremely important for us," he said. "We’ve presented to the conference, one of them is the Tarqoumiya industrial zone which will provide 5,000 jobs and will increase our export to the US and EU markets as well as to the Arab markets," he explained. A prominent Palestinian businessman and Mayor of the biggest city in Palestine, Osaily said that the political. . .

The US Deputy Secretary of Treasury: the PIC has ''met its goal''
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
Robert M. Kimmit, Deputy Secretary of the US Treasury Department told IMEMC that the Palestinian Investment Conference has met its goal. IMEMC meet Kimmit during the three days Investment Conference - Bethlehem that concluded on Friday. "Our view is that this conference has met its goal, and that is to send a message that there are investment opportunities in the West Bank and in Gaza, that they are here open for investment and that a good foundation has been laid," Kimmit said. The American official did not hide the fact that the restriction of the movement in the West Bank may endanger potential investments, "Clearly investors are looking for a good return on their investment are also going to take a look at what the difficulties are," He continued to say; "I think a very clear signal has been sent that the Palestinian territories are open to investment.

Bethlehem’s Governor Salah Ta’amri: Palestine Investment Conference good for Palestinians despite Israeli measures
Interview by Marian Houk, Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem - Bethlehem’s Governor Salah Ta’amri said the Palestine Investment Conference is a good opportunity for Palestinians, despite"Many people have their doubts about the conference, because of the closure, because of the Israeli measures, because of the lack of mobility for the Palestinians, because of The Wall…[but] I believe it’s good to have this conference. I think it reflects support for the Palestinian people, political support. There is, there could be an opportunity for some investors, Palestinian investors," he said. "Of course, we don’t have very high expectations from such a conference, again, not because there are no fields for investment – in fact, there are many fields for investment - but because of the Israeli measures," he added. "I hope some cooperation between non-Palestinian investors and Palestinian investors takes place.

In the dock
Gamal Essam El-Din, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/22/2008
Campaigners hope a mock trial of senior officials involved in selling natural gas to Israel will mobilise public support against the deal - Opponents of the sale of Egyptian natural gas to Israel say they will stage a people’s tribunal next Saturday of key figures implicated in the deal. Campaign spokesman Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat announced that "two Ministry of Petroleum officials and a business tycoon will be publicly tried on charges of facilitating the sale of Egyptian natural gas to Israel." Minister of Petroleum Sameh Fahmi, chairman of the Egyptian Gas Holding Company (EGHC) Ahmed Latif and business tycoon Hussein Salem have been invited to attend the proceedings. "The charges against them will be levelled during the trial’s first hearing on Saturday," said El-Sadat, a cousin of late president Anwar El-Sadat, the first Arab leader to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

U.S. Presidential candidates voice uncritical support for Israel
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/23/2008
U. S. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama made an appearance at a Florida synagogue Thursday in an effort to get support from Jewish voters. Speaking at the the "B’Nai Torah" synagogue in Boca Raton, Obama said the threat posed by Iran was grave and immediate, pledging to address the threat should he become president. He said that he would not negotiate with the Hamas party (the elected government of the Palestinian people), and would be fully supportive of Israel if he were elected. The other two top Presidential candidates, John McCain and Hillary Clinton, have long declared their unabashed and unwavering support for Israel. Only potential Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney has made any statement in support of the basic, internationally-recognized rights of the Palestinian people. The American Israel Political Action Committee, or AIPAC (EH-pac), has placed ads in Florida. . .

Former Defense Minister Mordechai allowed entry to US
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Visa granted after Olmert tells US officials Mordechai rehabilitated, does not pose threat to American public despite sex offenses - Former Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai was granted a visa by the US embassy in Tel Aviv at Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s request, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday. Mordechai’s initial request for a visa, which was filed some four months ago, was rejected by the Americans due to his past conviction for sexual misconduct. However, during President George W. Bush’s first visit to Israel Olmert asked a number of senior US officials intervene in the matter while taking into account that Mordechai had been rehabilitated and does not pose a threat to the American public. Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s office also turned to the Americans on Mordechai’s behalf. Meanwhile, Mordechai also filed an appeal with the American embassy, which was reportedly debated among some of the highest-ranking officials in Washington.

Police grill Olmert for second time over latest corruption allegations
Patrick Moser, Daily Star 5/24/2008
Agence France Presse - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Police grilled Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert Friday for the second time in three weeks in the latest corruption probe against him which has sparked calls for his resignation. Anti-fraud officers questioned Olmert, 62, for about 90 minutes at his official residence in Occupied Jerusalem. They are trying to establish whether Olmert dispensed any favors in exchange for funds he allegedly received illegally from millionaire American financier Morris Talansky during the 13 years before he became premier in 2006. The state prosecutor believes Olmert received $100,000 in cash from Talansky, and police are looking at money transfers that could have been used to finance private trips. Olmert, who was mayor of Jerusalem and trade minister before becoming premier, has denied any wrongdoing but admitted receiving money from Talansky to help finance election campaigns in 1999 and 2003.

Police interrogates Olmert again, describe probe as decisive
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
Interrogators of the Regional Unit which probes fraud cases interrogated Olmert again on Friday and said that this interrogation was decisive as it could lead to an indictment against him. The interrogation team met for consultations with the head of the investigations committee at the Israeli Police department, Yohanan Daneno, shortly after interrogating Olmert. Israeli sources reported that the investigators probed Olmert in regard to the statements of Olmert’s lawyer Uri Maisor, who is also under investigation. According to the sources, Maisor presented documents which indicated that Olmert received money for his personal use. Olmert is suspected of receiving large sums of money, which mounts to several hundreds of thousands over the last ten years. The money was from an American businessman. Both his lawyer, and the previous head of his office, Shoula Zakin, are involved in the case.

Investigators ask Olmert to detail use of Talansky’s money transfers
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Prime minister questioned for second time in one month regarding bribery affair. Court determines that key witness Morris Talansky’s pre-trial deposition will be heard this coming Tuesday - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was questioned under caution Friday morning for the second time in a month in connection with the bribery probe recently launched against him. A law enforcement official told Ynet that the latest questioning session "will have great influence on the case". A National Fraud Unit investigation team arrived at the prime minister’s Jerusalem residence at around 9 am. Police officials later said Olmert cooperated with the investigators. The Jerusalem District Court simultaneously discussed the appeal submitted by Olmert’s attorneys to postpone the pre-trial deposition of key witness Morris Talansky, and determined that the testimony will be heard. . .

Israeli police question Olmert
Al Jazeera 5/23/2008
Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister, is being questioned for a second time by the police, as a part of a bribery investigation. Friday’s investigation will probe Olmert’s alleged role in accepting money from Morris Talansky, an American Jewish businessman. Olmert, who has denied any wrongdoing, was first questioned about three weeks ago. Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesman, said: "Olmert will be questioned for the second time by investigators from the national fraud unit on Friday." Earlier, Israel’s chief prosecutor had said that investigators suspected Olmert had taken envelopes of cash from Talansky, a New York based fundraiser. Israeli police say no charges have been filed againstOlmert. Detectives and state prosecutors are exploring the possibility that he took bribes, violated campaign funding laws and laundered money," police said.

Talansky misleads court in collateral bid to leave Israel before deposition
Uri Blau, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
The central witness in the investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, American businessman Morris Talansky, told a Jerusalem court on Wednesday that he was willing to mortgage his Jerusalem apartment as collateral to ensure his return to Israel to testify. However, Haaretz has learned that the apartment Talansky referred to does not belong to him, and thus the evidence presented to the court by his lawyer was misleading. "For years now, he [Talansky] has visited his family in Israel frequently, an average of three or four times a year. In 1993, he acquired an apartment in Jerusalem which he used during his visits to Israel. Today, he is the owner of a second apartment, that which he has offered as collateral," said his lawyer, Jacques Chen, on Wednesday. Talansky has contested a court request that he delay his stay of exit order to deliver his deposition.

Israeli police question PM Ehud Olmert in corruption case
Haroon Siddique, The Guardian 5/23/2008
Police today began questioning the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, for a second time in a corruption case that threatens his political future as he tries to advance fragile efforts towards peace with Syria and the Palestinians. Police suspect Olmert illicitly took up to $500,000 (£252,730) from the American Jewish businessman Morris Talansky, who has become the key witness in the case. No charges have been filed against Olmert. But detectives and state prosecutors are exploring the possibility he took bribes, violated campaign funding laws and laundered money. Olmert has acknowledged taking money from Talansky for political campaigns, but said his campaign finances were the responsibility of long-time confidant Uri Messer, who was questioned yesterday. The Israeli leader has denied wrongdoing and vowed to resign if indicted. He was last questioned two weeks ago.

Olmert questioned for second time; Talansky to testify Tuesday
Jonathan Lis and Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
The Jerusalem District Court ruled on Friday that the central witness in the investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, American businessman Morris Talansky, must begin testifying on Tuesday. The ruling, which was made in response to a request by Olmert’s attorneys to delay the deposition by two weeks, came as the prime minister was being questioned under caution for a second time at his Jerusalem residence. Initially, Talansky was scheduled to begin his deposition on Sunday, but Olmert’s lawyers had requested additional time to study the investigative material. An injunction barring Talansky from leaving the country was to expire at 11 P. M. this coming Monday, and Talansky wants to return to the United States immediately thereafter. He had said that he would be willing to return to Israel in two weeks should the court. . .

Olmert questioned again on ’funds from businessman’
Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem, The Independent 5/23/2008
The Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, was questioned for the second time yesterday at his official residence in Jerusalem by police investigating suspicions over funds he is said to have received in the past from an American businessman. At the same time his lawyers failed in court to delay for two weeks a deposition the businessman, Morris Talansky, will make as part of the police inquiry into possible corruption. Instead, the Jerusalem District Court ruled that Mr Talansky, who is suspected of channelling funds to Mr Olmert during his time as mayor of Jerusalem and as industry minister, would begin testifying on Tuesday instead of tomorrow as originally intended. The court also ruled that lawyers representing the Prime Minister and his former bureau chief Shula Zaken could cross-examine Mr Talansky when he makes his deposition.

More than two-thirds of the Israelis believe Olmert is not entitled to negotiate over Golan
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth, and the Dahaf Center, under the supervision of Dr. Mina Tsemah, conducted a survey on 500 Israelis chosen randomly and asked them about negotiations with Syria and the withdrawal from the Golan Height. The survey revealed that two-thirds of the Israelis believe that Olmert is not entitled to hold talks with Syria. Only 6% of the surveyed said that they have utmost trust in the Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. The margin of error of the survey was 4. 5%. 50% of the surveyed Israelis said that they object to any withdrawal from the Golan Heights, even a partial one. Responding to a question which states "Can Israel cede some areas in the Golan Heights under a comprehensive peace deal with Israel? " , 19% of the surveyed said that Israel must withdraw from all of the Golan Heights, 29% said that Israel should withdraw from part of the area and 52% said that they reject any withdrawal.

Cartoon of the day - BLOCKADE
Carlos Latuff, Palestine Think Tank 5/23/2008
Carlos Latuff is a friend of Palestinian people. - Artist and activist Carlos Latuff shares over 300 of his drawings on Palestine. Download! Print! Share! Never Give Up! - click following link: [end] -- See also: Carlos Latuff - His Palestinian Cartoons

OPIC signs political risk insurance agreement for Palestinian businesses
Ma’an News Agency 5/23/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an -President and CEO of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), have signed an agreement enabling OPIC to support a new public-private facility that will provide political risk insurance to Palestinian export-related businesses and local and foreign investors in the West Bank. Robert Mosbacher, Jr. , signed the agreement at the 2008 Palestinian Investment Conference in Bethlehem. The Palestinian Political Risk Insurance Project (PPRI) will establish a facility funded by public and private capital that will include OPIC and the Middle East Investment Initiative (MEII), an independent nonprofit organization initiated by the Aspen Institute. PPRI will provide affordable political risk insurance covering trade disruption and asset damage resulting from political violence. Specifically, PPRI trade disruption coverage will indemnify Palestinian exporters. . .

’Israeli Big Lebowski’ captures top student prize at Cannes
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
The Israeli film "Anthem" won the first place prize at the Cannes film festivals’ student competition on Friday. This marks the first time an Israeli short clinched this award at the fest. The 36-minute-long film, directed by Elad Keidan, deals with an eccentric man who goes to buy milk at a grocery store in Jerusalem’s Katamonim neighborhood and meets various people along the way. "It’s like an Israeli ’Big Lebowski,’" Keidan told Haaretz, "but an existential ’Big Lebowski. ’" According to the director, the film drew inspiration from Iranian cinema as well as from the work of legendary filmmaker David Perlov. Keidan directed the film last January as part of his final project for film class in which he enrolled at Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television. The film was later submitted for consideration at the festival.

Tunisian, Israeli singers stage joint show at Jewish ceremony in Djerba
Middle East Online 5/23/2008
Two singers, one from Tunis and the other from Israel, staged a joint show for the first time on the sidelines of a ceremony currently being held at the Jewish Ghriba shrine in the Tunisian island of Djerba. Israeli singer Yusuf al-Tayyib with Tunisian singer Hussein al-Afrit were on stage in front of hundreds of Jews who came to Djerba to participate in the celebrations. More than six thousand Israelis came to celebrate this year at the Ghriba shrine, which is said to be the second oldest synagogue in the world. On Wednesday night, Tayyib sang a number of famous Arabic songs by Oum Kalsoum, Abdel-Halim Hafez and Fayza Ahmad. Israel’s Tayyib co-sang with Tunisia’s Afrit during Oum Kalsoum’s song “Sirt el-Hob”. Afrit also recited the words of the Muslim call for prayer while Tayyib chanted “Allahu Akbar” (God is great).

3.3-magnitude earthquake rattles northern Israel
Jonathan Weber, YNetNews 5/23/2008
Quake felt by residents from Nahariya in west to Metula, Kiryat Shmona in east; no injuries or damage reported - A low-magnitude earthquake was felt across northern Israel on Friday evening. Reports of the quake were received from residents in the northern cities of Nahariya, Ma’alot, Kiryat Shmona, Metula and even from Netanya in central Israel. There were no reports of injuries or damage. The Geophysical Institute of Israel (GII) reported that the quake measured 3. 3 on the Richter Scale and that its epicenter was located in southern Lebanon. GII Director Rami Hofstetter told Ynet that "several low-magnitude quakes have occurred in the Lebanon area recently, and the current quake appears to be part of that series of quakes." Avi Rahamim of Kiryat Shmona told Ynet, "We were at home during the quake. . ."

Religious leaders welcome Doha agreement
Daily Star 5/24/2008
BEIRUT: Senior Shiite cleric Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah congratulated the Lebanese Friday on the agreement reached by their leaders in Qatar earlier this week, and hoped it would lead to a "dialogue project" where all controversial issues would be discussed. In his weekly Friday sermon in the Imam Hassanayn Mosque in Haret Hreik, Fadlallah urged Arab leaders, who he said, "have directed this compromise, to be loyal to this experience." Under Arab League auspices, rival Lebanese leaders clinched a deal on Wednesday to end the political feud that exploded into deadly clashes earlier this month and nearly drove the country into a new civil war. The agreement, announced after days of tense talks in Doha, will see the election of a president for Lebanon on Sunday and the creation of a unity government in which the opposition will have the power of veto.

Security Council backs Doha deal, but Kouchner has doubts
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/24/2008
The United Nations Security Council welcomed the breakthrough deal reached by Lebanon’s rival factions to end an 18-month political standoff and elect a new president. In a non-binding statement adopted by all its 15 members late Thursday, the Security Council said it "welcomes and strongly supports the agreement reached by Lebanese leaders in Doha on May 21. . . which constitutes an essential step towards the resolution of the current crisis. . . and the complete restoration of Lebanon’s unity, stability and independence." The council also "welcomes the agreement to ban the use of weapons and violence as a means to settle disputes, irrespective of their nature and under any circumstances. "It reaffirmed "its strong support for the territorial integrity, sovereignty, unity and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized borders and under the sole and exclusive. . .

Lebanon’s political future? An interview with Karim Makdisi
Tadamon, Palestine Think Tank 5/23/2008
Tadamon! presents an outstanding interview with Lebanese political commentator and professor Karim Makdisi. He offers a critique on the recently signed political agreement on Lebanon’s future signed in Doha, Qatar as without long term substance. As media outlets across the world followed closely the most recent political conflict in Lebanon, seldom was the countries major economic crisis mentioned, with a national debt at around $45 billion, Lebanon maintains one of the highest per capita national debts in the world. Neo-liberal economic policies adopted by successive movements after Lebanon’s 15 year civil-war have left the country in economic ruins. As the western-backed government and the Hezbollah-lead opposition battled for political power in Lebanon throughout recent months, both mainstream political movements seldom placed the growing poverty rates, crumbling economy and staggering emigration rates front and center.

Rice, Miliband say Hezbollah’s standing damaged
Middle East Online 5/23/2008
PALO ALTO, California - Hezbollah has been left weakened by the recent turmoil in Lebanon and could pay the price in next year’s elections, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her British counterpart said on Thursday. "Hezbollah has lost something very important which is any argument that it is somehow a resistance movement on behalf of the Lebanese people," Rice told journalists aboard her plane as she and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband headed to Palo Alto, California. "Yes, I think they have been hurt in the long term." The two top diplomats spoke a day after Hezbollah won concessions in a deal with the government in Lebanon. Under the agreement signed in Doha, the Hezbollah-led opposition secured veto power in the new government after having seized large swathes of west Beirut from their rivals in sectarian fighting.

Hizbullah secures demands
Lucy Fielder, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/22/2008
The deal hatched in Doha by Lebanon’s sparring factions has ended, for now at least, a crisis that had raised the spectre of renewed civil war, reports from Beirut Click to view caption Lebanese soldiers look at opposition supporters who had set up a tent-city 18 months ago in downtown Beirut. The opposition began dismantling the protest camp following a deal to end the country’s prolonged political crisis If the "no victor, no vanquished" formula was predictable, the deal finalised this week in Doha grants Iranian- and Syrian- backed Hizbullah its main demands. Washington, opposed to its allies in the government sharing power with a group it considers "terrorist", has suffered yet another blow to its Middle East policy, and in the country it once hailed as its "success story". At the time of writing, Army Chief Michel Suleiman’s election to the presidency, vacant since pro-Syrian Emile Lahoud left in November, appeared certain.

Syria’s wager
Bassel Oudat, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/22/2008
Damascus says that outside mediation is not needed in Lebanon. What it means is that it is relying on its Lebanese allies to prevail - The Syrian government watched closely as Lebanese parties convened with Arab League negotiators in Doha last Friday. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moallem made several phone calls to Arab foreign ministers present in the meetings, especially Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jabr. But Damascus doesn’t want to be seen as party to the talks. When President Bashar Al-Assad met Qatar’s Prince Hamad bin Khalifa a few days before the gathering in Doha, he said that the Lebanese conflict was a purely domestic affair. What he meant, however, was that Arab or international mediation was undesirable. A similar position was voiced by Syria’s envoy to the Arab League. Youssef Al-Ahmed opposed the formation of an Arab committee to mediate among the Lebanese and shot down the idea of an Arab deterrence force deploying in Lebanon.

Where are those Iranian arms in Iraq?
Gareth Porter, Asia Times 5/24/2008
WASHINGTON - The United States military command in Iraq continues to talk aboutan alleged pipeline of Iranian weapons to Iraqi Shi’ites opposing the USoccupation, implying that they have become dependent on Iran for indirect-fireweapons and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs). But US officials have failed thus far to provide evidence that would supportthat claim, and a long-delayed US military report on Iranian arms is unlikelyto offer any data on what proportion of the weapons in the hands of Shi’itefighters are from Iran and what proportion comes from purchases on the openmarket. When Major General Kevin Bergner was asked that question at abriefing on May 8, he did not answer it directly. Instead, Bergner reverted toa standard US military line that these groups "could not do what they’re doingwithout the support of foreign support [sic]".

THE ROVING EYE - The Mosul riddle
Pepe Escobar, Asia Times 5/24/2008
"Operation Peace" in Sadr City in Baghdad is and will continue to be spun bythe Nuri al-Maliki government - and by America corporate media - as aresounding "success" in controlling Iraqi militias, in this case the Mahdi Armyof Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Meanwhile, under the global radar, an invisible war in Mosul drags on,officially against al-Qaeda in Iraq jihadis but in fact a barely disguisedanti-Sunni mini-pogrom conducted by - what else? - government-embedded militias. No one has asked the million-dollar-question: How come multicultural Mosul - a non-Kurdish city - is now being ruled by deputy governor Khoso Goran, a Kurd? Round up all Sunni suspects - It all started in January, when Maliki - and Washington - started spinning the Ninevah province offensive, centered in Mosul, as "the last battle" against al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Iraqi cleric flirting with Shiite militant message
Middle East Online 5/23/2008
BAGHDAD – Iraq’s most influential Shiite cleric has been quietly issuing religious edicts declaring that armed resistance against US-led foreign troops is permissible — a potentially significant shift by a key supporter of the Washington-backed government in Baghdad. The edicts, or fatwas, by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani suggest he seeks to sharpen his long-held opposition to American troops and counter the populist appeal of his main rivals, firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Mahdi Army militia. But — unlike al-Sadr’s anti-American broadsides — the Iranian-born al-Sistani has displayed extreme caution with anything that could imperil the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The two met Thursday at the elderly cleric’s base in the city of Najaf south of Baghdad. So far, al-Sistani’s fatwas have been limited to a handful of people.

Syria hesitant to let IAEA inspect alleged nuke site hit by IAF
Reuters, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
Damascus, whose only declared nuclear facility is an old research reactor under IAEA inspection, has said Israel’s target was only a disused military building in its eastern desert that had no nuclear link. At the start of May, the IAEA wrote to Syria asking to see the targeted area. Syrian atomic energy chief Ibrahim Othman visited Vienna on May 9 for talks with the agency’s chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, diplomats familiar with the matter said. Those talks did not produce any agreement on the timing and nature of a trip by senior inspectors, they added. One diplomat said on condition of anonymity that the agency had received a letter from Damascus earlier this week asking for more details on the proposed visit. The agency has replied and is now waiting for a further response, the diplomat added. Syria’s UN envoy said in late April that Damascus would cooperate with the IAEA inquiry and had "nothing to hide".


A Declaration of US Independence from Israel: Chris Hedges
Chris Hedges, Palestine Think Tank 5/23/2008
      This is a talk given at the Nassau Club in Princeton by Chris Hedges, former New York Times ME bureau chief.
     Israel, without the United States, would probably not exist. The country came perilously close to extinction during the October 1973 war when Egypt, trained and backed by the Soviet Union, crossed the Suez and the Syrians poured in over the Golan Heights. Huge American military transport planes came to the rescue. They began landing every half-hour to refit the battered Israeli army, which had lost most of its heavy armor.
     By the time the war was over, the United States had given Israel $2.2 billion in emergency military aid.
     The intervention, which enraged the Arab world, triggered the OPEC oil embargo that for a time wreaked havoc on Western economies. This was perhaps the most dramatic example of the sustained life-support system the United States has provided to the Jewish state.

Zionism’s bosom buddy

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/22/2008
      Bush at the Knesset revealed what most Arabs and Palestinians already knew: he is not an impartial broker.
     In his speech before the Israeli Knesset last week, President George W Bush proved once again that he is a Zionist par excellence. Indeed, the depth of his embrace of Zionism and the totality of his support for Israel surprised even his Israeli hosts. One Knesset member from a far right-wing party lamented that if only Israeli leaders showed similar commitment to Zionism, Israel would be in much better shape.
     It is not certain if Bush, a person of conspicuously shallow intellect and of manifestly inadequate moral rectitude, knew what he was saying or if he was merely parroting whatever his speech writers had prepared for him. At any rate, no educated observer having seen the speech would bet that this man would be willing to pressure Israel to end its 40-year-old occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, or come to terms with the legality and morality of the right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees uprooted from their ancestral homeland when Israel came into existence 60 years ago.

Even the trumpets should have been ashamed

Yossi Sarid, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
      The trumpets and applause have fallen silent, the slaps on the back have ceased, and yet the speech continues to resonate. Its echoes traveled this week here and mainly there, in America, from coast to coast.
     One newspaper reported from the Knesset that there were 14 standing ovations; another documented 18, no less. Elected officials and guests on the balcony were all aflutter; and all this, why?
     Because the Palestinians vanished into thin air; the ground opened up and swallowed them whole. Finally, the dream is coming true: "Bush’s vision," the "road map," a Palestinian state by December - all disappeared without a trace, along with the settlements and roadblocks. Never has Jerusalem been farther from Annapolis; never has the Knesset been farther from reality.
     The Knesset is a blue-and-white submarine, where oxygen is running low and the view of reality is blurring. In another 60 years, the speaker promises, life here will be good; why not stand up and applaud?

Fantasy unravels

Dina Ezzat, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/22/2008
      The promise of an independent Palestinian state by the end of the year is all but falling apart.
     Despite careful and at times misleading upbeat wording, the World Economic Forum on the Middle East (WEF-ME) convening this week in Sharm El-Sheikh was a cold shower for many optimists. The establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state by the end of 2008, as promised earlier in the year by US President George W Bush, is proving a challenge that not even all-powerful Washington can live up to.
     "I firmly believe that with leadership and courage, we can reach that peace agreement this year," President Bush told the conference. Bush’s statements on Sunday, Egyptian and Arab diplomats acknowledge, were aimed to appease Arab capitals angered by his statement before the Israeli Knesset last week. There, Bush failed not only to make reference to his promise to see an independent Palestinian state established before his second term in office ends this year, but provoked many by making positive reference to Zionist mantras like "Eretz Yisrael".

Azmi Bishara: Time for change

Amira Howeidy, Al-Ahram Weekly 5/22/2008
      Azmi Bishara tells Amira Howeidy that Arab Nationalists have a lot to answer for and that Hizbullah had no other option but to take over west Beirut and parts of Lebanon
     Azmi Bishara, 52, a former Knesset member, commentator and novelist, was unanimously elected chair of the Arab National Congress’s (ANC) 19th round, held in Sanaa from 10-13 May. Bishara arrived in Sanaa from a conference in Abu Dhabi. He is very much in demand across the Arab world.
     When he left Israel in March 2007 Israel’s security services began to investigate him on charges of treason and espionage. In April 2007, Bishara submitted his resignation from the Knesset to the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and has remained in the Arab world ever since, based mainly in Doha, Qatar. His wife and children have had to move to Amman, Jordan, in order to see him.
     In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly in Sanaa, Bishara explained that the case against him remains "open".

Nahr al-Bared: more questions than answers

Ray Smith, Electronic Lebanon, Electronic Intifada 5/22/2008
      One year ago, on 20 May 2007, the fighting began between the Lebanese army and the militant group Fatah al-Islam in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon. During more than three months of fighting between the army and the extremist group, more than 47 Palestinian civilians, 178 soldiers and at least 220 militants were killed. More than half a year after the battle came to an end, only a fraction of its residents have been allowed to return. Those who have come back to the camp do so only to find that most of their houses have been reduced to rubble.
     However, for most of the 30,000 Palestinians who once populated Nahr al-Bared, their return to the camp is still far off. As of late April, only between 1,500 and 2,000 families have been allowed to return to the so-called "new" camp that is located outside the core of Nahr al-Bared. The "old’" camp refers to the original site of Nahr al-Bared which is now completely destroyed and sealed off by the Lebanese army for, it states, "de-mining" purposes.

''You can’t stop people from living''

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/22/2008
      The wide land of smooth hills and valleys burns in the forty-five degree heat. From time to time, a sole palm tree crops up and the long, empty streets curl their way through the beautiful wilderness. However, what could appear to be exciting freedom is actually a very tense atmosphere in one of the most complicated areas inside the occupied Palestinian Territories - the Jordan Valley.
     The Jordan Valley is a strip of land that is one hundred and twenty kilometers in length and fifteen kilometers in width, running from the northern part of the Dead Sea to the Green Line south of Beit She’an. Approximately 55,000 Palestinians live in this region, including the population of Jericho and innumerable small villages and Bedouin communities. Each Israeli government since 1967 has aspired to prevent the Occupied Territories from sharing a direct border with Jordan. Consequently, the area has been altered significantly, changing from a thriving province into the highly-constricted phase of "pre-annexation". Several research institutions, such as B’Tselem, have monitored this development.

Israel at 60 - Business as usual, and homes for sale

Aaron Lakoff, International Middle East Media Center News 5/22/2008
      Haifa, Palestine - Standing on the beach of Haifa, on the coast of the Mediterranean sea in northern Israel, I had a very strange phone conversation.
     A friend and I were filming and photographing old abandoned homes. Many of these beautiful beach-front homes are still standing, although fenced off and sealed up. One such house had a large real-estate sign on the front, so I decided it might be interesting to ring up the number.
     On the other end of the line, I got a hold of a jolly man named Erez. I began to ask him questions about the property, kind of feigning interest in actually buying it. He told me that the particular house we were standing in front of had been sold for 3 million shekels (about $1 million US), and it was destined to be turned into a motel.
     He then proceeded to ask me if I was Jewish, to which I affirmed that I was, and then he began to enthusiastically tell me about all the other beach-front properties he could offer me in Haifa, pending how much money I was willing to invest. Going along with it, I asked him how old some of the buildings were. "Oh, they’re at least 60 years old," Erez replied. "Very nice old arabic architecture. But they do need to be re-furbished a bit."

Fatwa: Right of Return is an Obligation

Kawther Salam, Palestine Think Tank 5/22/2008
      Sheikh Dr. Taysir Al-Tamimi issued a Fatwa (a religious edict) at the Mosque of Riverside, California, during his visit there and while participating in the activities commemorating Al-Naqbah by the Palestinian community at that location. Sheikh Al-Tamimi stated in his Fatwa that the Palestinian Right of Return is the base of the resolution of the conflict and it is a fundamental right to hold to the Right of Return for all Palestinians, and at the same time an obligation.
     The Sheikh also made clear in his Fatwa that the Palestinian victims of the Naqbah should be compensated for their physical, moral, mental and material suffering and for all their losses. This right to receive compensation is in addition to their Right of Return, and in no way replaces or diminishes their Right of Return.
     According to the Fatwa of Sheikh Dr. Al-Tamimi, it is possible that Palestinians settle in another place as an alternative conditional solution, but, according to the Quran, this conditional possibility can only be fulfilled in a place which must be near and around the Mosque of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem, where the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) ascended to the heavens. This is the only possible home of the Palestinians according to our religion

Mahmood Mamdani - on the Good Muslim, Bad Muslim

Riccardo StaglianÒ, Palestine Think Tank 5/22/2008
      Back in 2005, the Italian weekly magazine Il venerdì della Repubblica published an important interview with Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani, upon occasion of the publication in Italian of his book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim. At the time, I translated the interview into English, as well as publishing on my blog a segment from another interview I found with the author. In the light of current events, I think it makes important reading and is worthy of republication, also for those who had missed it the first time.
     ....Mahmood Mamdani: Even when Bush speaks of ‘good’ Muslims and ‘bad’ Muslims, what he means by ‘good’ Muslims is really pro-American Muslims and by ‘bad’ Muslims he means anti-American Muslims. Once you recognize that, then it is no longer puzzling why good Muslims are becoming bad Muslims at such a rapid rate. You can actually begin to think through that development. If, however, you think of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Muslims in cultural terms, it is mind-boggling that in one week, you can have a whole crop of ‘bad’ Muslims - cultural changes do not usually happen with such rapidity! But if you have the aerial bombing of Fallujah and the targeting of civilian populations accused of hosting ‘bad’ Muslims, then you harvest an entire yield of bad Muslims at the end of the day, and the whole phenomenon becomes slightly less puzzling. This is connected to my claim that political identities are not reducible to cultural identities. Political Islam, especially radical political Islam, and even more so, the terrorist wing in radical political Islam, did not emerge from conservative, religious currents, but on the contrary, from a secular intelligentsia. In other words, its preoccupation is this-worldly, it is about power in this world. To take only the most obvious example: I am not aware of anyone who thinks of bin Laden as a theologian; he is a political strategist and is conceived of in precisely such terms. Of course, part of his strategy is employing a particular language through which he addresses specific audiences.

Tidings from a leper

Doron Rosenblum, Ha’aretz 5/23/2008
      The term "deja vu" seems to have been invented especially for describing the ritual of "talks with Syria." Such talks reawaken periodically and have been a repeating pattern for 40 years, down to the last detail - from their sudden appearance as a subject at the top of the Israeli agenda (usually as a diversion from other matters) to the emergency gatherings for leaders of the Golan settlements, from hasty farewell trips to the region (undertaken a multitude of times) to the bumper stickers adamantly opposing Israeli withdrawal and the talk of eating hummus in Damascus and going to Europe by car. And then the ritual dissolves - until the next time around.
     Is it serious this time? Has a new record been set? The current announcement of talks with Syria came at such a crucial moment in the criminal investigation of the prime minister that one feels Ehud Olmert inherited from Ariel Sharon not only the ever-present can of worms, but also the thick-skinned brutality and mischievous sense of humor as well. Even Sharon might not have dared to produce such blatant, transparent and clumsy "spin," the announcement of the talks coinciding precisely, down to the minute, with the report of further incriminating evidence against the PM. Olmert’s move might attest to utter desperation or to profoundly serious intentions; in any case, it reflects his disavowal of any criticism, suspicion or mockery. Indeed, there are three things of which Olmert is not currently suspected: an excess of shame, innocence or integrity.