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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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24 May 2008


Israeli siege leads to soaring anemia in Gaza newborns
Mohammed Omer, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
The Israeli siege of Gaza that has restricted access to food, water, and medicine is beginning to cause serious problems for newborn babies and pregnant mothers. "Many babies are born suffering from anemia that they have inherited from their mothers," said Dr. Salah al-Rantisi, head of the women’s health department at the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza. The mothers are becoming anemic because they do not get enough nutrition during pregnancy due to the Israeli blockade that has choked the supply of food and medicines. Dr. al-Rantisi also heads the women’s health unit at Nasser hospital, where 30 to 40 children are born every day. Many suffer from anemia, he said. Anwaar Abu Daqqa, 30, has lost three babies prematurely. The fetuses were malformed as a result of lack of nutrition and medicine for the mother, Dr.

IDF strikes wound 4 Gaza militants in two incidents
The Associated Press and Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Israel Defense Forces troops on Saturday attacked two groups of Palestinian militants firing mortar shells in the northern Gaza Strip, wounding four Hamas gunmen, Israeli and Palestinian officials said. Witnesses said the clashes occurred near the Nahal Oz fuel depot on the border between Israel and Gaza. The depot, which pumps fuel into Gaza, is a frequent target of Palestinian militants, who view the crossing as a symbol of Israel’s economic blockade of the area. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for nearly a year, said its gunmen were firing machine guns at the troops when they were struck. But local residents said the militants were firing mortar shells. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing retribution from Hamas. Later Saturday, two more militants were wounded while firing mortar shells, Hamas said.

Israeli soldiers at military checkpoint beat residents, force them to undress
Palestine News Network 5/24/2008
Hebron / PNN - Eyewitnesses reported Saturday that Israeli forces assaulted the citizens Samih Ahmed Hammad Jibreen, 38, and Mohammed Atta Eid Jard, 23. Both men are from the town of Sa’ir in the southern West Bank’s Hebron. Israeli soldiers severely beat them, and forcibly made them take off their clothes for "inspections." During a telephone call with another victim, he said that he was driving his car from the road in Beit Sahour and came upon a normally unmanned checkpoint. Israeli forces were there and stopped his car. They search its contents and then began beating him. The Media and Information Office in Hebron sent an official denouncement of the treatment of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers at military checkpoints in the West Bank, of which there are more than 600 as reported yesterday by the United Nations.

US political author Norman Finkelstein denied entry to Israel, International Solidarity Movement 5/24/2008
Action Alert - Denial of entry - Jerusalem - The US political author and critic of Israel Norman Finkelstein was denied entry to the Jewish state on Friday, his lawyer said. Finkelstein landed at Ben Gurion international airport near Tel Aviv in the early morning and was told by a representative of the ministry of interior that he would not be allowed into the country on ’security’ grounds, attorney Michael Sfard told dpa. ‘This usually means a 10-year ban on entry,’ Sfard added. Finkelstein, who is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors, has written critical books on Israeli policies in the Palestinian territories and on what he called ‘exploitation’ of the Jewish tragedy during World War II. Finkelstein has received with the fierce disapproval of some authors and academics, while others have praised his controversial works. -- See also:

UN says more roadblocks were installed by Israel in the West Bank
International Middle East Media Center, Palestine Monitor 5/24/2008
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, repeated invasions, and roadblocks in addition to the Annexation Wall continue to obstruct the freedom of movement of the Palestinian people and even bar them from reaching the farmlands.

Israeli forces destroy Nablus restaurant, cars
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Nablus – Ma’an – Israeli forces destroyed several cars and a restaurant in the West Bank city of Nablus early on Saturday morning, witnesses said. Israeli forces stormed Al-Quds street in Nablus, firing sound bombs and bullets. The troops opened fire at a restaurant belonging to 23-year-old Mahmoud Abu Halimeh, causing a fire that completely destroyed the restaurant. Witnesses said that the invading forces prevented firefighters from reaching the scene. Abu Halimeh burned the restaurant deliberately, and also prevented his brothers, who live in the upper floors of the building, from controlling the fire. Witnesses said that the Israelis forces broke into several houses in Balata refugee camp east of Nablus and destroyed several cars in the camp, Balata resident Bassam Zakki Abu Mustafa said.

’No Agreement on Gaza Truce’
Reuters, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas still differ on terms for a Gaza ceasefire that Egypt is mediating, a Palestinian official familiar with the talks said on Wednesday. Egypt has been trying to broker a truce to end violence that could derail US-backed peace negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian official said Israel agreed to stop ground raids and air strikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip if fighters halted rocket attacks, but had not accepted demands to reopen the territory’s border crossings as soon as a ceasefire begins. “Israel offered calm for calm, and said it would assess the situation and alleviate the blockade as calm prevails,” said the official, who declined to be identified. He said Cairo would inform Israel of Hamas’ response later on Wednesday after mediators met leaders from the group in Egypt. Egyptian airport sources said a Hamas delegation from Syria headed by Moussa Abu Marzouq, Hamas’ deputy leader in exile, had left Egypt without announcing a deal.

French Foreign Minister: obstacle to peace is Israeli policy and practice
Najib Farrag, Palestine News Network 5/24/2008
Bethlehem - The French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner levied heavy criticisms at Israel upon his visit for the Palestine Investment Conference. He said that Israeli measures were conducted to ensure that the conference would fail, that the Israelis had to make concessions to the Palestinians and that the Israeli occupation was the reason that the peace process was not working. He noted as a result the constraints set in front of the peace process and real development in the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip, and demanded the need to reduce these procedures. Kouchner’s statements came during his speech on the last day of the Palestine Investment Conference, held for three days in Bethlehem. The French Foreign Minister said the existence of this trend of illegal policy places very large obstacles in front of the Palestinian economy and that the Israeli actions have not been reduced.

Hamas calls on French Foreign Minister to visit Gaza, witness Israeli war crimes
Palestine News Network 5/24/2008
Gaza / PNN - The spokesman for the Palestinian government still operating in the Gaza Strip, Taher Nano, issued a statement to the press. However the sentiment was directed to French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner would spoke out about what he saw in the West Bank during the Palestine Investment Conference. Hamas asked that he visit the Gaza Strip and "see the Israeli war crimes. "The Strip is described as a "humanitarian disaster" by multiple organizations, the United Nations is still struggling to aid the people although the difficulties faced from the Israeli siege have all but stopped most efforts at various times. It is also described as "the world’s largest open air prison." Nano said, "Based on the French moral position which emerged via the media from the mouth of French Foreign Minister Bernard Koucher, we formally send a invititation for dialouge with the Hamas party in the Gaza Strip.

Haneyya gov’t invites Kouchner to visit Gaza
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The PA caretaker government headed by Ismail Haneyya has invited the French external affairs minister, Bernard Kouchner, to visit the Gaza Strip and get first hand information on the results of the Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people. The government in a statement by its spokesman Taher Al-Nunu on Friday welcomed a significant French role in the region that could also help in resolving the current state of division in the Palestinian arena. The government said that the invitation was based on the French ethical position regarding dialogue with the Palestinian government and the Hamas Movement and the failure of the isolation policy. Observers opined that the French official declaration as voiced by Kouchner on having contact with Hamas reflected a European displeasure with the US pressures and a step towards ending the international isolation on the Movement.

Syria rejects Livni’s call to cut ties with Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas
Associated Press, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Syrian government newspaper responds to Livni’s demands that Syria disassociate itself from Iran, "terror" organizations; says any preconditions to peace deal would ’put carriage before horse’. Iranian FM: Golan belongs to Syria - A Syrian government paper rejected Israel’s demand that Damascus should cut its ties with Iran and Arab "terror" groups as a condition for a peace agreement. The state-run Tishrin wrote in Saturday’s editorial that any preconditions to a deal would "put the carriage before the horse" and Syria’s relations with other nations were not on the bargaining table. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki also responded to Israel’s demands in the first public statement made by the country regarding the negotiations between Israel and Syria. "The Golan belongs to Syria and should return to it," the Iranian Fars News Agency reported him saying.

Syria rejects linking Israel peace with cutting off Iran
Middle East Online 5/24/2008
DAMASCUS - Syria will not accept preconditions over its resumed peace talks with Israel and will not compromise its relations with other states, the government daily Tishrin said on Saturday, referring to Iran. "Damascus rejects all preconditions concerning its relations with other countries and peoples," it said after an Israeli call for Damascus to distance itself from Tehran, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state. "Damascus will make no compromise on these relations," an editorial said. Israel and Syria announced on Wednesday they had launched indirect peace talks, with Turkey acting as go-between, after an eight-year freeze. Israel’s Housing Minister Zeev Boim said peace "can be reached with the Syrians only if they stop supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and give up their "strategic dependence on Iran.

Damascus divided over peace talks
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Editor-in-chief of al-Quds al-Arabi says Syrian leadership deeply divided over return to negotiations with Israel, sees resumption of talks as clear victory for those advocating jumping ship on Tehran - The indirect negotiations between Syria and Israel have flamed existing tensions between the two camps dominating the regime in Damascus. At least according to the London-based ’al-Quds al-Arabi’ newspaper on Saturday. According to an editorial penned by the paper’s editor-in-chief, Abdel Bari-Atwan, on the one side of the spectrum is President Bashar Assad’s deputy, Farouk al-Sharaa and on the other "“ his foreign affairs minister, Walid al-Mualem, who supports dialogue with Israel and the United States. Bari-Atwan asserts that the two have polar opposite views of what Damascus’ next step should be.

ILO Says Growing Gap Between Peace Talks, Impact on Palestinians Daily Lives
Kuwait News Agency, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
A senior International Labor Organization (ILO) official Philippe Egger said Thursday that a new ILO report evokes the concerns of the labor organization about the danger of a growing gap between peace talks, which have acquired a new momentum following the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, and the continuing ’facts on the ground’. "With the devastation of military action, and the continuing fine net of restrictions on movement, there is no doubt that economic and social hardship is mounting in the occupied Arab territories", the report says, adding that "pitting the claim ’security first, then peace’ against ’peace as a condition for security’ leads to an impasse". The situation on the ground, says the report, is reflected in closures, military incursions, checkpoints, the permits regime, the endless patience required to cross the Separation Barrier, the continuing construction within settlements, and ’settlers-only’ roads, including the separation of East Jerusalem from the Palestinian territory.

IOA renews administrative detention of former Palestinian minister
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- The Ahrar center for prisoner studies reported that the Israeli intelligence extended for the third time the administrative detention of Wasfi Qabaha, the former minister of prisoners’ affairs, for six months, describing this decision as a violation of all international conventions and charters. Qabaha has been in the Israeli Megiddo prison for a year and suffers from diabetes and hypertension; besides, there are other 49 Palestinian MPs and ministers in Israeli jails living in harsh living conditions. Fouad Al-Khafash, the Ahrar director, appealed to all concerned international organizations to urgently intervene to get the Palestinian lawmakers and ministers imprisoned in Israeli jails released. The Israeli military court in the West Bank decided to postpone for the second time the trial of Palestinian lawmakers namely Khalid Said, Ibrahim Dahbur, Khalid Abu. . .

Haaretz - Panel: Ultra-Orthodox settlement should be city, despite illegal construction
Akiva Eldar, published in Haaretz, International Solidarity Movement 5/24/2008
Bil’in Village - The ultra-Orthodox settlement of Modi’in Illit in the West Bank should be granted city status despite suspicions that its council members were involved in authorizing illegal construction, an ad hoc committee set up by the Interior Ministry has recommended. The committee’s decision contradicts expert opinions that severely criticized Modi’in Illit’s council for its involvement in approving the construction of Matityahu East, a new neighborhood that borders the Palestinian town of Bil’in. Construction of Matityahu East was brought to a halt about two years ago after a petition filed by Peace Now and Bil’in residents to the High Court of Justice, claiming that the project lacked proper permits. "[The petition] has exposed a serious phenomenon of building without plans or permits, or with permits issued devoid of a complete plan," the High Court justices wrote. -- See also: Original article

Death of Gazan couple brings death toll of blockade to 162
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an - Only two days separated the deaths of Nabhan Haboush and his wife Lulu Haboush the last two people to have died as a result of the Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip, the Popular Committee Against the Siege announced on Saturday, bringing the overall death toll to 162. Sixty-two-year-old Nabhan Habbush died of cancer, 59-year-old Lulu Haboush died of kidney failure. The People’s Committee to face up the siege announced the death of Lolo Habbush 59 year-old suffering from the kidney failure for several months, and only two days after the death of her husband Nabhan Haboush who suffered from cancer. Rami Abdu, the spokesperson of the Popular Committee said that, had a permit to receive medical treatment outside Gaza, but was prevented from leaving after attempting to cross through the Erez crossing point three times.

Mash’al of Hamas says Palestinians are determined to break up the Israeli blockade
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
Hamas’s exiled top leader, Khaled Mash’al, reiterated his ruling party’s determination to break up the ongoing Israeli blockade on Gaza, warning of what he termed ’inactive’ international community’s role towards ending the Palestinian people suffering. In a joint press briefing with the Iranian foreign minister, Monoshhar Motaki, in Tehran on Saturday midday, Mash’al told reporters " we would like to reiterate that Hamas, along with all forces that are supportive of the Palestinian people, is determined to break up the Gaza siege, unless the international community takes the lead in ending such a siege. The Hamas’s leader said that reopening the Rafah crossing terminal in southern Gaza Strip is a matter that is related to the Palestinian-Egyptian sides and that Israel has nothing to do with such a crossing. Mash’al accused the United States and Israel of foiling Palestinian. . .

Al Qassam Brigades: ''if the ceasefire talks fail, we are prepared to use all options''
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
The Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Hamas movement, stated that if the efforts by the Egyptians to mediate a truce between the Palestinian resistance groups based in Gaza and Israel fails, the brigades will use all its options. Abu Obyidah, the spokesman for the brigades, told reporters on Saturday that the Israeli army will be facing new tactics in fighting the Palestinian resistance in Gaza. He also said that his group has obtained very broad experience from the past years and they are going to use it. The Egyptians have been mediating the truce deal for nearly two months now. Hamas and other factions in Gaza offered to stop firing home-made shells at nearby Israeli areas if in return Israeli will stop attacking Gaza and end the 11-month long siege imposed by the army on the coastal enclave. Earlier this month, Israel turned down the proposal and demanded two more. . .

Mash’al, in Tehran: end the siege of Gaza now
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Khalid Mash’al the exiled chairman of the political bureau of Hamas said that the Palestinians insist on an end of the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, warning that if the international community does not intervene, the Palestinian people will consider "other choices." Mash’al said at a press conference Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Tehran on Saturday: "We in Hamas and the resistance forces and all the forces supporting the Palestinian people insist on breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip, and if the international community and parties does not intervene to break the siege, Palestinians have other choices." "We insist on opening the crossings, especially Rafah crossing first," Mash’al said, saying that the crossing should be under full Palestinian-Egyptian control, without the involvement of Israel.

Mishaal: Palestinians determined to break the siege
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
TEHRAN, (PIC)-- Khaled Mishaal, the chairman of the Hamas Movement’s political bureau, stressed on Saturday that the Palestinian people would unilaterally break the siege if the world community and the concerned parties failed to do so. Mishaal, speaking in Tehran during a joint press conference with the Iranian foreign minister, said, "We are determined to open the Gaza Strip crossings especially the Rafah terminal". The Hamas leader pointed out that many patients in the Strip had died as a result of lack of proper medical treatment due to the siege. He affirmed, however, that the "starvation policy" would not subdue the Palestinian people. He also underlined that Syria, while trying to restore its lands through negotiations (with Israel), would not surrender Palestinian rights.

13 Palestinians wounded in the Gaza Strip on Saturday
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/25/2008
Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported that 13 Palestinians were wounded in several Israeli military attacks that targeted two areas in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. Eyewitnesses reported that Israeli soldiers fired artillery shells at a group of fighters of the Al Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, east of Khan Younis. Three fighters were wounded during clashes with Israeli soldiers who invaded the area. Medical sources reported that the three fighters were moved to Nasser Hospital in the center of Khan Younis; one of them suffered moderate wounds. Also, soldiers shelled several homes east of Khan Younis causing several anxiety attacks among a number of residents, especially the children. Moreover, fighters managed to destroy a military bulldozer while it was uprooting farmlands east of Khan Younis.

Israeli war ministry decides to test US anti-rocket system
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- The Israeli war ministry decided surprisingly to import from the US a computer-controlled anti-rocket system called "Phalanx" to examine its ability to intercept the Palestinian resistance’s homemade rockets and mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip in retaliation to the ongoing Israeli aggression. According to observers, the war ministry took this decision as a preliminary step until the completion of the "iron dome and magic wand" defensive systems in order to absorb partially the outrage of the Israeli street especially after the Palestinian resistance upgraded its rockets to reach further into Israel and increased the number of its rocket attacks against Israeli targets. For more than a year, Israeli independent experts including senior IOF officers had been trying to convince war minister Ehud Barak and his deputy Matan Vilnai to bring Phalanx to Israel, but the idea was always rejected by Barak.

Deaths of five militants hamper Gaza peace efforts
Diaa Hadid, Associated Press Writer, The Independent 5/24/2008
Five Palestinian militants were killed in clashes yesterday with Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip, further undermining efforts to bring a brief truce to the violence-wracked area. Israeli aircraft sent missiles flying at three Hamas militants on motorcycles, killing all three, Gaza health officials said. The Israeli military said the men were carrying anti-tank missiles. Two other Palestinian militants from the Islamic Jihad group were killed in central Gaza as they approached the security fence along Israel’s border, the military said. The violence came a day after a Palestinian suicide bomber drove an explosives-laden truck into a Gaza-Israel border crossing on Thursday. Although the bomber killed only himself, the attack reinforced skepticism about Egyptian-led truce efforts, and set back Palestinian demands to ease the Israeli-led blockade of Gaza, imposed after Hamas overran the coastal territory a year ago.

Grad rockets land near Netivot
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Four rockets fired towards western Negev on Saturday, two of them confirmed as longer-range Grads. Residents awaken to first barrage at 6:40 am. No injuries or damage reported - Four Palestinian rockets landed in the western Negev on Saturday. Residents of the Gaza-vicinity communities were awoken at 6:40 am as the Color Red alert sirens blared with the first two rockets, which landed in the Eshkol Regional Council and the Nahal Oz region. Throughout the day barrages of mortar shells were fired from Gaza, most towards IDF forces operating along the border fence. The two remaining rockets have been confirmed as being the longer-range Grads, similar to the one that crashed into an Ashkelon shopping mall several weeks ago. One of the rockets landed in an open area near the marketplace in Netivot and the other near Ma’agalim in the Sedot HaNegev Regional Council.

PFLP fighters launch projectiles
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, claimed responsibility on Saturday morning for launching a homemade projectile at the Ashkelon and Sderot, Israeli towns near Gaza. They said in a statement that the shelling came in retaliation for ongoing Israeli atrocities against the Palestinian people and as affirmation that they will continue resisting Israeli occupation.

Jihad Jibril Brigades attack Netivot
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A group calling themselves the "Jihad Jibril Brigades," linked to the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command, launched four projectiles from the Gaza Strip into the Israeli town of Netivot on Saturday. The group told Ma’an that the shelling took place "in the framework of resistance." The Popular Front - General Command marked the 43rd anniversary of its establishment on Saturday.

Islamic Jihad fighters claim projectile attack
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – The military wing of Islamic Jihad, the Al-Quds Brigades, claimed responsibility on Saturday evening for launching two projectiles at Miftahim, a town in Israeli to the east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. They sent a statement to Ma’an, saying the operation was in response to the ongoing attacks against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Little-known Palestinian military group claims responsibility for attack
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – A group called the Al-’Asifa Brigades of the Martyr Dalal Al Maghrebi claimed responsibility for launching two homemade projectiles at the Sufa military installation on Saturday. The brigades said that this attack was a response to "Israeli crimes."

Israeli forces impose checkpoint north of Tulkarem
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - Israeli forces erected a checkpoint on Saturday morning on the road between the towns of Zeita and Attil, north of the West Bank city of Tulkarem. Palestinian security sources said that Israeli soldiers are searching Palestinians and their cars, forcing commuters to wait in long lines before passing through the checkpoint.

Nine Hamas members arrested in the West Bank
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Nablus/Salfit – Ma’an – Hamas said that the Palestinian security forces arrested on nine members of the movement in the West Bank on Friday. The movement told Ma’an that the security services in Bethlehem arrested Mohammed Musa and Abdullah Ghneim from the village of Al-Khader. In Ramallah, the security forces detained a student at Birzeit University, Hazem al-Khatib, and brothers Hamza and Mu’ath Gum’a from the town of Beitunia, and detained Mohammed Al-Shalabi after calling him in for questioning. The Security forces also detained Nidal Abu Tharifa and Essam Al-jitawi from Tulkarem and Izzat Al-Rayyan from Nablus.

11-year-old killed by unexploded IDF ordinance near Ramat Hovav
Fadi Eyadat, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
An 11-year-old boy was killed Friday after he stepped on an unexploded Israel Defense Forces shell while hiking with his father near Ramat Hovav in the Negev. The two reportedly wandered into an IDF firing range where the child stepped on the shell, which detonated instantly, critically wounding him. The father rushed his son, Amar al-Kadifi, to a main road where he was met by paramedics who pronounced the victim dead at the scene. The father was taken to the Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva where he is currently undergoing medical treatment

The Israeli army injures civilian and kidnaps four others during pre-dawn invasion
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
Palestinian sources reported that the Israeli army has injured one Palestinian civilian and kidnapped four others during a pre-dawn invasion targeting several parts of the West Bank on Saturday. Ass’ad Assaad was injured and Fares Souity kidnapped when the Israeli army invaded and searched homes in the Jenin Refugee camp located in the northern part of the West Bank. Meanwhile Hassan Mansour from Qalqilia city, in the northern part of the West Bank, was kidnapped by the Israeli troops manning a checkpoint near the city. Akram Sowidan, and Mohamed Katesh, both 35, were taken by the army during an attack targeting the village of Kufer Thulith located near Qalqilia city. Invasions were also reported in the central West Bank city of Ramallah and nearby villages in addition to the northern West Bank city of Tulkarem. No kidnappings were reported there.

Israeli forces invade Jenin, injuring one and arresting another
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Jenin – Ma’an – Israeli forces seized one Palestinian civilian, wounded another, and opened at a Palestinian military policy headquarters during a raid in Jenin refugee camp at dawn on Saturday morning. The incursion was the largest Israeli operation in Jenin since Palestinian security forces were redeployed in Jenin in early May in an Israeli and US-backed campaign called Operation Smile and Hope. Sources in the security forces said that Israeli forces arrested 30-year-old Jenin camp resident Faris Sewiti after raiding his house. Twenty-year-old As’ad ’Ali Al-Damj was injured when Israeli forces fired at Palestinian houses. The Israeli troops also opened fire at the headquarters of the Palestinian military police. No one was injured in the gunfire. Residents of the camp told Ma’an that Israeli forces erected checkpoints at the entrances of the city of Jenin and the refugee camp.

UN: Israel raised the number of roadblocks up to 607 in WB
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- A UN report said Friday that the Israeli occupation raised the number of roadblocks and checkpoints up to 607 barriers on the West Bank roads with the aim to restrict the movement of the Palestinian commuters. According to the report, which was issued by the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (UNOCHA), Israel placed 41 new roadblocks from September 2007 to April 2008, adding that there were 566 barriers before this period. UNOCHA reported last April that Israel had removed 44 roadblocks most of them were insignificant in the West Bank on the occasion of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s visit then. Those roadblocks and checkpoints adversely affect the movement of Palestinians and the economic growth in the West Bank, where the World Bank had warned that this growth would be zero in 2008 because of the Israeli restrictions on the freedom of movement.

UN: Israel erected more West Bank roadblocks
Middle East Online 5/24/2008
JERUSALEM - The number of roadblocks in the Israeli-occupied West Bank has increased by 41 since September despite Israeli pledges to reduce them, the United Nations reported on Friday. The total number of roadblocks in the Palestinian territory rose from 566 on September 4 to 607 by April 29, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. A total of 144 new closures were erected while 103 were removed, an OCHA report said. The closures severely restrict the mobility of people and goods within the West Bank, and also affect access of UN staff crossing from the West Bank to Jerusalem, the agency added. The international community has urged Israel to ease restrictions on movement in the West Bank as part of peace efforts with the Palestinians. During a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in March, Israel pledged to remove 50 West Bank roadblocks.

Barghouthi: Israeli promises on checkpoints a ''policy of deception''
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an - Dr. Mustapha Barghouthi, the Secretary General of the Palestinian National Initiative, said on Saturday that Israeli pledges to ease restrictions on Palestinian life are in fact a "policy of deception." Barghouthi’s remarks came after a UN report released on Friday indicated that Israel has increased the number of checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank from 521 to 607 since last September. Barghouthi added that the suffering of Palestinian people has only increased. He said that Israel is attempting to mislead international public opinion by inviting journalists to witness the removal of checkpoints. Barghouthi added that Israel is using the current negotiations with the Palestinian Authority to cover its crimes against the Palestinian people.

Israeli checkpoints increasing in the West Bank, UN report says
Ma’an News Agency 5/24/2008
Jerusalem – Ma’an – Israel added a net 44 obstacles to Palestinian movement in the West Bank since last September, a new report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) shows. The Israeli military removed 103 barriers, but imposed another 144 checkpoints, roadblocks and other obstacles, a net increase of 7%. Despite pledges from Israeli leaders to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement in the West Bank, there are now a total of 607 obstacles, including staffed and unstaffed checkpoints, earth mounds, gates, concrete roadblocks, walls, trenches, and electric fences throughout the territory. UN teams carried out a survey to evaluate a claim, made by the Israeli government in April, that 61 roadblocks had been removed. The teams found that only 44 of the barriers were actually removed.

Silent protest in Shufa village, Tulkarem, against Israeli road-blocks
International Solidarity Movement 5/24/2008
Tulkarem Region - Photos - On Friday 23rd May, approximately 100 Palestinians from the village of Shufa and Tulkarem city, along with international activists, demonstrated against the closure of Shufa’s main road. In a silent protest against the presence of four road-blocks along the 1km stretch of road, the protesters held banners and signs to indicate the suffering endured due to the denial of freedom of movement of the villagers. The road, which in the past functioned as the main entrance to the village, has been closed by Israeli authorities for six years; while it is available to Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Avne Hefez. Approximately eight Isreali military jeeps, with around thirty Israeli soldiers, responded to the protesters threateningly, aiming their machine guns at the demonstrators, in an attempt to force the protest back, but protesters held their ground.

Armed Israeli settlers steal a flock of sheep from Palestinian farmers near Hebron
Ghassan Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
A group of armed Israeli settlers on Saturday stole a flock of sheep belonging to Palestinian farmers from Al Samou’ah village located near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The farmers said that a group of armed settlers from the nearby Sham’a settlement threatened the shepherds, then stole their sheep. The settlers claimed that the sheep entered an area that belongs to the settlers; farmers say the sheep were grazing on village land. The villagers of Al Samou’ah called the Palestinian Authority in Hebron, which informed the Israeli army of the attack. After several hours the Palestinian Authority DCO office managed to get the sheep back, local sources reported. On a side note, the settlement of Sham’a was built during the ’90s on land that was illegally annexed by Israel from the villagers of Al Samou’ah.

We Remember: sixth Al-Awda convention in US
Palestine News Network 5/24/2008
Al-Ahram - Over 1,000 Palestinians and their supporters convened at the Sixth International Al-Awda Convention marking the 60th year of the Nakba in Anaheim, California. Both Sheikh Taiseer Tamimi and Bishop Atallah Hanna were there. "Our cause is the return to Palestine," said Zahi Damuni, a founder of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) and main organiser of the convention. "All of Palestine," he added. Al-Ahram - Over 1,000 Palestinians and their supporters convened at the Sixth International Al-Awda Convention marking the 60th year of the Nakba in Anaheim, California. The three-day convention opened 16 May and featured a distinguished panel of speakers, films and workshops focused on upholding the Palestinian right of return. "Our cause is the return to Palestine," said Zahi Damuni, a founder of Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition (PRRC) and main organiser of the convention.

Israeli soldiers harass volunteers on site claimed by settlers
Maan News, Palestine Monitor 5/24/2008
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.

Hamas, Islamic Jihad leaders say truce efforts failed
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/25/2008
Two leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad movements stated on Saturday that the Egyptian efforts to achieving a truce deal between the Palestinian resistance and Israel have failed due to Israeli preconditions and stances which reject to ease the suffering of the Palestinian people. The two leaders added that Israel is rejecting some of the articles of a truce offer which was presented by Egypt. They added that although they had several reservations on the offer, the two movements will not obstruct efforts to achieve a progress which would ease the suffering of the people. Nafith Azzam, one of the leaders of the Islamic Jihad, said that his movement wants the suffering of the people to end. He also stated that negotiations with Israel would not bring any positive outcome to the Palestinian people, and called on president Mahmoud Abbas, to completely halt negotiations with Israel. . .

An Israeli security chief in Cairo to listen from Egyptians about truce talks
Rami Almeghari & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
Chief of the political and security division of the Israeli army, Amos Gil’ad , will arrive in Cairo today in order to listen from Egyptian mediators about latest round of truce talks with representatives of Palestinian factions, Israeli radio ’Hebrew Service’ reported. Gil’ad will meet with the chief of Egyptian intelligence , Omar Suklieman and that he will get a clear image as to how things are going regarding the truce deal talks, so that Israel will take the proper decision; whether proceeding a truce or carrying out a large attack against Hamas in Gaza. Matan Valnaei, deputy-minister of defense, told the Israeli radio today that Israel will exert any efforts to prevent what he called ’ Palestinian attacks’ , reiterating that Israel will not involve in negotiations with what he termed ’ terrorist organizations’, and that it is currently only holding talks with Egypt.

Radwan: IOA replies to Egyptian calm offer not encouraging
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Dr. Ismail Radwan, a Hamas political leader and one of its spokesmen in the Gaza Strip, has revealed that the Israeli occupation authority’s replies to the Egyptian calm offer were not encouraging. Radwan, speaking in an address before a ceremony marking the foundation anniversary of the popular front for the liberation of Palestine "“ general command in Gaza on Saturday, stressed that calm efforts were faced by the stumbling bloc of Zionist obstacles. The spokesman charged that the IOA wants a "free calm" that does not include opening of crossings or breaking of siege. He underlined that any calm should be "comprehensive and reciprocal". "We have shown flexibility and agreed to start calm in the Gaza Strip then move on to the West Bank within six months," Radwan explained, adding, however, that the Movement asserted that any calm should include lifting the siege. . .

Israeli official in Cairo to discuss calm
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Amos Gilad, the head of the political-security division in the Israeli war ministry, is to head to Cairo on Saturday to discuss results of the Egyptian officials’ talks with a Hamas delegation on the issue of calm. The Hebrew radio said that Gilad would meet with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman who is leading his country’s efforts aimed at securing reciprocal calm between Israel and the Palestinian resistance factions. The radio quoted Israeli political sources as saying that the information received so far on Hamas’s position was still "ambiguous" and "unclear". They said that when a clear vision is received then a final Israeli stand regarding calm would be made either approval or launching a military operation against the Hamas-led government. For his part, Khalil Al-Hayya, a Hamas prominent leader, said on return to Gaza from Cairo that Egyptian efforts did not fail.

Investment Conference ends with success and knowledge that impediment to investment is Israel
Palestine News Network 5/24/2008
Bethlehem / PNN -- The Palestine Investment Conference is over and speakers agreed on a resounding success and beginning of a serious investment and development period. However, most all pointed out that Israeli actions are the most major impediments to private sector investment in Palestine. By the end of the Conference speakers were demanding that checkpoints be removed in order to allow the flow of investment. The private sector in Palestine was described as dynamic and open to the world in both regional and international markets. Dr. Hassan Abu Libdeh, Executive Director of the Palestine Investment Conference held in Bethlehem from the period between 21 to May 23, emphasized during its closing, which took place before noon on Friday, that the conference had achieved many of its goals. By the end of the Conference speakers were demanding that checkpoints be removed in order to allow the flow of investment.

''Live and See'': First Palestinian Investment Conference ''Living on Hope'' in Bethlehem
Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/24/2008
The first Palestinian Investment Conference met this week in Bethlehem. The conference, which is a private sector partner with the Paris Donors Conference, acquired $7. 7 million in international donor pledges for the Palestinian Authority in December of last year. The purpose of the PIC was “to improve the economic and social living standards in Palestine through increased investment in the Palestinian economy. ” [1] Prime Minister Dr. Salam Fayyad wrote on the conference’s website that “[t]his conference is a chance to show a different face of Palestine: a Palestine conducive to economic growth and international investment. ” [2] This historic event was held outside of Bethlehem’s Conference Center in a newly-constructed facility specifically built for the conference, designed to resemble the shops and markets of an old city. Approximately 500 investors, 200 of which were coming from outside of Palestine, were expected on Wednesday, the first day of the conference. More were anticipated later in the week.

At West Bank Conference, Dreams of Investment
Isabel Kershner, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
Hundreds of potential investors and dignitaries from the Middle East and beyond gathered here on Wednesday for the start of a vaunted conference under the slogan, “Palestine is open for business. ”The Palestine Investment Conference, scheduled to last three days, is perhaps the most upbeat happening in Bethlehem since crowds packed Manger Square to see 2,000 doves of peace released at millennium celebrations at the end of 1999. Months later, the second intifada broke out, sending the Palestinian national enterprise into a tailspin of violence and chaos. Now, with the renewal of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts at the American-sponsored conference last fall in Annapolis, Md. , and the international community trying to bolster the Western-leaning Palestinian leadership that holds sway in the West Bank, the business convention — a partnership of the Palestinian Authority and private business — is meant to project a climate of opportunity and change. Yet the gathering had a contrary air about it, as if Alice had stepped through the looking-glass and found herself here.

U.S. Agency, Palestinian Firm Sign Deal to Boost Palestinian Exports
The Associated Press, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
A U. S. government agency on Thursday presented a political risk insurance program to help guarantee investments in the West Bank, part of an international effort to help develop the local economy and pave the way for an independent Palestinian state. The measure, announced at an international investors’ conference in this biblical town, is meant to allay concerns by investors about risking their money in the turbulent Palestinian territories, especially at a time when the fate of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is uncertain. The conference has drawn hundreds of business people, many from the Arab world, and 109 investment projects valued at nearly $2 billion are being presented. On Wednesday, a Qatari and a Saudi company signed two separate construction deals with Palestinian partners for a total of $550 million. Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad told investors Thursday that his government would try to create a comfortable business environment. In the past, the Palestinian Authority was plagued by allegations of widespread official mismanagement and nepotism. Fayyad, a respected economist, has been credited with cleaning up public spending.

$1.4 Billion Raised Despite Political Instability [May 18 – 24]
MIFTAH, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
This week witnessed the arrival of the highly anticipated Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem. The lavishly organized three day event from May 21-23 event, which has not been without its fair share of criticism, aimed at attracting foreign investment to the Palestinian territories and to convince eminent international figures in the private sector that Palestine is currently an untapped resource full of potential. In addition, the conference tried to relay any fears that prospective investors may have concerning the current unstable and unpredictable nature of the political climate in the region and advertise that investing in Palestine is a sound investment and that the area is very much “open for business”. On May 23, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced that the conference had help raise $1. 4 billion in what he described as “the start of moving the wheel of the economy” which is in dire need of revitalization after forty years of an Israeli occupation that has imposed hundreds of restrictions on movement and access across the Palestinian territories. The investment will supposedly create 35,000 jobs with $500 million of the total sum marked for the real estate sector whereas $65 million will be focused on the high-tech industry.

Right to Enter: International investors warned about accessing foreign investment in occupied Palestinian territory
The Campaign for the Right of Entry/Re-Entry, International Solidarity Movement 5/24/2008
Denial of entry - As hundreds of international investors begin arriving in Bethlehem for the Palestine Investment Conference scheduled for May 21-23, the threat of being barred from entering the occupied West Bank by Israeli officials is likely to be foremost on everyone’s mind. Those hoping to actually invest in Palestine will be looking for answers regarding who will guarantee unhindered access in the future for themselves, their staff and the suppliers needed for investments to succeed in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). Along with movement and access restrictions for Palestinians, Israel’s denial of entry practices against foreigners trying to reach the oPt continues to pose severe obstacles on investment efforts to revive Palestinian economic life. The conference attempt to promote international investment in the occupation-strangled Palestinian territory is being. . .

Syria sends minister to Iran after ’shock revelation’ of Israel talks
Yoav Stern Haaretz Correspondent, and AP, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani began an official visit to Iran Saturday and is expected to hold talks there with Iran’s leadership on military agreements between the two countries. "This visit is taking place at the invitation of Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar," the official IRNA news agency reported. "The visit is aimed at following up on joint defense agreements, ways to boost defense ties and (talks) on the latest regional and international developments," a ministry source was quoted as saying. 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 peace talks. In an interview with the London-based newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat, the sources said that Ahmadinejad characterized the reports as. . .

Ex-IDF chief: Golan Heights not indispensable
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Dan Halutz said on Saturday that Israel should consider pulling out of the Golan Heights in exchange for peace with Syria. "For real peace, we must be disposed to pay a real price," Halutz told a Be’er Sheva audience. He also said that as much as it would be painful to withdraw from the territory, occupied by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, the option should not be ruled out. "When engaging in talks with Syria, everybody knows what is on the table," he said. "We should exhaust every possibility to make peace with all our enemies. "Halutz said that the thought is troubling, because Israel has existed for longer with the Golan Heights than without it. "A whole generation grew up knowing the Golan is part of Israel," the retired general said.

Obstacles to an Israeli-Syrian Deal
Patrick Seale, Middle East Online 5/24/2008
One would need to be an incurable optimist to expect real progress from the indirect talks that Syria and Israel have begun in Ankara under Turkish mediation. The obstacles to peace between the two long-time adversaries are so formidable as to rule out any realistic possibility of a deal in the near or medium-term future. Certainly, there can be no substantial movement while President George W. Bush remains in the White House. He has made it abundantly clear that he disapproves of Israeli-Syrian contacts and would prefer Israel to concentrate instead on the Palestinian track. Bush detests the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Asad and has sought, by means of sanctions, intimidation and diplomatic pressure, to isolate it and reduce its regional influence, especially in Lebanon. The Syrians, in turn, have no confidence in, or liking for, the Bush administration, and are eagerly awaiting its replacement.

Meshal: Olmert too weak to make peace
Yoav Stern, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Hamas politburo chief, Khaled Meshal said yesterday in Tehran that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was too weak to make peace. Also in Iran for talks yesterday, Syrian Defense Minister Hassan Turkmani began an official visit to Iran yesterday and is expected to discussmilitary agreements between the two countries with Iran’s leadership. "This visit is taking place at the invitation of Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammed Najjar," the official IRNA news agency reported. "The visit is aimed at following up on joint defense agreements, ways to boost defense ties and (talks) on the latest regional and international developments," a ministry source was quoted as saying. Iran denied yesterday that it is opposed to the indirect peace talks between Syria and Israel. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said at a press conference in Tehran, held with visiting Hamas politburo. . .

Mashaal: Olmert too weak to negotiate peace with Syria
Dudi Cohen, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Hamas leader meets with Iranian FM in Tehran, expresses doubt as to Israel’s ability to make peace with Syria. ’There is great skepticism concerning Israel’s seriousness to return Golan,’ he says - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is too weak to take the necessary steps for peace with Syria, said Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal during a visit to Iran Wednesday. Mashaal’s comments came during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki, who was responsible for Iran’s first comments on the subject of the peace talks recently restarted between Israel and Syria. "There is great skepticism concerning the seriousness (of Israel) to return the Golan," Mashaal said. "It’s maneuvering and playing with all the (negotiating) tracks - it’s a well known game and besides, Olmert’s weakness will not allow him to take this step. "He was referring to the current ongoing.

Halutz: Substantial peace comes with substantial price
Yael Branovsky, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Former IDF chief speaks at conference about Syrian talks, Qassam threat. ’Theoretically Israel can get by without Golan. It’s good to search for any possibility for peace with any enemy,’ he says - "When you speak with Syria, you know what you are talking about. For substantial we must be willing to pay a substantial price. I get a stomachache just thinking that the Golan Heights would be returned, but theoretically Israel can get by without the Golan," said former IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz during a cultural event in which he participated in Beersheba. Halutz refused to answer questions on whether he had known about the negotiations with Syria prior to when they had been announced, and added that "any move that could achieve an agreement is good, but price-dependent. It’s good to search for any possibility to reach an agreement with any enemy.

In a sign of changing times, IDF and PA military officers meet to talk security
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 5/24/2008
The military men don’t look like diplomats and the sun-baked checkpoint dividing the West Bank from Israel couldn’t have been farther from the Jerusalem hotels and ministerial residences where Israeli-Palestinian peace talks unfold. But the fate of those negotiations depend in large measure on the success of meetings like this one around a faux-wood desk in Lt. Col. Fareis Atilaa’s utilitarian office. was given rare access to the meeting this week, providing a glimpse of the minutiae and personal dynamics of the new contacts. Atilaa, a 36-year-old IDF officer, heads the military unit that coordinates links between Israel and the Palestinian government and security forces in the West Bank town of Jenin. A Druse Arab fluent in Hebrew and Arabic, he does his job not with a rifle - his M-16 lay unceremoniously on the floor - but with. . .

Egypt police shoot Sudanese migrant at Israel border
Reuters, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Man attempting to infiltrate Sinai border wounded by Egyptian patrol after failing to heed calls to halt. In separate incident nearby, Sudanese woman arrested with her young child - Egyptian police shot and wounded a Sudanese man who tried to cross its border illegally into Israel from the Sinai peninsula on Saturday, medical and security sources said. A security official, who asked not to be named, told the 29-year-old Sudanese Ahmed Khater Mohamed was shot in his thigh by an Egyptian patrol after he ignored orders to stop. "He was transferred to El-Arish hospital where he was operated. His condition is stable now," he added. In another separate incident Egyptian police arrested a Sudanese woman and her 9-year-old child as she was trying to cross the border in El-Kuntilla area in Mid-Sinai.

Abbas fears Olmert probe may hold up peace talks
Reuters, YNetNews 5/25/2008
Senior aid to Palestinian president says peace negotiations in danger of being pushed to sidelines as election race intensifies in US while Olmert preoccupied with bribery allegations - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday he feared a criminal investigation of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and looming US elections could hold up Middle East peace talks. Senior Abbas aide Tayeb Abdel-Rahim reported the Palestinian president’s briefing comments to his ruling Fatah faction in the West Bank city of Ramallah on the latest developments in US-brokered peace talks with Israel. Abdel-Rahim said Abbas "hopes that recent events, such as the obstacles facing the Israeli prime minister, and American preoccupation with elections would not obstruct the peace process desired by Palestinians".

Abbas: ’East Jerusalem must be Returned’
Khaled Abu Toameh, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday opened the Palestine Investment Conference in Bethlehem by declaring that east Jerusalem belonged to the Palestinian people and must be returned to them." East Jerusalem is ours and it’s an occupied territory," Abbas said in his speech. "It must be returned." The conference, the first of it kind in the PA, is aimed at boosting the Palestinian economy by encouraging local, Arab and international businessmen to invest in various projects. More than 1,000 businessmen and politicians are attending the three-day conference, including some from Israel, the US and the EU. The PA invested nearly half a million dollars in decorating the streets of the city and its surroundings ahead of the conference. The deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Hamdan al-Nihayan, is heading his country’s delegation to the conference. The delegation arrived aboard a Jordanian helicopter that landed near the Dheisheh refugee camp.

Conference aims to lure $2 billion in investment to Palestine
Ezzedine Said, Daily Star 5/22/2008
Agence France Press - BETHLEHEM, Occupied West Bank: Hundreds of business and political leaders converged on the city of Bethlehem on Wednesday for a conference aimed at boosting the occupied West Bank’s stagnant economy through private investment. The first ever Palestine Investment Conference aims at spurring investor interest by showcasing business opportunities and projects. Deputy US Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt, who is leading a US delegation to the three-day event, said President George W. Bush’s administration hopes the conference will bolster a push to establish a Palestinian state. About 1,200 businesspeople, including 500 Arab and foreign participants, are expected to attend the conference, which will host French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and former British prime minister Tony Blair, who is now the envoy of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet monitoring the peace process.

Israeli authorities imprison, deport and ban Jewish professor from Israel
Saed Bannoura, International Middle East Media Center News 5/24/2008
Norman Finkelstein, a prominent U. S. Professor who is an outspoken critic of the Israeli occupation, was denied entry into Israel Friday, and banned from the country for ten years. The Israeli government claims that Israel is the state of all Jews worldwide, but have a history of denying entry to those Jews who are outspoken in their criticism of Israel. Finkelstein was forced to resign from his post at DePaul University in Chicago, in the U. S. , last year, after U. S. Zionists began a campaign of defamation against him. The campaign against Finkelstein came after he published a book called "The Holocaust Industry", in which he made the case that there is a contingent of people and groups within the Jewish community that use the memory of the Holocaust for their own political gain, and to silence criticism of Israel’s policies.

Israel denies entry to high-profile critic Norman Finkelstein
Yossi Melman Haaretz Correspondent, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The Shin Bet security service detained and deported an American Jewish professor who is a prominent critic of the Israeli occupation when he landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday. Professor Norman Finkelstein was interrogated for several hours and held in an airport cell before being put on a plane back to Amsterdam, his point of departure. Finkelstein said he was told he could not return to Israel for 10 years. The Shin Bet said Finkelstein "is not permitted to enter Israel because of suspicions involving hostile elements in Lebanon," and because he "did not give a full accounting to interrogators with regard to these suspicions. "However, in e-mail and phone interviews with Haaretz after leaving Israel for Amsterdam, Finkelstein said, "I did my best to provide absolutely candid and comprehensive answers to all the questions put to me."

Hizbullah leader says negotiations over captives to continue
Roee Nahmias, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Organization’s chief commander in southern Lebanon, Nabil Kaouk, says talks regarding fate of kidnapped Israeli soldiers will continue despite internal Lebanese fighting -A senior Hizbullah official has said that despite internal political tensions in Lebanon, negotiations for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser go on. "The negotiations are continuing and never stopped, regardless of the internal events. This in the hopes of speeding up the return of the (Lebanese) prisoners," said Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, chief commander on behalf of Hizbullah in southern Lebanon. Speaking at a rally in the village of al-Khiam on Friday marking eight years since the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the region, Kaouk, the keynote speaker, said joy for Lebanon’s sovereignty is incomplete so long as there are prisoners in Israeli jails.

Harvard students visit Sidon, Ain al-Hilweh camp
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 5/24/2008
SIDON: Upon the invitation of the Hariri Foundation, a group of 45 students from Harvard University in Boston toured the southern port city of Sidon on Friday, where they visited the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp and met with several local and Palestinian figures. The group’s head, Sara Yafi, told The Daily Star the students, who belong to 19 different countries, were "eager" to visit Lebanon. "Every year, we organize trips to a certain country," she said. "This is the first time that those students visit Lebanon. We have received 156 applications of which we have chosen 45 people studying in different sectors." "They are really happy to be here," she added. Yafi said the visit was aimed at showing the group "everything in Lebanon." "We want to show them Lebanon’s bright face as well as problems faced by the Lebanese and Palestinians here," she said.

Lebanese Prisoners Association officially marks Liberation Day
Mohammed Zaatari, Daily Star 5/24/2008
SOUTH LEBANON: The Lebanese Association for Prisoners held a ceremony at the site of the former Khiam detention camp on Friday on the occasion of the eighth anniversary of Liberation Day, which marks Israel’s withdrawal from most of the South in May 2000. Hizbullah’s commander in the South, Sheikh Nabil Qaouk, said: "Our happiness could not be complete while detainees still remain in Israeli prisons. ""Despite the internal developments, Hizbullah affirms that the issue of the detainees is at the top of its priorities," he added. "No internal debates and divisions will pull the resistance away from liberating detainees, the Shebaa Farms or the Kfar Shuba Hills, or from defending Lebanon against Israeli attacks." According to Qaouk, the resistance’s weapons are the "only guarantee" for the return of the detainees’ and of Lebanon’s sovereignty and protection.

Iran: mosque blast plotters admit Israeli, US links
Middle East Online 5/24/2008
TEHRAN - Iran’s chief prosecutor said bombers who caused a deadly blast at a mosque in Shiraz had confessed of links to Israel and the United States, the ISNA student news agency reported on Friday. "Those responsible for the attack against the Shiraz mosque have confessed to having links to worldwide oppression, in particular the United States and Israel," Ghorbanali Dorri-Najafabadi was quoted by the agency as saying. They also admitted carrying out "one or two minor operations," the agency said, without providing further details except to say the group launched military operations a year ago. The April 12 blast in the southern city left 13 people dead and more than 200 wounded. Authorities subsequently announced the arrest of 15 people. Earlier Friday, senior Iranian cleric Ayatollah Ahmed Khatami said people had also plotted attacks in the holy city of Qom, 120 kilometres. . .

Economy is still growing - but much more slowly
Nathan Sheva and Moti Bassok, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The Israeli economy continues to grow, though at a slower pace in recent years - despite the global credit crisis and the slowdown in the U. S. The proof is the Bank of Israel’s composite state-of-the-economy index, released on Friday, which rose 0. 1% in April. The central bank noted the increase, though small and slower than in previous months, indicates continued economic expansion. The increase was led by higher industrial production in April as well as higher revenues in commerce and services. On the other hand, exports of goods were down. At the same time the Bank of Israel also updated its February and March index numbers, saying they were actually higher than initially reported. In February the index rose 0. 8%, compared to the previously announced 0. 4%, and the March index was actually up 0.

ILO warns: Palestinian workers getting poorer
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
GENEVA, (PIC)-- The International Labor Organization has warned that the continued Israeli siege on Gaza and the increasing roadblocks in the West Bank were escalating poverty in lines of the Palestinian workers. The ILO annual report on the situation of workers in the occupied Arab lands said that the percentage of high quality labor was dwindling and frustration was spreading. It added that only one out of three workers find either full or part time jobs. The Geneva-based Organization also noted that around 80% of Gaza Strip families depend on food aid as a result of the Israeli economic blockade and the closure of all crossings that used to channel assistance material to the Strip. The ILO director general said that the Israeli occupation forces’ roadblocks in the West Bank were dividing the area into three main sectors making commuting very difficult for the inhabitants in addition to the transfer of goods.

Popular committee: The Gaza private sector is in a state of clinical death
Palestinian Information Center 5/24/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The popular committee against the siege expressed Saturday its dismay at the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, which reached frightening levels without any reaction on the part of UN organizations and the international community, warning that the private sector in the Strip is in a state of clinical death. In a press release received by the PIC, Rami Abdo, the spokesman for the committee, stated that during the last period, many activities of the private sector get paralyzed, most recently the commercial sector which completely collapsed except for small number of bakeries and transportation means. Abdo affirmed that the UN humanitarian and developmental institutions realize the size of deterioration in all aspects of life in Gaza, citing as an evidence what Philip Adjir, a senior official at the international labor organization, had. . .

Movie addresses Israel’s role in Sabra-Shatila massacre
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 5/20/2008
CANNES: Repressed memories, the horrors of war and Israel’s ugly role in a notorious Beirut refugee camp massacre are the themes of the Cannes film festival’s first ever fully animated documentary. Ari Folman’s anti-war movie "Waltz With Bashir," which is competing for the Palme d’Or, premiered here as Israelis celebrate the state’s 60th year of existence and its neighbors in Lebanon struggle through a sectarian-tinged political crisis - whose roots can be traced to Israel’s 34-day air and sea assault on the country in 2006. Opening with thumping rock music as snarling dogs hurtle through city streets, the highly personal tale recounts the director’s quest to fill the holes in his memory of his stint as a 19-year-old Israeli Army conscript. He was baffled by why he couldn’t remember much of his role in Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and the 1982 massacre of civilians, mostly Palestinians,. . .

Cartoon of the day
Ben Heine, Palestine Think Tank 5/24/2008
ACTION ALERT: Israel Arrests Outspoken Academic Norman Finkelstein. Read more! -- See also: Israel Arrests Outspoken Academic Norman Finkelstein

Law enforcement source: Olmert’s indictment is just a matter of time
Jonathan Lis and Barak Ravid, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was interrogated under warning on Friday for about an hour, after which timea law-enforcement source said that "as of now, an indictment against Olmert is only a matter of time. "Olmert reportedly cooperated with investigators in answering questions about envelopes containing cash that he allegedly received over the years from businessman and fund-raiser Morris Talansky. Prime Minister Olmert reportedly told his investigators: "I am acting in a statesmanlike way and you are constantly leaking details from the investigation. "According to a source close to Olmert: "Every day we wake up to new headlines about things that never happened. "The prime minister was not asked during the questioning to set aside a date for another session.

ANALYSIS / Olmert’s last police interview was tailormade for him
Ze''ev Segal, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The prime minister’s lightning-quick interrogation Friday was an interrogation tailored to the interviewee. The prime minister set the date and time allocated for the interview - one hour. The interview was on his home court - at the premier’s residence, according to a "tradition," problematic in and of itself, that sitting prime ministers and presidents are interrogated in their homes or offices. Such an interrogation is naturally uncomfortable for detectives, who have trouble making the most of it. This is especially true when what is meant to be a long interrogation is allocated a short time slot. Based on comments by Olmert’s defense counsel regarding the quantity of material they must handle in order to cross-examine Morris Talansky, it is hard to understand how the detectives were supposed to ask all the necessary questions in the meager hour allotted them.

Talansky to testify Tues. in PM corruption probe
Ofra Edelman, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The American fund-raiser Morris Talansky is to testify Tuesday and, if necessary, in the following days, the Jerusalem District Court ruled Friday. The decision warded off an attempt by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his former bureau chief, Shula Zaken, to postpone Talansky’s testimony by another two weeks. The proceedings, however, took on a strange twist when State Prosecutor Moshe Lador began to seek a later date; much more material had been uncovered which the prosecution had not yet been able to study. Olmert lawyer Eli Zohar requested that the defense be allowed to postpone its cross-examination of Talansky to a later date and to call Talansky back to Israel for this purpose. Zohar pledged that if Talansky did not return and they were unable to cross-examine him, the defense would not claim that the basis for the prosecution’s evidence had been pulled out from underneath the prosecution.

Cabinet to decide on emergency water plan today
Avi Bar-Eli, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The state is pushing desalinization and higher prices as the solution to shortage The cabinet will face two major decisions on the future of the Israeli water system at its weekly meeting this morning: increasing the amount of water desalinated every year to 750 million cubic meters, and increasing the use of recycled waste water by another 100 million cubic meters. National Infrastructures Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer will present two proposals for the country’s water shortage; he seeks to find solutions for future years as well as this year’s drought. The proposals for desalinization include building either two new desalinization plants similar to existing ones, or one large one. The proposals are part of the ministry’s national emergency plan for water, and are estimated to cost around NIS 2 billion over five years.

Irate Sneh expected to exit Labor today
Mazal Mualem and Lily Galili, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
MK Ephraim Sneh is expected to announce today that he will be leaving Labor to establish a new party. Representatives of business tycoon Arcadi Gaydamak met with Sneh about a month ago, without reaching an agreement on future political cooperation. Sneh’s departure is a blow to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Labour’s chair who has been taken to task for his alleged inability to unite the party. Sneh’s step is also expected to impact Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s coalition, following the breakaway of three members of the Pensioners Party, part of the governing coalition, to form their own faction. Sneh had frequently expressed his disappointment in recent months over the way Labor was being led, that the party was not forging ahead on dialogue with the Palestinians, and that Shas was causing it to falter.

MK Sneh to announce split from Labor to form new party
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Labor MK Ephraim Sneh is to announce Sunday his intent to break from the Labor party and set up a new political party, Israel Radio reported on Saturday. Labor sources said that Sneh’s decision was made after party chairman Ehud Barak dismissed him from the position of deputy defense minister when he was appointed minister, and failed to assign him to a new function in cabinet.

MK Sneh resigns from Labor Party
Amnon Meranda, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Recently dismissed deputy defense minister claims Labor has ’lost its way,’ become irrelevant, insignificant in peace talks with Palestinians. Sneh will likely try to form new faction or join existing one - MK Ephraim Sneh (Labor) informed Labor Party Secretary General Eitan Cabel late Saturday of his resignation from the party and his plan to establish a new political framework. Estimates in the political arena say that Sneh may also announce his resignation from the Knesset. His future political affiliation is yet unclear. If he resigns from the coalition, it will be a third blow to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has already lost three coalition members from the Pensioner Party. The former party member will hold a political press conference to be attended by political correspondents at Tel-Aviv"™s Beit Sokolov early Sunday.

Writing toward a common ground in Palestine
Laura Wilkinson, Daily Star 5/23/2008
Preview - BEIRUT: Giant sculptures of keys, 21,915 black balloons and wailing sirens - so far, commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (the Palestinian Catastrophe) have unfolded across the region in the form of protest, art, dance and now - with the efforts of author, journalist and translator, Ahdaf Soueif - literature. As part of Al-Mawred’s Spring Festival - which this year focuses on Palestine - Soueif will be in Beirut this Saturday to present a lecture entitled "Palestine: Memories and Discoveries," inspired by her recent involvement in the Palestine Festival of Literature (May 7 - 11). Using the event as a frame for her presentation, she will discuss what the Nakba’s 60th anniversary means to her and how her recent "discoveries" have affected her progressive optimism (and pessimism) regarding the future of the Palestinian people.

Business in Brief - ’Peace Channel’ head named
Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
The former chairman of the Israel Securities Authority (ISA), Moshe Tery, will head the public council for Yitzhak Tshuva’s Peace Channel project, the canal linking the Dead and Red seas. The council will be composed of 30 well-known figures from the financial, industrial, environmental, agricultural, tourism and political sectors. Tshuva recently revealed his plans for the project at Shimon Peres’ presidential conference in Jerusalem, and the first stage will cost an estimated $3 billion. The council will study the plans for the project, and advance it by helping enact the legislation needed to carry out the plan and tenders. (Avi Bar-Eli) The dollar has now lost 2. 7% against the shekel in the 10 days since the surprisingly high April CPI was announced. The greenback continued to fall last Friday by another 0. 2%, and reached a representative rate of NIS 3.

China, India together overtake Israel in startup investments
Guy Griml, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
All the warnings about the threat to Israeli high-tech from China and India were apparently not crying wolf: A report released over the weekend by the research department of Dow Jones VentureSource says the two giant emerging economies combined have now passed Israel in the amount of venture capital invested in high-tech startups in the first quarter of 2008. The two Asian nations together also had the same number of such deals in the quarter as Israel, according to Dow Jones. Some $818 million was invested in Chinese and Indian startups combined, compared to only $572 million in Israeli firms. The number of deals for the quarter was 55 for Israel, totaling the same as India, with 16, and China, 39, together. The U. S. still leads by far in all parameters concerning high-tech venture capital investments: $6.

Critic and journalist Adam Baruch, 63
Asaf Carmel, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
Journalist, author and art critic Adam Baruch died yesterday, age 63. Baruch had been hospitalized in recent months and died of complications of diabetes. Born in Jerusalem as Baruch Rosenblum, he was the grandson of Rabbi Yaakov Wachtfogel, the head of the Mea Shearim Yeshiva, and his father was Asher Rosenblum, an art dealer and political activist in the Poel Mizrachi party. During his army service, Baruch Rosenblum wrote for Haaretz and in order not to fall afoul of military regulations, he adopted the pen name Adam Baruch. In the late sixties, Baruch began to write art reviews for Yedioth Ahronoth and personal columns on a variety of subjects. In 1975, together with publisher Haim Bar-On, he founded culture and art monthly Musag, an innovative glossy magazine that brought the concept of New Journalism to Israel.

Jews in annual pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue
AFP, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Pilgrims arrive at Tunisian island of Djerba amid heavy security, with authorities seeking to prevent attack similar to one carried out by suicide bomber at site in 2002 - Jews from around the world arrived on the Tunisian island of Djerba on Wednesday for an annual pilgrimage to Africa’s oldest synagogue, with organizers expecting a significant jump in participants. "Visitors have been arriving by the hundreds since Sunday to take advantage of a longer stay on the island, and there will be about 6,000 for the big day," organiser Perez Trabelsi had said of Thursday’s events at the Ghriba shrine. They arrived amid heavy security, however, with authorities seeking to prevent an attack similar to the one carried out by a suicide bomber at the site in 2002 that killed 21 people. Police set up barricades, while an electronic gate filtered visitors entering the area around the sacred site, believed to be 2,500 years old.

Suleiman: symbol of unity in divided Lebanon
Middle East Online 5/24/2008
BEIRUT - General Michel Suleiman, set to be elected Lebanon’s president on Sunday, has kept the army unified through three years of turmoil that have taken the country to the brink of a new civil war. As Lebanon’s new head of state, his main challenge will be trying to reconcile feuding politicians who have agreed that he should lead a country paralysed by their power struggle. "I cannot save the country alone. This mission requires the efforts of all," Suleiman, who will be elected by parliament, said in comments to a Lebanese newspaper. Commander of the military for a decade, Suleiman kept the army out of fighting this month when the political conflict triggered Lebanon’s worst civil strife since the 1975-90 war. Instead of taking on the gunmen, his troops deployed only to keep the peace after the battles ended in victory for Hezbollah -- Lebanon’s most powerful group. . .

Lebanon set to elect new president
Al Jazeera 5/24/2008
Lebanon’s leaders are set to elect Michel Suleiman, the country’s army chief, as president in a first step toward defusing an 18-month standoff between rival factions. Suleiman is expected to be elected on Sunday in a parliamentary session attended by several foreign dignitaries, including Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar. Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, and Amr Moussa, the Arab League secretary-general, will also be present. Sueliman’s election is part of a deal brokered in Doha, Qatar’s capital, on Wednesday that sought to end a political crisis that last month degenerated into violence. Sixty-five people were killed when armed supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition took control of much of Beirut after the US-backed government moved to outlaw the group’s private communications network.

Britain gives boost to cluster-bomb ban as US warns against it
Daily Star 5/23/2008
Hopes for a global agreement to outlaw cluster bombs were given a boost Thursday after British Premier Gordon Brown called for a total ban on the use of the weapons by the British military. A statement from Brown’s spokesman injected fresh impetus into ongoing negotiations at an international conference on cluster bombs in Dublin. "The prime minister had issued instructions to our negotiators in Dublin that we should work intensively to ban cluster bombs that cause unacceptable harm to civilians," it said. A Downing Street spokesman said Brown had also asked the Ministry of Defence "to assess the remaining munitions in use to ensure that there was no risk to civilians. "Cluster bombs, which were first used in World War II, open in the air and scatter smaller bombs over a wide area. The fact that many fail to detonate on impact make them a risk to the lives of civilians for years.

Violence in Iraq falls to lowest level in 4 years
Reuters, YNetNews 5/24/2008
Military releases encouraging figures as Washington’s surge continues to reap successes, US envoy to Baghdad says al-Qaeda closer than ever to defeat -Violence in Iraq has fallen to its lowest level in more than four years, figures released by the US military showed on Saturday, but officials said progress was still fragile and reversible. Iraqi security officials said an offensive against al Qaeda in the northern city of Mosul, which the US military says is the Sunni Islamist group’s last major urban stronghold, had wiped out most of the insurgent network. Washington’s envoy to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, declared that al Qaeda had never been closer to defeat. The United States says the group is the biggest threat to peace in Iraq and has blamed it for most of Iraq’s deadliest suicide bombings." You are not going to hear me say that al Qaeda is defeated, but they’ve. . ."


Coexistence, Not Apartheid
Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Online 5/24/2008
      For the last 60 years, all those who have sought a genuinely peaceful and fair solution for Israel and Palestine have faced the same obstacle — Israel’s sense of invincibility and military arrogance, abetted by the US and other Western governments’ unwavering support.
     Despite recent setbacks on the military front, the Israeli government is yet to awaken to the reality that Israel is simply not invincible. The wheel of history, which has seen the rise and fall of many great powers, won’t grind to a halt. Experiences have also repeatedly shown that neither Israel’s nuclear arms nor Washington’s billions of dollars in annual funds could create ’security’ for the former.
     While Israel can celebrate whatever skewed version of history it wishes to, it still cannot defeat a people, ordinary people armed with their will to survive and reclaim what was rightfully theirs. The same problem confronted the US in Vietnam, France in Algeria and Italy in Libya. The Palestinian people will not evaporate. Attempts to undermine Palestinian unity, instigate civil violence, and groom and present shady characters as ’representatives’ of Palestinians have failed in the past and will continue to fail.

Palestinians Reclaim their Land, For Now...

Palestine Monitor, Palestine Monitor 5/24/2008
      On May 16, members of the Alternative Information Center (AIC) and the Beit Sahour community were picnicking at Oush Grab, a former Israeli military base built on confiscated Palestinian land and that was abandoned in 2006, when a group of Israeli settlers arrived with press and the Israeli military, and announced plans to establish an illegal settlement on Oush Grab.
     Community members watched from a distance in dismay after being pushed aside by Israeli forces, as the settlers arrogantly surveyed the premise, even writing racial slurs on the walls of the abandoned base.
     The municipality of Beit Sahour has plans to turn the former base into a community park, but after the visit from the settlers, many have been left wondering what the future will hold for this hoped-for project.
     Sitting at the edge of Beit Sahour, Oush Grab offers impressive, 360-degree views of the surrounding area. And so while it serves as a pleasant spot for a picnic, it also makes the site an ideal location for a military installation. Indeed, Oush Grab has been consistently under occupation for centuries, first by the Ottoman Empire, followed by British, Jordanian, and now Israeli forces.

Palestine Investment Conference - Changing the face of the crisis

Aaron Lakoff - International Middle East Media Center, International Solidarity Movement 5/24/2008
      An interview with Dawood Hamoudeh of Stop the Wall
     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.

US and Britain Host Investment Conference in Bethlehem

Kawther Salam, Palestine Think Tank 5/24/2008
      Where will the Bethlehem Investors Conference lead the Palestinians? Who planned and hosted this conference, and why? What role does Israel play in this Investors Conference in Bethlehem? Who decides who is not allowed, and who is allowed, to attend the Investors Conference: Israel or the PA? Will the Investors Conference discuss the proposed joint economical project at the border? Why do the Americans have to stick their nose in every project and every political decision, we are already suffering under the criminal occupation of Israel without having to account for the thievery being implemented by the Americans. Will we have to kick them out as well once the Jews are gone?
     Following the pointless international conferences in Annapolis and Paris, the British Prime Minster Gordon Brown stated in a press conference held on May 17th, 2007 in London during the visit of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, that the US governments planned another conference in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and that the British government together with the USA will host this conference. Brown said that there is an important need for holding an investment conference in Bethlehem in order to create jobs for prosperity and opportunity in the Palestinian areas.

UK Academic Boycott of Israel - Congress coming up

Keith Hammond, Palestine Think Tank 5/24/2008
      he UK’s University and College Union is moving into its May 28th 2008 Congress. Everyone in British Universities and Colleges is watching the proceedings carefully as everyone listens for news of the academic boycott. It is absolutely clear that the UCU membership is keen on a boycott of Israeli institutions who support or remain silent on the occupation of Palestine and yet claim ‘humane’ credentials in the international world of academia. This situation is upsetting many academics. What will be really interesting about this Congress is the way Anti-Zionist feeling amongst the rank and file translates to Congress decisions when the big stick of the law is being waived by the pro-Israeli group within the union that is threatening such a move. (I have seen documents of their legal threats…. Pages and pages of them. editor’s note).
     The Zionist lobby within the UCU has never been as desperate. They have seen the UCU at all levels throb with arguments and counter-arguments about Israel and its sordid institutions of higher education that service the occupation. Argumentation has not gone the Zionists’ way - how could it? And the result has been that they have reminded everyone constantly of the legal consequences should the union go ahead with its anti-Zionist campaign....

The Palestine Literature Festival was an Enlightening Experience - but not Always for the Right Reasons

Ahdaf Soueif, MIFTAH 5/24/2008
      By Lion’s Gate I sat down and surveyed the Valley of Jehosophat. Well, actually, we Arabs call it Nutmeg Valley after the trees that used to grow here in abundance. Opposite me, across the valley, is the Mount of Olives where the pine trees favoured by Israelis to give a European look to the landscape are overtaking the indigenous olive. At the top of the hill to my right the UN has placed its offices - unwisely perhaps, for to the Biblically minded this is the Hill of Evil Counsel where Jesus’ arrest was planned in the house of Caiaphas. Behind me are the walls of al-Haram al-Sharif, the great enclosure housing the al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
     I have just walked away from the gate to the Haram because the Israeli soldiers would not allow my non-Muslim friends to go in with me. Signalling to me from behind the soldiers, the Palestinian caretaker apologised and said he would have welcomed us all in but these were "their" regulations.
     We were in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem for the Palestine festival of literature which I, Brigid Keenan, Eleanor O’Keeffe, Victoria Brittain and other friends had put together. It ran from May 7 to 11 and in every city our venues were filled to the rafters and our authors rode high on the enthusiasm of the audience. Roddy Doyle in Bethlehem got thunderous laughter and applause when he said he would be seeking reparations from the residents for the slaps he had received at his Irish school for saying baby Jesus was born in Nazareth. His books sold out in three days. A young man at Birzeit University was overwhelmed to meet Ian Jack; he had kept up his subscription to Granta since moving back from the US nine years ago. Schoolkids cried with joy when they met Khaled Abdalla; they had just seen The Kite Runner.

Peace of no choice

Zvi Bar''el, Ha’aretz 5/25/2008
      Because of their difficulties, Olmert and Assad talk of peace or at least of negotiations to achieve peace. It is best to take them seriously.
     There is still something encouraging in the unending effort to reject as impractical the peace process in general, and with the Syrians in particular. Because such rejection is not based on a lack of a need for peace, or its high cost and the absence of threats. The realization of the peace process is a figment of our imagination, say the rejectionists, because the leaders are not adequate. The encouraging element here is the recognition that the leadership that must deal with the most important element of the country’s existence is pathetic. Thus, the next time we want peace, we will be wise enough to select a leader with a more advanced technical makeup - a sort of Ben-Gurion. Regarding war, by the way, we do not have such high requirements. Any average leader or less can, from our point of view, start one.
     Since only super-leaders with enormous charisma and deep insight are capable of making peace, Ehud Olmert, Bashar Assad and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are disqualified. Olmert’s drowning in a sea of investigations needs no proof. For his part, Assad lost Lebanon, trapped himself in an unhealthy relationship with Iran, separated Syria from the United States and managed to pick a fight with nearly every Arab state. Erdogan has a short fuse and a big mouth, of the sort that may be his and his party’s demise because it is on trial for revoking the law barring women from wearing head scarfs. Each of these leaders invested a significant amount of stupidity to put himself where he is, and all three are like circus illusionists who disappear after they perform their "peace trick." What we face, say the wise ones, is nothing more than a public-relations spin, and we are well-versed in dealing with spin.

A new Middle East, but not Condi’s

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 5/24/2008
      The Doha agreement that resolved the immediate political crisis in Lebanon is the latest example of the new political power equation that is redefining the Middle East. It reflects both local and global forces and, 18 years after the Cold War ended, provides a glimpse of what a post-Cold War world will look like, at least in the Middle East.
     Several dynamics seem to be at play, but one is paramount: the clear limits of the projection of American global power, combined with the assertion and coexistence of multiple regional powers - Turkey, Israel, Iran, Hizbullah, Syria, Hamas, Saudi Arabia and others. These regional actors tend to fight and negotiate at the same time, and ultimately prefer to make compromises rather than perpetually wage absolutist battles.
     The Doha accord for Lebanon was much more than simply a victory for Iranian-backed Hizbullah over the American-backed March 14 alliance. It was the first concrete example in the Arab world of a negotiated, formal political agreement by local adversaries to share power and make big national decisions collectively, while maintaining close strategic relationships with diverse external patrons in the United States, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Syria. The Lebanese agreement (unlike the failed Fatah-Hamas unity government agreement) is likely to succeed because all the parties know that to live together peacefully they must make mutual compromises. This accord has been forged in the furnace of Middle Eastern demographic and political realism, in contrast to the hallucinatory absolutism that often drives US-Israeli policy in the region.