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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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5 December, 2008

VIDEO - Jewish settlers in Hebron shoot Palestinian men
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/5/2008
B’Tselem footage shows settler shooting two Palestinian at close range The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has released graphic video footage showing settlers fighting with Palestinians in Hebron and shooting two men at close range in the hours after a settler house was evacuated by police yesterday. The film, recorded by a Palestinian resident in Hebron, shows settlers attacking his house, which was in a valley close to the three-storey building where dozens of settlers were evicted by Israeli riot police. In the hours after the eviction, Jewish settlers rioted in Hebron, throwing stones at police and Palestinians and setting fire to Palestinian trees and attacking Palestinian homes. Most of the violence took place between the evicted house and the nearby hardline Jewish settlement of Kirya Arba. -- See also: Video

IMF, Quartet, donors to meet with Palestinian Monetary Authority over Gaza currency crisis; dry banks to pay part wages
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The Palestinian Monetary Authority (PMA) will meet with world financial and development institutions on Saturday to discuss the idea of exerting pressure on Israel to allow currency into Gaza so government employees can be paid. The PMA announced a coming meeting with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, several donor countries and representatives of the Middle East Quartet in the World Bank office in Jerusalem, after which a joint press conference will be held. As late as Friday night Israeli officials refused the request of all parties to have cash transferred into Gaza, whose banks are facing such a crisis that they will be unable to pay government workers’ salaries in full, despite there being enough money in Palestinian Authority (PA) accounts. Earlier Friday de facto government official announced that what remains of bank reserves will. . .

Six injured in Bil’in and Al-Ma’sara protests; demonstrators march in solidarity with Hebronites
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Six protesters were injured after demonstration marches in the villages of Bil’in and Al-Ma’sara were assaulted by Israeli soldiers during their weekly march in protest against aggressive Israeli policies on Friday. In Al-Ma’asra spokesperson for the People’s Committee Against The Walll Mohammed Breijieh said in a statement that this week’s protest was an act in solidarity with the people of Hebron. In his speech to the demonstrators Breijeh called what Israeli soldiers and settlers are doing in Hebron the “biggest proof of the barbaric attacks and plans to displace Palestinian people from their own lands. ”Coordinator of the protest Mahmoud Zawahreh said Israel should take responsability for their actions, since they were the ones to allow and even encourage the settlers to take up residence in Hebron and engage in racial attacks against the city’s Palestinian residents.

Settlers near Tulkarem destroy olive trees and local water pipe
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Tulkarem – Ma’an - Settlers destroyed eighty small olive trees only recently planted by a Palestinian farmer near Tulkarem in the northern West Bank on Friday. The vandals came from the illegal Israeli settlement Avne Hefez which is built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Shufa. They left the settlement and descended on the olive field ofA’zmi Saleh. Member of land defense committee in Tulkarem Tahsin Hamid reported the destruction of a district water pipe, preventing municipal water from reaching some remote villages. The acts of vandalism come one day after the Israeli army forcibly evicted over 250 right-wing settlers from a home in Hebron, in the southern West Bank. The eviction, ordered three weeks earlier by the Israeli High Court, set of a deluge of retaliatory attacks that settlers have aimed at Palestinians.

VIDEO - Blowing Away Palestinians with Remote Control Guns
Haitham Sabbah, Palestine Think Tank 12/5/2008
This video from Ha’aretz shows the Israeli terrorist females in action using latest Israeli war crime weapons against Gazans - "The Seer Shoots:" The Israel Defense Forces has found a way to target Gaza Strip terrorists from kilometers away, with just three pushes of a button. It may look like a video game, but it’s actually a new system called "The Seer Shoots," which has entered operation in recent days on the Gaza Strip border. Several of these domes were recently installed along the Israel-Gaza border. But you won’t find the shooter inside, but rather in a virtual battleground, operating a heavy machine gun from a kilometer away. Three days ago, Israeli air strikes killed two teenage Palestinian boys, while Israel increases its criminal siege into the Gaza Strip.

Bush says he has made Middle East ’freer, more hopeful’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/6/2008
WASHINGTON: US President George W. Bush said Friday he is handing successor Barack Obama a Middle East in which Iran seeks nuclear arms and the Arab-Israeli conflict remains the "most vexing problem. ""Despite these frustrations and disappointments, the Middle East in 2008 is a freer, more hopeful, and more promising place than it was in 2001," Bush claimed in prepared remarks that amount to a wide-ranging defense of his highly unpopular legacy in the region. The US president, who hands the keys to the White House to Obama on January 20, warned again that Washington will not permit Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons - a view shared by the president-elect. "We have made our bottom line clear: For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," said Bush.

Israel takes part in NATO intelligence discussions
Roni Sofer, YNetNews 12/5/2008
Jewish state extends its ties with North Atlantic Treaty Organization in terms of thwarting smuggling at Mediterranean Sea, dealing with roadside explosive charges and war on terror - BRUSSELS - Israel’s military cooperation with NATO is deepening:Israel took part in the formation of two intelligence reports prepared by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on missile development and the nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Simultaneously, the Jewish state is extending its ties with NATO in order to prevent the smuggling of weapons in the Middle East, deal with roadside explosive charges and the war on terror. Senior officials in Jerusalem and Brussels have said that the military cooperation between NATO and Israel would be extended in the near future. The foreign ministers of the NATO countries confirmed the agreement to extend the ties, and. . .

The European Parliament has postponed the vote on the new EU-Israel agreement
Palestinian National Initiative, Palestine Monitor 12/5/2008
Today, the European Parliament gathered to hold a vote on the implementation of the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Such an agreement would have strongly enhanced the relationship between the EU and Israel, and provided Israel with the status of a quasi-member, despite its daily violation of international law, and aggression towards the Palestinian people. With a small majority, the EU deputies postponed the vote to January. "We are thankful to the European civil society and parliamentarians for their support, but more action is now needed if Europe wants to make her voice heard, and pressurise the Israeli government to reach a real peace process agreement", said Mustafa Barghouthi, who has been meeting several EU deputies to advocate against the agreement. "As long as Israel does not respect any international and human rights laws, and as long as it maintains. . .

Israel under fire at UN over rights record
Middle East Online 12/5/2008
GENEVA - Israel came under sustained criticism over its human rights record at a UN council Thursday, with Western states also expressing concern at the treatment of Palestinians. The Jewish state was being examined by the UN Human Rights Council as part of the "Universal Periodic Review" to which every UN member state must submit. In Thursday’s session, Syria’s ambassador to the council referred ironically to the "oasis of democracy" he claimed was presented by Israel’s own submission as part of the proceedings. The Palestinian representative declared he was "astonished" by Israel’s presentation "which did not mention its responsibilities as an occupying power" in the Palestinian territories. Israel’s ambassador Aharon Leshno-Yaar said his country wished to show "proof of its humility" before the council, but also pointed to progress in the rights of disabled people, greater. . .

Arab group to attempt Gaza voyage, deliver cancer meds
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Free Gaza Movement announced a joint mission with Qatar Charity, a Qatar-based relief organisation, to sail from the Larnaca Port in Cyprus to the Gaza Strip with US $2 million worth of cancer medication this Saturday. "Through this precedent setting voyage, Qatar Charity will become the first Arab organization to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza," the Free Gaza Movement said in a statement sent to Ma’an. The group has successfully challenged the siege on three previous occasions this year, landing missions in Gaza in August, October and November 2008. The Free Gaza ships were the first to dock at Gaza’s port in over 41 years. Lubna Masarwa, one of the movement’s organizers, said that, "I’m confident that we will reach Gaza. We are unarmed civilians carrying desperately needed medical supplies to other unarmed civilians.

Libyan aid ship docks at Greek port; still plans to reach Gaza Strip
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The Libyan ship blocked from docking at Gaza’s port this week will try again after picking up new passengers from Greece, where the boat docked in Crete overnight, according to a statement sent to Ma’an. A group called the Palestinian Brotherhood Association said that the Libyan ship landed in the port of Crete to pick up more foreign solidarity activists and travel back to the Gaza Strip, this time hoping to actually make landfall. "The ship came docked at the Greek port to pick up a group of foreigners and take them to the port of Gaza, as soon as possible, to challenge the blockade," the statement said. The association also denied claims made by Israel that the ship was laden with weaponry, saying that Greek immigration officials "saw what this ship will be carrying. " On Wednesday, Libya accused Israel of piracy at a meeting of the United Nations. . .

First Arab charity to break Gaza siege with $2m shipment of cancer medicine
Free Gaza Movement - Press release, International Middle East Media Center News 12/5/2008
The Free Gaza Movement announced a joint mission with Qatar Charity, a Qatar based relief organization, to sail from Larnaca Port to Gaza with $2 million dollars worth of cancer medicine this Saturday, December 6th at 4:30pm. Through this precedent setting voyage, Qatar Charity will become the first Arab organization to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Free Gaza Movement has successfully challenged the siege on three previous occasions this year, landing missions in Gaza in August, October, and November. The Free Gaza ships are the first to dock in the Gaza Port in over 41 years. Lubna Masarwa, one of the movement organizers, stated that, "I’m confident that we will reach Gaza. We are unarmed civilians carrying desperately needed medical supplies to other unarmed civilians. It would be obscene for Israel to use violence against us in order to prevent the delivery of these medicines.

Three wounded in Bil’in weekly nonviolent protests against the Wall
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/5/2008
As the residents of Bil’in village, accompanied by Israeli and International peace activists, conducted their weekly nonviolent protest against the Israeli Annexation Wall on the village’s land and the escalating attacks carried out by the settlers in Hebron, Israeli soldiers violently attacked the protesters and fired rubber-coated metal bullets and gas bombs; three, including a child, were wounded by rubber-coated bullets and dozens suffered gas inhalation. The protesters carried Palestinian flags and posters slamming the Israeli policies against the Palestinians, the Annexation Wall, settlements and closures, and also slamming the Israeli attacks, arrests and killing of Palestinian civilians. They marched towards the Wall while chanting against the ongoing attacks and violations, and as they approached the Wall attempting to reach the village’s land, the army showered them with. . .

Palestinian group challenges Israel’s self-reported rights record
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Human rights organizations met in Bethlehem on Thursday to compile evidence of Israeli violations of international human rights law, according to a statement from Palestinian rights group Badil. The groups met on Thursday to "scrutinize the performance of Israel under human rights law" in the framework of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) procedure. Badil plans to submit its findings to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council in early December. In its preliminary report, Badil found that Israel’s National Report, which was submitted by Israel to the Human Rights Council, "falls short from reflecting the reality and totally [ignores] the human rights situation in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territory. " The group also said that Israel justifies its "violations of international humanitarian law" by claiming security pretexts.

Settlers burn olive groves in Immatin
International Womens’ Peace Service 12/5/2008
Date of incident: December 5th, 2008 - Time: about 2-4 p. m. - Place: Immatin, Qalqiliya District - Witness/es: Farmers from Immatin - Description of Incident: At about 2 p. m. on Friday, December 5, 2008, farmers in Immatin, a village in Qalqiliya, noticed a fire had broken out in olive groves several kilometres south of the village. The farmers estimate that the fire spread over an area of 100-150 dunums (1 dunum = 1,000 square meters) before Palestinian firefighters were able to arrive and put it out. An estimated 150 to 200 olive, almond and fig trees were affected by the fire. While the almond and fig trees were destroyed, most of the olive trees are likely to survive. Farmers checking the damage to their groves surmised that the fire was likely to have been started in two places.

MAP - Roadblocks and checkpoints in West Bank - Occupied Palestine
Humanitarian Information Center, oPt, Palestine Think Tank 12/5/2008
August 28, 2008, Humanitarian Information Center, oPt [end] -- See also: Humanitarian Information Center, oPt

Five Palestinians, two international peace activists, wounded as army attacked Ni’lin weekly protest
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/5/2008
As hundreds of Palestinian residents and international peace activists conducted their non-violent weekly protest against the Israeli Annexation Wall on Nil’in village lands, Israeli soldiers violently attacked them and fired at them wounding five residents and two Spanish and Danish peace activists. The protest was conducted following the Friday prayers at the village’s mosque as the Sheikh, Morad Khalid Omeria, called for solidarity with the residents in Hebron to protest the ongoing escalating attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against them. As the protesters marched towards the Annexation Wall, Israeli soldiers fired at them from a close range. The protesters insisted to march although the army had surrounded the village from all directions. Soldiers fired gas-bombs and rubber-coated bullets; seven, including two activists from Denmark and Spain, were wounded by rubber. . .

VIDEO / IDF bolsters forces across West Bank in wake of Hebron house eviction
Amos Harel , and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
Israel placed military and police forces on alert Friday to head off settler violence after the evacuation of a disputed West Bank building brought tensions between the government and extremist settlers to a peak. Army forces were beefed up across the West Bank, defense officials said. The move follows the eviction of settlers from a four-story building in the town of Hebron on Thursday and subsequent rampages by settler youth who attacked Palestinians and set fire to Palestinian homes and cars. There were some 500 policemen in and around Hebron on Friday, a substantial increase from the usual deployment, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Worried about possible Palestinian disturbances in retaliation for the settler attacks, police also restricted the entrance of Muslim worshippers at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque because of fears that riots could erupt there during Friday’s communal prayers.

15 residents wounded in Hebron
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/5/2008
Israeli sources reported that Israeli settlers attacked dozens of Palestinian residents in the southern West Bank city of Hebron and opened fire at them wounding fifteen residents, including a father and his child who were wounded by live rounds. The settlers also broke into more than ten Palestinian homes causing excessive damage. The settlers were protesting against their evacuation from a Palestinian home they occupied last year and the Israeli High Court of Justice ordered the evacuation. The Israeli army fully sealed Hebron and barred the media from entering it while the settles continued their attacks against the residents and their homes. The settlers also attacked Israeli soldiers and policemen. The settlers damaged several Palestinian vehicles and set ablaze a number of Palestinian homes, vehicles and trees.

VIDEO - Israeli riot police evict settlers in Hebron
Rory McCarthy, The Guardian 12/5/2008
Violent protests after officers follow court order in Hebron - Riot police forcibly evacuated a house filled with dozens of Jewish settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron yesterday in the most public showdown between the government and the increasingly violent settler movement for more than two years. Hundreds of police mounted a surprise raid on the three-storey house, which had become the latest symbol of defiance for Israeli settlers. Troops fired teargas into the crowds and dragged settlers from the house one by one. Around 30 people were injured, including one policeman who had acid thrown in his eyes. Although the house was emptied within an hour, the operation triggered broad settler protests across the occupied West Bank and in Jerusalem that continued into the night. -- See also: Video

Fatah official calls for demonstrations against Hebron violence
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - A leader in the Palestinian Fatah Party’s parliamentary bloc called for mass demonstrations on Friday in response to settler attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, according to a statement. Deputy Ashraf Jom’a said the attacks in Hebron were part of "an entire Israeli plan" to intimidate Palestinians, calling on "all Palestinian People in the West Bank" face the attacks together. He was speaking at Friday prayers in Hebron when he made the comments. He also called on Gazan citizens to condemn such settler attacks, calling for Al-Aqsa Brigades activists to respond in force. Jom’a also called on the international community to "oppose such attacks and provide security to Palestinians," according to the statement.

Hebron ’secured’ after evictions
Al Jazeera 12/5/2008
Israeli police have been heavily deployed in the West Bank town of Hebron after the court-sanctioned eviction of a group of Jewish settlers sparked violent clashes. The scene in Hebron was calm on Friday, a day after Israeli police used tear gas and clubs to evict the settlers from a building in the town. "It’s certainly much calmer today but there’s a real feeling of unease," Dan Nolan, Al Jazeera’s correspondent at the scene, reported. "There haven’t been any clashes but that’s mainly because this is such a secure zone at the moment. . . there’s so many of the Israeli security forces around Hebron. " About 40 people were hurt in clashes between police, settlers and Palestinians during the eviction operation on Thursday.

Fatah supports Hebron residents, asks for more pressure on settlement removal
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – Palestinians will not surrender to the settler attacks and Fatah will support Palestinian steadfastness in the face of Israeli violence, party spokesperson Fahmi Az-Za’arir said Friday. Az-Za’arir called on the international community to take the actions of the Israeli settlers seriously, and press with more weight against Israel to remove the settlements in the West Bank. Evacuating all the settlers is the first step towards peace, he affirmed. The statement indicated that Fatah intends to support to the efforts of the Palestinian Authority as it addresses the issue, and added that no country should try to justify the violent settler acts. [end]

Hamas organizes rally in Jabalia camp protesting Hebron settler attacks
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Gaza –Ma’an – Gazans gathered in the northern Jabalia refugee camp in solidarity with Palestinians in Hebron who fell victim to the attack of right-wing Israeli settlers in the southern West Bank on Thursday and Friday. The rally was organized by Hamas, and was attended by dozens of the party leaders, members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) and hundreds of Gazans who marched in the streets protesting the settler violence. Marchers chanted slogans demanding resistance factions retaliate for the violence. [end]

Huge demonstration in northern Gaza to protest settlers’ crimes in al-Khalil
Palestinian Information Center 12/6/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- Thousands of Palestinians participated in the demonstrations called for by Hamas to protest the crimes committed by Israeli extremist settlers against the citizens of al-Khalil and other parts of the West Bank. The demonstrations took place after the Friday prayers from various mosques in the northern Gaza Strip and merged to form a huge demonstration which marched through the roads of Gaza and ended at the house of martyr Imad Aqel in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip. Mushir al-Masri, secretary of the Hamas parliamentary bloc, called, during his speech at the demonstration, on President Mahmoud Abbas to release all the resistance fighters who were arrested and whose weapons were confiscated by Abbas’s security men so that they could defend their people in al-Khalil. He added that the settlers would not have dared commit such crimes had Abbas’s security not detained the resistance fighters.

Amid Hebron tensions, U.S. tells nationals: Keep out of Jerusalem
Yossi Melman , and News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
U. S. citizens and staff workers at its embassy in Tel Aviv received an advisory on Friday to avoid traveling to Jerusalem in the wake of Thursday’s evacuation of a Jewish squatters from a disputed house in the West Bank town of Hebron. The government is also advising Americans to refrain from driving on the main highway connecting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Highway 1, due to heavy traffic delays and "ongoing police activity. "The advisory does not specify the reason behind the recommendations, though it would be reasonable to assume that it stems from the settler riots that followed the Hebron house evacuation on Thursday. The notice, which was disseminated by the U. S. Consulate in Jerusalem, reads: "Based upon past events, Americans should be alert to the possibility of demonstrations and other actions throughout Israel.

Israeli security forces waiting for Hebron colonists to exact ’price tag’
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/6/2008
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Security forces braced on Friday for more violence after Israeli hard-liners again went on a rampage against Palestinians in retaliation for the eviction of settlers from an illegally occupied Hebron house. The entire southern Occupied West Bank was declared a closed military zone to prevent Israelis from converging again on the flashpoint city where a mob of Jewish settlers on Thursday shot and wounded three Palestinians, hurled rocks at others and torched homes, fields and cars. Dozens of young Palestinians burned tires and hurled rocks at an Israeli military position in Hebron on Friday in retaliation for Israeli inaction over the colonist rampage the day earlier. Aside from a handful of detentions, the massive Israeli military presence did not hinder the violence and rioting by colonists on Thursday.

Footage shows settlers shooting two Palestinians
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem, The Guardian 12/6/2008
An Israeli human rights group released video footage yesterday showing Israeli settlers shooting two Palestinians at close range, hours after police forcibly evicted residents of a controversial settlement house in the occupied West Bank. The film, recorded by a Palestinian in Hebron with a camera from the group B’Tselem, showed settlers attacking his house, situated in a valley close to the building where dozens of settlers were evicted by riot police on Thursday. In the hours following the eviction, Jewish settlers rioted in Hebron, throwing stones at police and Palestinians and setting fire to trees around Palestinian homes. Most of the violence took place between the house and the hardline Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba nearby. About 35 people were injured in clashes between settlers and Palestinians.

Palestinians protest rampage by Hebron settlers
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
Palestinians protested on Friday against a rampage by settlers in response to Israel’s eviction of squatters from a disputed building in Hebron, and Israel deployed extra forces to contain the unrest. Palestinian youths burned tyres in Hebron and threw stones at Israel Defense Forces soldiers at a checkpoint, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, witnesses said. Violence spread to another West Bank town where Palestinians said settlers torched olive orchards, a day after settlers shot and wounded three Palestinians in anger at the removal of Israeli families from a building occupied in defiance of a court order. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki accused the settlers of "waging war" on Palestinians and urged the United Nations Security Council to take up the issue.

Element of surprise leaves Hebron settlers with little time to resist IDF evacuation
Nadav Shragai, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
At 2:30 P. M. , security forces burst through the doors of the House of Contention, firing stun grenades and tear gas. The element of surprise was perfect: In the living quarters, mothers prepared lunch for their children. In Rabbi Uzi Sharbav’s apartment, settlers involved in the "crusade" were casually moving about before a work meeting. They discussed their continued course of action in resisting the evacuation and possible solutions raised in a meeting with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his associates the previous night. Within a matter of minutes, the calm was interrupted by children screaming, "evacuation, evacuation. " Nadia Matar rose from her chair, but before she managed to reach the door, was kicked down by members of the police special forces unit, Yasam.

The Ministry of Awqaf warns of possible massacres committed by settlers
Palestinian Information Center 12/5/2008
GAZA, (PIC)-- The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs in the Haneyya government in Gaza has warned of possible massacres against Palestinian worshipers in mosques in the West Bank especially in al-Khalil. In a statement issued on Friday by the ministry on the settlers’ attacks in al-Khalil the ministry said that the crimes committed by the settlers under the protection of the IOF and Abbas’s security forces constituted a blatant challenge to the feelings of Muslims around the world. The ministry called on all countries of the world, especially the Arab and Muslim countries to shoulder their responsibilities towards protecting the Palestinian people in the face of Zionist arrogance. The ministry called on Arab and Muslim people to demonstrate in protest at the crimes committed by the settlers in al-Khalil, reminding them of the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre when a Zionist settler

Senior UN official calls for end to Israeli settler violence against Palestinians
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 12/5/2008
While welcoming the evacuation by Israeli security forces of some 200 settlers from a house in Hebron in occupied Palestinian territory, a senior United Nations official today condemned ensuing settler violence against Palestinians, calling for an immediate end to such attacks. "As the occupying power, the Government of Israel is under obligation to protect Palestinian civilians, property and holy sites," UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said in a statement, denouncing the destruction and desecration of Palestinian property, mosques and graves, as well as settler attacks on Israeli security forces. "I remain concerned about the potential for a further escalation of a tense situation. I call for an immediate end to settler attacks and restraint and calm from all parties, and urge vigilance from the Israeli authorities to ensure that the events of yesterday are not repeated.

UN applauds eviction of Hebron settlers from Palestinian house
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - The United Nations (UN)’s representative to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) "welcomed the evacuation" of an illegal settlement outpost in Hebron on Thursday, according to a statement sent to Ma’an. Robert Serry, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and personal representative of the secretary-general to the PLO and PA, said he is pleased by the evacuation by Israeli security forces of approximately 200 settlers from a Palestinian house in Hebron on Thursday. "I condemn the ensuing violence and attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians and the destruction and desecration of Palestinian property," the UN representative said on Friday. "As the occupying power, the government of Israel is under obligation to protect Palestinian civilians, property and holy sites," Serry demanded.

Diplomats assemble in Ramallah for Hebron update; Abbas and Fayyad report to UN
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Ramallah – Ma’an – International representatives to Palestine gathered in Ramallah on Friday in the office of Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyadh Al-Maliki to hear updates on the settler and Israeli army violence in Hebron. The meeting explained the specifics behind what the minister called an ‘overall deterioration of the situation in Palestine. ’He outlined the events and fallout of the Israeli army’s eviction of right-wing settlers from a Palestinian home in Hebron, and the flare-up of settler attacks all over the West Bank as settlers retaliate against the actions. Al-Maliki explained that in Hebron 400,000 Palestinians are besieged by 700 settlers and close to 2,000 Israeli soldiers who constantly attack residents and impede any normalcy from settling into the city. He added that settler attacks thwart Palestinian efforts to impose law and order in the city,. . .

Israel braces for more Jewish extremist trouble
Middle East Online 12/5/2008
TEL AVIV - Security forces braced on Friday for more violence after Israeli hardliners went on the rampage against Palestinians in Hebron. The entire southern West Bank, under illegal Israeli occupation since 1967, was declared a closed military zone to prevent Israelis from converging again on the flashpoint city where a mob of Jewish extremists on Thursday shot and wounded three Palestinians, hurled rocks at others and torched homes, fields and cars. Dozens of young Palestinians burned tyres and hurled rocks at an Israeli military position in Hebron on Friday and soldiers responded by firing teargas while in Gaza City, about 2,000 Palestinians took part in a protest against the settler violence. Authorities feared the violence would continue as right-wingers vowed to exact revenge for Thursday’s forceful eviction of some 250 settlers from the house that had come to symbolise. . .

DFLP: World must hold Israel responsible for settler violence, ensure Palestinian safety
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Ramallah/Gaza - Ma’an – The Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) called for the UN Security Council and the international community to intervene immediately and protect Palestinians from Israeli settler attacks across the West Bank. The party called for the world to exert pressure on Israel to respect international law by curbing the violence perpetrated by settlers, who are supported and encouraged by the Israeli government. They also urged the Palestinian Authority to carry out a political and diplomatic campaign to evacuate the settlers from the West Bank and dismantling the settlements as a condition for peace, security and stability in the region. Islamic Jihad praised the steadfastness of the residents of Hebron during the repeated settler attacks on them. The movement called for Palestinian factions to protect Palestinians by responding to these. . .

Israeli settlers torch Palestinian homes in Al-Khalil
Palestinian Information Center 12/5/2008
AL-KHALIL, (PIC)-- Fanatic Israeli settlers have escalated Thursday their aggressions on peaceful Palestinian citizens in Al-Khalil city, and torched their homes under the eyes of the Israeli occupation soldiers, Palestinian sources confirmed. At least forty Palestinian citizens were injured, five of them in a critical condition, and a number of Palestinian homes in the southern zone of the city were set ablaze at the hands of the Jewish extremists, according to the sources. PIC correspondent in the city quoted local Palestinian sources as confirming that hundreds of Zionist settlers swept the area under the protection of the Israeli occupation forces, while PA security forces that were deployed in the city a couple of weeks ago to arrest Palestinian fighters and Hamas’s supporters have disappeared from the city’s streets, and left their people under the mercy of the settlers.

Two residents of Jerusalem kidnapped during a protest against settlers attacks in Hebron
Saed Bannoura & Agencies, International Middle East Media Center News 12/5/2008
The Arabs48 news website reported that dozens of Palestinian residents protested in Jerusalem on Friday against the escalating attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, especially in the city of Hebron. The Israeli police and border guard units violently attacked the protesters in an attempt to disperse them. An Israeli police spokesperson said that border guard policemen arrested two Palestinian youths during the clashes that erupted between the Palestinian protesters and the army. Israeli sources reported that the army imposed further restrictions on the Palestinians attempting to reach the Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers. Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that Israeli police spokesperson in Jerusalem said that Palestinians under 45 were not allowed to attend the Friday prayers in Al Aqsa Mosque.

Legal Analysis / Not a law unto themselves
Ze''ev Segal, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave the go-ahead to evacuate the House of Contention in Hebron when he was armed with a "certificate of kashrut" from the High Court of Justice issued 18 days ago. Barak has not always been thrilled by the High Court’s involvement in defense matters, but he placed the supremacy of the court’s authority and the duty to uphold Supreme Court rulings at the top of his agenda. The High Court ruling regarding the House of Contention is a song of praise of the principal of law enforcement by the authorized branch of government, as well as the principal of forbidding self-interpretation of the law. The settlers will have to internalize this message, today more than ever. Those in Jewish Hebron are the ones who appealed to the High Court via "Tal Building and Investments, Karnei Shomron" against the state’s decision to evacuate them. . .

Day after clashes: Hebron too quiet
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/5/2008
Security forces on high alert as air in West Bank city remains peaceful day after riots following successful evacuation of disputed house. ’We’ll choose the time to respond, and return to house,’ says settler; Palestinian farmers say they are afraid to leave home -The day after the evacuation of the disputed house in Hebron, which came with violent clashes and riots, security forces were heavilydeployed throughout the city. Hebron however, remained suspiciously too quiet. "We will choose the timing and the hour to respond," a right-wing activist in the city told Ynet. "In the game between cat and mouse, the mouse, who is smaller and more nimble, always wins and knows every tunnel and hole. " Although it seems the rioters were subdued by Thursday afternoon’s evacuating officers, settlers promised that the silence was only temporary.

Israel bans West Bank Palestinians from prayer at Al-Aqsa
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Jerusalem - Ma’an - Israeli authorities imposed new restrictions on the entry of worshipers to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday in expectation of "troubles" following the evacuation of a settler-occupied house in Hebron on Thursday. Israel’s Army Radio said that the commander of Israeli police in Jerusalem, Aharon Franco, announced the order to prevent worshipers from the West Bank from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel had previously set conditions for the entry of men and women to pray in Jerusalem by age. Before, men and women over 45 were the only Muslim Palestinians permitted access to Jerusalem, other than holders of Israeli identity cards. Israeli authorities announced a state of alert across Israel following the events in Hebron on Thursday, in which dozens were injured in settler violence throughout the day.

Israeli rights group says army must protect Palestinians
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - An Israeli human rights organization demanded on Friday that Israeli security forces protect Palestinians from settlers "with the same determination" shown in Thursday’s house evacuation in Hebron. The statement came a day after settlers unleashed a "wave of settler violence against Palestinians" in retaliation for the Israeli army’s actions against illegal settlements in Hebron, according to Israeli human rights group B’Tselem. Two Palestinians were wounded when settlers opened fire at them in Hebron, and there is immediate danger to physical safety "if settlers are allowed to rampage," B’Tselem added. Immediately after the evacuation of the new settlement in Hebron, settlers attacked nearby Palestinian homes. Two Palestinians were wounded by settler gunfire, one in the chest.

IDF in Hebron helps Palestinian woman in labor
Efrat Weiss, YNetNews 12/5/2008
While settlers riot following evacuation of disputed house, Civil Administration picks up woman suffering from contractions in need of evacuation to hospital -While security forces attempted to quell the riots in Hebron over the evacuation of the disputed house on Friday, Civil Administration officers were assisting a Palestinian woman who went into labor in the midst of the turmoil. Rightists and settlers began to riot in Hebron soon after the evacuation of the disputed house was completed, and large forces were deployed throughout the city. "Civil Administration teams deployed in the area of the Jewish settlement in Hebron in order to make sure that the Palestinians’ daily lives were not harmed," Lieutenant-Colonel Aviv Feigel, head of the Hebron District Civil Administration, told Ynet.

Another projectile lands in Negev; Gaza commercial crossings remain closed
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – Israeli media reported the small explosion of a homemade projectile launched from the northern Gaza Strip on Friday afternoon. The projectile landed in an open field near a Kibbutz in the Negev, there were no injuries reported and no damage to buildings or agricultural goods was documented. It follows the launch of several projectiles by various militant factions in Gaza Thursday evening and Friday morning. Responding to the earlier projectile launches Israel closed all commercial crossing into and out of the Gaza Strip on Friday, according to the head of the Gaza Coordination Office. Raed Fattouh, who oversees coordination between Israel and Palestine over the Gaza Strip borders, told Ma’an that all crossings will be closed on Friday due to the armed groups’ attacks. Fattouh added that 25 trucks entered Gaza on Thursday, all loaded with food and medical. . .

9 Qassams fired towards Negev
Ilana Curiel, YNetNews 12/5/2008
Citizens lament lack of response from IDF to rocket fire that interrupted evening prayer in Sderot. ’There was a time when we would have done something, but not today,’ says Nahal Oz resident -The IDF stated that nine Qassam rockets were fired towards Israel from Gaza Friday evening, some of which fell in Palestinian territory. Two rockets landed in the Negev, one of which fell in open spaces near Sderot. The other landed in open spaces in Shaar HaNegev Regional Council. No injuries or damage were reported. The Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) claimed responsibility for the fire, which interrupted evening prayer in Sderot. Gidi Sabag, of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, told Ynet he had heard many explosions during the evening. "We are trying to lead lives of normalcy, but a number of people are trying to leave because of the security situation.

Armed groups claim multiple projectiles launched overnight
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Gaza - Ma’an - Several Palestinian armed groups claimed responsibility on Thursday night and Friday morning for projectiles launched from the Gaza Strip, according to statements sent to Ma’an. The National Resistance Brigades, which is the militant wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), as well as the Al-Quds Brigades, affiliated with Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility for the launches. The targets appeared to be an Israeli military base east of Joh Ad-Deek, which was fired on Thursday evening. At least six projectiles landed there overnight, the groups said. In statements received by Ma’an, the two groups said that the attacks came in response to "continuous Israeli aggression against Palestinians," particularly in Hebron, where settlers attacked residents throughout the day on Thursday.

Qassam lands in Negev; no injuries
Shmulik Hadad, YNetNews 12/5/2008
Rocket fired from northern Gaza Strip hits open field near kibbutz, causing no injuries or damage - A Qassam rocket fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in an open field near a kibbutz in the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council on Friday. No one was injured and no damage was caused. Residents of southern Israel haven’t known a moment of rest in recent weeks. On Thursday evening, a rocket launched from Gaza exploded in an open field near Sderot. In the early hours of Thursday morning a mortar shell landed in an open field near a kibbutz in the western Negev. No injures or damage were reported in Thursday’s incidents. Deputy Security Officer of the Eshkol Regional Council Miki Levy, told Ynet, "No color red alert was sounded. Unfortunately, people are already used to mortar shells falling.

Rocket fire on western Negev continues
Jerusalem Post 12/5/2008
Palestinian rocket fire on the western Negev continued Friday, with five Kassam rockets fired from the Gaza Strip throughout the day. One rocket landed in Sderot, and the other four landed in open areas near the city. No casualties or damage were reported in the attacks. Also Friday, two mortar shells fired from the northern Gaza Strip landed in the Eshkol region. No casualties or damage were reported. On Thursday, a Kassam rocket landed near Sderot, causing no casualties or damage. Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated across the Strip on Friday, protesting settler violence in Hebron. The demonstrations were reportedly organized by Hamas. [end]

PRC fires three projectiles on two Israeli posts
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Gaza – Ma’an – An armed group affiliated with the Popular Resistance Committees claimed responsibility for shelling the Karem Abu Salem military post near the Gaza Strip, according to a statement. The Salah Ad-Din Brigades fired a homemade shell on the base, as well as two others toward the Zikim base north of the Gaza Strip, the statement said. The operations were in retaliation for settler attacks on Palestinians in Hebron, according to the statement. [end]

Al-Aqsa Brigades fires homemade shell on Sderot
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The armed wing of Fatah claimed responsibility on Friday for shelling the Israeli town of Sderot with a homemade projectile, according to a statement from the group. The armed wing, Fatah’s Al-Aqsa Brigades, said the shelling was in response to settler attacks on Hebron. [end]

Israeli forces detain Hamas leader in Ramallah
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an - Israeli authorities said they arrested a leader affiliated with Hamas from the Al-Qabaliah farm in Ramallah at dawn on Friday. Israeli identified the detained Hamas affiliate as Mohammad Shreiteh for his involvement in "terrorist activities," noting that his name previously appeared on an Israeli "wanted" list. [end]

This Week in Palestine Week 49
IMEMC News - Audio Dept, International Middle East Media Center News 12/5/2008
Click on Link to download or play MP3 file|| 13 m 00s || 11. 9 MB || This Week in Palestine, Week 49 This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center www. imemc. org, for November 29 through December 5, 2008. GENERAL LEDE: Israeli settlers step up attacks against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank while Banks in Gaza close their doors as Israel prevents transfer of money to the besieged coastal region, these stories and more coming up, stay tuned. Nonviolent Activities Let us begin our weekly report with the nonviolent activities in the West Bank with IMEMC’s Terrina Aguilar. Bethlehem In the village of Almasra, south of Bethlehem, three demonstrators were injured; suffering bruises and cuts from being severely beaten by Israeli occupation soldiers at noon on Friday.

Kharisha calls on PA to release resistance fighters
Palestinian Information Center 12/5/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Hasan Kharisha, the second deputy speaker of the PLC, said that the crimes committed on Thursday in al-Khalil requires by the settlers requires a clear patriotic stand by the PA by releasing the resistance fighters it has attested in the West Bank and especially in al-Khalil. In a press statement, Kharisha said on Friday: "What the PA security did over the past months in terms of arms confiscation and detention of resistance fighters in the West Bank opened the door for the herds of settlers to commit the crimes we see today. "He emphasised that the PA should rectify its present direction by releasing the resistance fighters and handing them back their weapons, stressing that the resistance is capable of bridling these herds and their criminal acts against the Palestinian people. Kharisha also opined that what has taken place in al-Khalil suggests that there. . .

Hamas to Abbas: Release our fighters from jails to bridle settlers’ attacks
Palestinian Information Center 12/5/2008
Palestinian home daubed by settlers with the Star of David and the word (Revenge) GAZA, (PIC)-- The Hamas Movement on Friday asked PA chief Mahmoud Abbas to release Palestinian resistance fighters from his jails in the West Bank in order to defend Palestinian citizens in Al-Khalil city after his forces refused to protect them against the Israeli settlers’ aggressions. According to the Movement, the settlers’ attacks on the residents of Al-Khalil were the fruits of the security coordination between the Israeli occupation forces and Abbas’s security forces in the West Bank. Hundreds of Hamas’s fighters were arrested and thrown into Abbas’s jails in the West Bank, leaving the Palestinian citizens without a shield to protect them as PA security forces under Abbas’s command unequivocally announced they won’t block the settler’s attacks on the Palestinian citizens.

Israel ends Gaza ban on journalists
Roy Greenslade, The Guardian 12/5/2008
Israel has reopened the Gaza strip to international journalists after a four-week ban. The announcement followed weeks of pressure from foreign governments and complaints from major news organisations about the ban being a violation of press freedom. [end]

Abu Zuhri: Hamas won’t extend Abbas’s term in office even for one day
Palestinian Information Center 12/5/2008
DAMASCUS, (PIC)-- Dr. Sami Abu Zuhri, the spokesman of Hamas Movement in Gaza, has clearly announced that his Movement will not extend the term of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in office even for one day after it expires on the ninth of January, 2009. He also blamed the Arab states for not standing at equal distance from all Palestinian factions, and for backing a certain Palestinian party against the other parties as evident with the Arab foreign ministers’ decision to extend Abbas’s term in office for one more year. "Fabricated media reports and political pressures coupled with the crippling Israeli economic siege on Gaza will not succeed in budging us from the Palestinian people’s national constants and legal rights", asserted Abu Zuhri in an interview with the Quds Press, stressing that Hamas Movement won’t extend the term of Abbas in office even for a single day after the ninth of January next year.

Palestinians join UN agencies in denouncing honour killings and gender abuse
United Nations News Service, ReliefWeb 12/5/2008
Eight United Nations agencies have co-sponsored the first Palestinian ’festival’ to combat violence against women, driving home the message that so-called "honour killings" have nothing to do with honour and seeking to break the conspiracy surrounding domestic abuse. "It is time for action, not words," UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Programme Manager in the occupied Palestinian territory Alia El Yassir told the festival in Ramallah on the West Bank. "UN agencies are working as one on this issue and supporting civil societies in their efforts to end violence against women. " The main message of the festival was threefold: - Killing a woman has nothing to do with honour. It is a violation of fundamental human rights and freedoms. - Break the conspiracy of silence surrounding domestic violence. Silence protects the perpetrators, and is the greatest obstacle encountered by women and girls in protecting themselves and their children.

Palestinian children exercise their right to play at the 2008 Global Peace Games
Monica Awad, United Nations Children''s Fund - UNICEF, ReliefWeb 12/5/2008
WEST BANK, Occupied Palestinian Territory - Hundreds of Palestinian children from various cities, villages and refugee camps came to Ramallah to celebrate their ’right to play’ at the 2008 Global Peace Games for Children and Youth, held last month at Majed Al Asad stadium. "Through today’s activities, I would like to send a message of peace to the world," said Qussai Al Shalaf, a 15-year-old boy from Ramallah. The stadium filled with laughter as children enjoyed a day of peaceful play. Some children painted or made kites, while others participated in athletic activities such as football. ’Right to Play’ The activities were organized by the ’Right to Play’ organization in cooperation with Ministries of Youth and Sports, Education, UNICEF, UNRWA, Pontifical Mission and the Yalla Ya Zhgar organization.

Blair reveals that Abbas has reached an ''undeclared agreement'' with Israelis
Palestinian Information Center 12/5/2008
RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Tony Blair, the Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, revealed that President Mahmoud Abbas and his negotiations team have reached an "undeclared agreement" to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He also said, during an interview with the Palestinian newspaper "Al-Quds", the repeated meetings between Olmert and Abbas as well as the negotiations by the Israeli and Palestinian teams, which tackled final status issues, have resulted in "a form of agreement". He pointed out that both sides are keeping the matter under wraps and that he would not reveal any details of what was agreed. Asked why none of the promises made at the Annapolis conference were fulfilled one year after the conference, Blair said that this was not true and that many positive things materialised. He added that he believed that a tangible result was the political process that ensued where. . .

Islamic Jihad rejects new truce given ’current circumstances’
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Islamic Jihad will not renew the truce with Israel in light of the continued closures of Gaza Strip crossings and daily attacks against Palestinians, the group announced Friday. A senior leader Khalid Al-Batsh said Islamic Jihad categorically rejected a “unilateral truce,” which is how he described the current situation. “Israel is the sole beneficiary [of the truce,” he said, “while we are starving to death. ”Al-Batsh said halting resitance activities in exchange for meager food rations was not in the cards. “We in the Islamic Jihad movement rather die in the trenches of resistance,” than in hospitals of starvation, he said. He added that Hamas has not imposed any position on his party over the prospects of the future of the truce. If they wanted to impose the acceptance of the truce on all parties, Al-Batsh asked, than why did they consult us. . .

Closed Gaza banks put holiday at risk
Ali Waked, YNetNews 12/5/2008
While financial crisis is felt almost everywhere in Israel, its ramifications in Strip are much more severe. Muslims to mark Eid al-Adha on Monday, but most banks, ATMs shut down due to cash shortage. Tens of thousands of Palestinian government workers have not received their salaries - The financial situation in the Gaza Strip is worsening, forcing most banks to close their branches. Many residents are angry because they can’t withdraw money due to the cash shortage, and Palestinian Authority government workers did not receive their monthly salary on Friday. The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (Festival of Sacrifice) will take place on Monday, but many families are unable to prepare for it. Tens of thousands of government workers have yet to receive their wages and won’t be able to purchase the basic commodities for the holiday.

Palestine Day at UN-ESCWA
United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia - ESCWA, ReliefWeb 12/5/2008
"We have seen many difficulties in the past year. But it has been a crucial time in setting the stage for peace. Two thousand nine must be the year that these preparations bear fruit. Let us all work constructively, tirelessly and consistently for a just, lasting, comprehensive, and urgent settlement of the question of Palestine", the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (29 November). Ban’s message was relayed to the crowd who joined together at the UN House in Beirut to mark the Day, by UN-ESCWA Executive Secretary, Bader Omar AlDafa, before he delivered the statement of UN-ESCWA. The ceremony, which was held under the auspices of the President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Suleiman, also witnessed statements by Mr. Abbas Zaki Representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). . .

Jimmy Carter to meet Assad during visit to Syria and Lebanon
Jerusalem Post 12/6/2008
Former US president Jimmy Carter will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad and top Syrian officials during a visit in Syria next week, Israel Radio reported on Friday night. Carter will also visit Lebanon, where he is expected to speak at the American University in Beirut. [end]

Jimmy Carter to visit Syria, Lebanon next week
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
Former President Jimmy Carter plans to meet with Syrian President Bashar Assad and other officials to discuss prospects for peace in the Middle East during visits to Lebanon and Syria next week. The Carter Center said Friday that Carter will lead a pre-electoral assessment mission in Lebanon. The center is considering observing parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring. Carter also will address students, faculty, and invited guests at the American University of Beirut on Dec. 12. He will speak on 30 years after Camp David: A memo to the Arab World, Israel and the Quartet. The Camp David Accords were a peace treaty brokered by Carter and signed by Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 17, 1978.

Report: Lebanese general Aoun met Mossad agents during Paris exile
Haaretz Service, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
The pro-Syria Lebanese general Michel Aoun met Israeli Mossad agents on several occasions while in exile in Paris between 1991 and 2005, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Friday. The report came as Aoun, the leader of the Free Patriotic Movement, was visiting Damascus. The Christian ex-military chief, who was forced into exile after a failed coup against the Syrians, has since aligned himself with Damascus and Hezbollah. The report also said that the French intelligence authorities warned Aoun against these meetings, but he ignored their advice. Related articles: ANALYSIS / Siniora’s gov’t will fall, the question is whenTop Lebanese army general, four others killed in blast near Beirut Anniversary of Lebanese civil war blighted by ongoing crisis #newsletterLink a {text-decoration: none; cursor:. . .

Report: Michel Aoun met Mossad agents in Paris
Ynet, YNetNews 12/5/2008
French daily reports Lebanese general forced into exile in 1990 met with Israeli secret agents over many years despite warnings from French intelligence -Michel Aoun, head of the Free Patriotic Movement Party in Lebanon, met with Mossad officials while in exile in France, the French daily Le Figaro reported Friday. The report said the Christian general, who served as prime minister before being forced into exile, held numerous meetings with the agents between the years 1991-2005. It said Aoun disregarded warnings by French intelligence to discontinue the meetings. According to the report, Aoun has been more supportive of Hizbullah and Damascus ever since his return to Lebanon in 2005, after 15 years of exile. Two years ago he called on Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to resign during a rally numbering 800,000 participants.

Lebanon: Bilateral contribution, 05 Dec 2008
Government of Italy, ReliefWeb 12/5/2008
Rome 5 december, 2008 - "The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the General Directorate for Cooperation and Development has contributed with a financial amount of 1. 500. 000,00 euros to Lebanon in response to urgent humanitarian assistance for Palestinians refugees camps living in Lebanon. The donation will provide the improvement of water resources, energy supply, waste management, strengthening of health services and education, the establishment of a support centre for social assistance activities and the preparation facilities and services for the opening of a kindergarten. " "The donation will be implemented by the Italian Embassy of Beirut. " POC: Alessandro Pirrone- MoFA Rome - Emergency Office on +39 3691 8153

Osbat al-Ansar issues fatwa outlawing fighting with LAF
Daily Star 12/6/2008
SIDON: The Islamist Osbat al-Ansar group based in the southern Palestinian refugee camp of Ein al-Hilweh issued a fatwa on Friday forbidding its members against fighting the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF). "It is against our religion to fight the Lebanese Army. . . The daily details of life in the camp should not distract us from the events in the Gaza Strip," the group’s spokesman, Abu Sharif Akel, said during a rally at the camp on Friday. The rally was organized by the Islamist Hamas movement in solidarity with Gaza. The fatwa was the first of its kind by Osbat al-Ansar, whose members clashed with the LAF on several occasions in the past. "It is shameful for us to engage is small details in the camp and in Lebanon, ignoring the suffering of our people in Palestine," Akel said. "It is against Islamic Shariah to fight the Lebanese Army or any other army when fighting the [Jews] should be our utmost priority.

Saudis deny barring Gazans from Mecca
Rory McCarthy in Jerusalem and Riazat Butt, The Guardian 12/6/2008
Saudi authorities have denied barring Palestinians from Gaza from performing the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, because of a dispute concerning which Palestinian government is legitimate. Usually there are spaces reserved for about 3,000 Palestinians from Gaza for the pilgrimage. Hajj authorities asked the Fatah-dominated government in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, to draw up the list of those attending and issued visas for the pilgrims. However, the rival faction Hamas, which won Palestinian elections three years ago and now controls the Gaza Strip, refused to allow out those people named on the Ramallah list. Instead, Hamas drew up its own list of pilgrims who wanted to travel but that list was not recognised by the Saudi authorities. A spokesman at the Saudi ministry of foreign affairs denounced "false statements issued by a member of the Palestinian legislative council" regarding the matter, saying it had given thousands of Palestinians from all occupied territories, including Gaza, the necessary visas.

Bush: America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon
News Agencies, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
U. S. President George W. Bush reiterated his pledge that the United States will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons in a wide-ranging speech on the Middle East Friday. "For the safety of our people and the peace of the world, America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon," Bush said at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. Bush called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict the most vexing problem in the region, but offered a hopeful tone, saying "on the most vexing problem in the region - the Israeli- Palestinian conflict - there is now greater international consensus than at any point in recent memory. "He noted that he was the first U. S. president to call for a Palestinian state and said he sees progress toward reaching a two-state solution.

Iran’s breakout incapability
Kaveh L Afrasiabi, Asia Times 12/6/2008
The incoming Barack Obama administration has already been inundated with reports, policy recommendations and position papers vying for the president-elect’s attention on the Iran nuclear issue. Although nicely wrapped in the semantics of a "fresh" or "game-changing" approach, the majority are familiar and lack novelty, and this should come as no surprise as many were penned by old US foreign policy hands like Dennis Ross and Martin Indyk. As a result, even when they seem to be suggesting a reasonable "new thinking" in the US’s Iran policy, wedded to the idea of "engagement" and or "dialogue without preconditions", these noble efforts are, however, undermined by their reliance on dubious assumptions. Not to mention their restrictive methodologies, which ultimately veer them back towards the same old plans for "coercive diplomacy".

Bush defends Middle East vision
Al Jazeera 12/6/2008
George Bush, the US president, has defended his policies on the Middle East, saying the region was a freer, more hopeful place than when he took office in 2001. However, Bush, in what is expected to be his last major speech on the issue as president, said the Iraq war was bloodier and costlier than expected and admitted "setbacks at key points" in talks between Israel and the Palestinians. "Despite these frustrations and disappointments, the Middle East in 2008 is a freer, more hopeful, and more promising place than it was in 2001," he told a policy forum in Washington on Friday. The US president also warned of the challenges that face Barack Obama, his Democratic successor, citing Iran’s nuclear programme as "a major threat to peace".

Gates calls for more emphasis on non-conventional warfare
Agence France Presse - AFP, Daily Star 12/6/2008
WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for the military to develop an enduring capacity to fight "irregular" wars, and to rethink its reliance on ever-more costly high-tech weapons. Writing in Foreign Affairs quarterly, Gates said the United States needs "a military whose ability to kick down the door is matched by its ability to clean up the mess and even rebuild the house afterward. ""What is dubbed the war on terror is, in grim reality, a prolonged, worldwide irregular campaign - a struggle between the forces of violent extremism and those of moderation," the secretary wrote. Published just days after President-elect Barack Obama asked Gates to stay on at the Pentagon, his article coincided with a new Defense Department directive that puts the fight against terrorism and guerrilla warfare on the same footing as conventional warfare for the first time.

Bush: Two-state solution will be realized
Yitzhak Benhorin, YNetNews 12/6/2008
US president sums up eight years of Mideast affairs with optimism: ’Israelis, Palestinians, and Arabs recognize creation of peaceful, democratic Palestinian state is in their interests’ though Iran, Syria still sponsoring terror, he says - WASHINGTON -US President George W. Bush summed up eight years of his administration’s affairs in the Middle East on Friday, and said he still believed that "the day will come when the map of the Middle East shows a peaceful, secure Israel beside a peaceful and democratic Palestine. "In his speech to the annual Saban Forum, a gathering on Middle East policy sponsored by the Brookings Institution, Bush described his achievements in the region over the two terms he has served. "I was the first American President to call for a Palestinian state, and building support for the two-state solution has been one of the highest priorities of my Presidency. To earn the trust of Israeli leaders, we made it clear that no Palestinian state would be born of terror," he said.

Aliyah fairs aim to bring Israelis home
Itamar Eichner, YNetNews 12/5/2008
Jewish Agency, Immigrant Absorption Ministry plan to hold fairs in Europe, North America to use global economic crisis to encourage Israelis abroad to return home, Diaspora Jews to make aliyah - The Jewish Agency reported a dramatic rise in recent months in the number of Jews seeking to make aliyah and the number of Israeli emigrants wishing to return due to the global economic crisis. The JA and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption have decided to use the financial situation to their advantage and launch a campaign to encourage aliyah. As part of the campaign, Israeli delegations headed by Absorption Ministry Director-General Erez Halfon and Director-General of the Jewish Agency’s Department for Aliyah and Absorption Eli Cohen, will be sent to the United States and Europe. The delegations will hold fairs in central cities in the US, England, and Canada, in hopes of bringing tens of thousands of Jews back to Israel.

Bush: Israel is America’s ''closest ally in the Middle East''
Jerusalem Post 12/5/2008
Israel is America’s "closest ally in the Middle East," US President George W. Bush said on Friday, as he spoke of his administration’s efforts to bring about an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Speaking at the Saban Forum in Washington, the US president went on to say that he had been "the first American President to call for a Palestinian state, and building support for the two-state solution has been one of the highest priorities of my Presidency. " "To earn the trust of Israeli leaders, we made it clear that no Palestinian state would be born of terror, we backed [former] prime minister [Ariel] Sharon’s courageous withdrawal from Gaza, and we supported his decision to build a security fence, not as a political border but to protect his people from terror. " He called the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat a "terrorist who stole from his people. . .

U.S. Treasury announces sanctions on dealing with terror suspects
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
The U. S. Treasury Department has announced sanctions on financial dealings with three men who are being held in Germany on charges of plotting bomb attacks on places frequented by Americans. The department barred Americans from conducting business with the three men, who were arrested in September 2007, or handling their financial affairs, it said in a statement on Thursday. German officials have said the men, two German nationals and a Turk, had scouted out sites frequented by Americans including discos, bars and airports and acquired bomb-making chemicals. They were members of a little-known militant Islamist group called the Islamic Jihad Union, officials said. The U. S. Treasury Department routinely issues financial sanctions against individuals and groups it says espouse terrorist tactics or target U.

U.S. Evangelicals fund Druze academy
Cnaan Liphshiz, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
A new right-wing Evangelical organization last week pledged to help fund the military academy in Dalyat al-Carmel, following a first official visit by a Christian Zionist delegation to Israel’s only Druze city last month. The project, if completed, would be the first such contribution by Evangelicals to the Druze community. Prominent Druze figures praised the nascent relationship, but anti-conscription activists argue that in courting donors, the Druze leadership needs to divert charity to more pressing needs. The delegation of 120 Evangelicals from Florida, New York, Texas, Britain, France, Kenya and Sierra Leone came to Dalyat al-Carmel at the initiative of Joel Bell, a self-described "bible believer" who recently founded the Worldwide Biblical Zionist movement - a local nonprofit associated with Likud.

Israeli embassy in Mexico gets mail with explosive trace
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
The Israeli embassy in Mexico said on Friday it had been sent a partially opened package that appeared to have been in contact with explosives. The embassy in Mexico City said the package arrived on Thursday. Sniffer dogs picked up the scent of explosives and tests later showed that the exterior of the package was tainted with traces of explosive. The embassy did not find any explosive devices but said it was taking extra precautions following the militant attacks on Mumbai in India last week that killed at least 171 people. Mexico is not known to be a home to anti-Israeli groups but tension over security in general has risen as spiraling violence between drug gangs fighting over smuggling routes to the United States has killed some 4,700 people this year

Water flowing into the Kinneret slower than ever, report finds
Zafrir Rinat, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
The water flow from some of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River and Lake Kinneret has decreased to its lowest levels in recorded history, according to figures released this week by the Water Authority’s Hydrological Service. The report indicates that the amount of water flowing into the Kinneret last month was the lowest since 2001, and one of the lowest since measurement began in 1948. The lack of rainfall and consequent reduction in water flow to the Jordan River’s tributaries - the Banias, Dan and Snir - are likely to lead to a further reduction in water levels. The figures show that the springs’ water supply (the force of water flow divided by time) is now 3. 12 cubic meters per second, the slowest rate ever reported. These are the largest springs in Israel in terms of overall water flow.

Huge salaries of Dimona nuclear researchers are state secrets too
Meirav Arlosoroff, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
In the most secret workplace in the country, the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona, there are senior researchers whose salaries - for now - are between NIS 60,000 and NIS 70,000 a month. How many? Interesting question, since their salaries are as classified as their work itself. So classified that even the Finance Ministry’s budget director, Ilan Levin, has not been able to sneak a peek at their salary stubs. The research center’s spokeswoman will only say that the average salary of center employees is about half the amounts stated above. That could change, after the ultimatum served by Levin to the Defense Ministry, which pays the workers’ salaries. He said either he sees their payslips or the ministry won’t bargain over their demands for a wage hike. Although the monthly salaries of the researchers are already - apparently - at least NIS 60,000, they are asking for more.

Police suspect TV exec attacked over investigative program
Yuval Goren, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
A manager of a large events hall in the north of Tel Aviv was arrested Thursday on suspicion of sexually assaulting an undercover television researcher, as part of the probe into the attack on Channel 2 franchisee Keshet chief Avi Nir in a park last week. Producer Haim Slutzky was also questioned by police yesterday about his connections with the owners of the events hall. Slutzky denied any connection with Nir’s attack. Nir was attacked and beaten with wooden boards while walking his dog in the Ramat Hahayal neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Police believe that the reason for Nir’s attack is the investigative reporting carried out by a research team for the TV program "Shtulim" (Planted). The researcher was hired for work in the events hall under an assumed name, and gathered information about the sanitation and the irregular behavior. . .

Politicians seeking blessings flock to ’X-Ray Rabbi’
Yanir Yagna, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
The office of Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Ifergan, known as "the X-Ray Rabbi," has been flooded for the past month by telephone calls and the visits of politicians seeking blessings from the man with supposedly superhuman insight. Some even go further, asking the rabbi for explicit political support. Ifergan’s Netivot Shalom list won four seats in the Netivot city council elections, despite the fact that many of Israel’s leading rabbis denigrated the rabbi and those who dared to vote for him. Ifergan is well-connected to the Israeli elite. His friends include businessman Nochi Dankner, who traveled to Netivot several times ahead of the election to offer his support. Politicians from virtually every party are asking to meet with the rabbi ahead of their respective primary elections.

Hadash leader: Elections are between enlightened, conservative
Sharon Roffe-Ofir, YNetNews 12/5/2008
He acknowledges need for State’s Jewish symbols, but alongside Arab ones. His views are differ from those of Islamic Movement, and he believes if Left continues stuttering it may disappear. Ayman Auda explains to Ynet why occupation is root of evil - About two months before the Knesset elections, the Jewish-Arab Hadash party draws a lot of strength from the municipal elections: Not only did their candidates win in 15 local councils, but Knesset Member Dov Khenin - who was accused by many of having disrespect for the national flag and anthem - gained a significant achievement inTel Aviv, the stronghold of Israeliness. " There’s no doubt that the Israeli society is becoming sober and more civilian, compared to the recruited society which used to exist here," says Hadash Secretary-General Ayman Auda. ConventionIsraeli Arab leader to PA: Don’t recognize. . .

Right-wing party predicts 18-20 seats in upcoming Israeli elections
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Bethlehem - Ma’an/Agencies - The spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party in Israel predicted gaining upwards of 20 Knesset seats in the upcoming elections, according to a report published in Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday. Shas Party leader Rabbi Obadia Yosef predicted 18-20 Knesset seats in the upcoming general election, saying that Shas supporters are obligated to "convince others to cast their vote for Shas. " "Each and every one of you, all nice and dear. Each one will bring 10 people who vote Shas," Yosef said. "Everyone should speak to his friends, brothers, neighbors, sisters…women are not exempt either--they should go to their female friends, relatives, and neighbors, so they vote Shas," the rabbi added. "God will reward him," he claimed, if party members sign up friends and family to vote for Shas, insisting that the election is "for a higher purpose.

Labor voters came to the polls anyway
Mazal Mualem, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
The Labor Party primary election attracted an unexpectedly high turnout of 50 percent, according to returns late last night. Voting for seats on the party’s 18th Knesset list had been postponed for two days following a computer breakdown, and voters cast their votes manually rather than electronically. Vote counting was set to continue through the night. Immediately after forming its Knesset list, Labor is set to kick-start its election campaign, which will attack Kadima in an effort to bring "home" votes it has lost to that party. Labor leaders, who had feared that the system crash on Tuesday coupled with the party’s dire standing in public opinion polls would keep party members away from the polling stations, heaved a sigh of relief yesterday at the sight of long lines outside the ballots. Party chairman Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was busy during the day with the. . .

Likud immigrant battle heating up between Netanyahu, Feiglin camps
Jerusalem Post Staff, Jerusalem Post 12/5/2008
The fierce political fight for slot 21 on the Likud Knesset list, reserved for immigrants, has grown more bitter as some West Bank settlement leaders come out publicly in support of MK Ze’ev Elkin, the preferred candidate of party chairman Netanyahu. Citing his assistance to Gush Katif evacuees and his opposition to "expelling Jews from their homes," a letter signed by nine settlement heads calls on "all Likud voters to help [Elkin] win theimmigrant slot. " The letter comes as the latest in a series of blows to the "Jewish Leadership" faction of Moshe Feiglin, which is running long-time Likud activist Asia Entov for the position. Earlier this week, the Likud central committee changed the primaries election method to create a separate ballot for the immigrant candidates. The move is seen as a bid by party chairman Netanyahu to weaken the chances of Feiglin’s candidate. . .

New Reform push for rabbinic funding
Raphael Ahren, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
In a bid to revive its struggle for official recognition by the state of Israel, the Reform movement here has collected over 5,000 signatures on a recently launched petition. Beginning with the words "We, too, deserve Rabbis," the petition cites the case of Miri Gold, the American-born Reform rabbi who three years ago turned to the Supreme Court demanding to be officially recognized as spiritual leader of her community. The petition, initiated by the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism and the Israel Religious Action Center, will be submitted to President Shimon Peres after it garners more than 10,000 names. It calls upon Israel to "immediately recognize" Rabbi Gold and "apply government funding to support the work of Rabbi Miri Gold and her peers, and to equally support all streams of Judaism in the spirit of Klal Yisrael.

Likud: Labor roster is ’same old thing’
YNetNews 12/5/2008
Voices in Likud, Meretz criticize Labor for reelecting well-known politicians to primary slots. ’There is no renewal,’ says MK Livnat, while new movement siding with Meretz expresses aspirations to become major Leftist party in Israel -Just hours after the Labor Party’s new roster was formed, voices in the Likud hastened to disparage choices made by the party’s voters. "The team chosen by the Labor Party is just the same old thing," MK Limor Livnat (Likud) said Friday. Livnat criticized Labor Party members for reelecting well-known politicians such as MKs Isaac Herzog and Ophir Pines-Paz to primary slots. "These are the same people - there is no renewal, unlike the team that will be chosen by the Likud on Monday," Livnat said. Former Minister Dan Meridor was also critical of rival parties.

Renowned Palestinian singer Rim Banna holds concert in Geneva
Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
Geneva – Ma’an - The Arab community in Geneva enjoyed the powerful lyrics of renowned Palestinian singer Reem Bannaon Friday evening. The 700-person hall was sold out, and the 30 US dollars per ticket will be donated to women’s charities in Gaza. Banna was born in Nazareth and gained popularity after releasing a recording of traditional Palestinian folk songs for children. Many of the songs had been forgotten and Banna not only resurrected them but made the ballads popular. She is also a composer and her songs often center on Palestinian life and culture. The lyrics from Banna’s song titled “The Night Froze” have been translated as: The night froze in your eyes / and the soul has departed from your sight / and the last stone which was preceded by the bullet / lies still in your hand / You didn’t reach yet your twentieth spring / You’ll never see. . .

Egyptian group slams Arab world’s poor human rights record
The Associated Press, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
A leading Egyptian human rights group said Friday that human rights in the Arab world have deteriorated over the past year and the future looks bleak for reform. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, one of the oldest such groups in the Arab world, accused Arab governments in its annual report of attempting to silence rights organizations at home and abroad. The report, which was released Friday, chronicled the human rights records of 12 Arab countries in the Middle East, where the group says sectarian tensions are on the rise, judicial systems lack independence and power-sharing mechanisms are largely absent. The group singled out Egypt, accusing the country of using its influence in various international organizations, such as the United Nations, to thwart human rights reform.

Report: 5 Blackwater guards will be charged in shooting
Associated Press, Jerusalem Post 12/6/2008
Five Blackwater Worldwide security guards have been indicted and a sixth was negotiating a plea with prosecutors for a 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqis dead and became an anti-American rallying cry for insurgents, people close to the case said Friday. Prosecutors obtained the indictment late Thursday and had it put under seal until it is made public, perhaps as early as Monday. All who discussed the case did so on condition of anonymity because the matters remain sealed. Six guards have been under investigation since a convoy of heavily armed Blackwater contractors opened fire in a crowded Baghdad intersection on Sept. 16, 2007. Witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked but Blackwater, hired by the State Department to guard US diplomats, says its guards were ambushed by insurgents while responding to a car bombing.

US-IRAQ: Immunity Recedes for Private Contractors
William Fisher, Inter Press Service 12/6/2008
NEW YORK, Dec 5(IPS) - The virtually total impunity from prosecution accorded to private contractors in Iraq may be coming to an end. Under the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) approved by the Iraqi government last week, U. S. contractors will be subject to Iraqi law for the first time. Moreover, some observers believe that Iraq may be able to hold them legally accountable for offences allegedly committed even before the SOFA was approved. And, at the other end of the U. S-Iraq equation, after months of seeming inactivity -- marked by continuing doubts about whether the U. S. even has legal jurisdiction over the contractors -- the U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) may soon bring charges against three to six contractor-employed security guards for their involvement in the shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007.

Study finds genes of Sephardic Jews still strong in Spain
Reuters, Ha’aretz 12/6/2008
From the 15th century on, Spain’s Jews were mostly expelled or forced to convert, but today some 20 percent of Spaniards have genes similar to Sephardic Jews, a study has found. A report in the American Journal of Human Genetics says almost a fifth of Spaniards have genes similar to Sephardic Jews while 11 percent have links to Muslims in North Africa. "The genetic composition of the current population is the legacy of our diverse cultural and religious past," one of the report’s authors, Francesc Calafell, from the evolutionary biology faculty at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, said on Friday. Along with researchers from Leicester University in England and the Wellcome Trust, the study analysed DNA samples from 1,140 men in Spain, Portugal and the Balearic Islands and compared them to established data on Moroccans, Algerians, and Sephardic Jews in Istanbul and Israel.


Will You Continue to Ignore Gaza’s Suffering, Mr Obama?
Kathleen and Bill Christison, CounterPunch, Palestine Think Tank 12/5/2008
      Palestine and Palestinian suffering have always taken a back seat in the world’s attention while the United States starts this war, finishes off that war, or expands it; while the world deals with wars and economic crises; while the attention of the compassionate is taken up by starvation and pestilence and war in Sudan or in Congo or Rwanda or Somalia. Throughout these crises - quite legitimate crises all - Palestine is always left to molder, sometimes at a more rapid pace in more inhumane circumstances than at other times.
     Right now, the circumstances could not be more inhumane. Right now, the paramount Palestinian crisis is in Gaza, where Israel - with active political and ongoing financial backing from the United States - is blockading a tiny, horribly overcrowded piece of land and consciously depriving its 1.5 million people of all of the essentials of life: of food, of medicines, of equipment to keep hospitals running, of fuel for cooking, of fuel for producing electricity, of fuel for running generators, of fuel for automobiles, of spare parts for sewage treatment plants (so that plants break down and sewage pours into the streets and, in quantities in the millions of liters, into the Mediterranean), of clean fresh water.

Telling it as it is

Mustafa Barghouti, Al-Ahram Weekly 12/3/2008
      Unless the Palestinians can speak effectively with one voice, the world won’t listen, though Palestine is the core problem.
     As many speculate about Obama’s future policies in the Middle East, the general Arab reaction is wait-and-see. The new president will likely face a barrage of problems, the economy and Iraq for starters, enough to keep him busy for a whole term. But there is no indication that the "change" Obama likes so much to talk about applies to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The appointments he made so far are not that encouraging either.
     The Israelis, and Tzipi Livni has said as much, want the Americans to stay out of it. They want to keep the Palestinians divided, hold out the carrot of possible negotiations, while expanding settlements and changing the status quo all the time. The Palestinians, meanwhile, seem hapless. Pursuing negotiations that have no chance of success, the Palestinians are holding on to Annapolis like a drowning man clutches at a straw. What are they doing about the Israeli settlements that grew exponentially during the Annapolis talks? Nothing. What are they doing about the Israeli roadblocks that increased from 521 to 630 during the same period? Nothing. What are they doing about the system of apartheid that subsequent Israeli governments appear to reinforce? Nothing.

The pilgrims’ progress

Reem Leila, Al-Ahram Weekly 12/3/2008
      Egyptians demonstrate demanding passage for Palestinian pilgrims seeking to travel to Mecca. The situation at the Rafah crossing, though, remains confused, with Hamas preventing pilgrims from entering Egypt, reports More than 1,000 students from Cairo, Ain Shams, Al-Azhar and Helwan universities protested last week against the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and called on the government and the international community to intervene. The demonstrations on 26 November, which continued into Monday, culminated in a statement demanding the full opening of Rafah crossing for Palestinian pilgrims who have been prevented from going to Mecca for hajj because Hamas has refused to allow them to cross the border since Egypt opened the crossing on Saturday.
     Egypt occasionally opens the crossing to allow Palestinians, usually seeking medical treatment, students or pilgrims, to enter and leave the impoverished coastal strip.
     "There is a consensus among the different national parties that it is our responsibility to lift this siege on Gaza. The government has barred several attempts by the Muslim Brotherhood [MB] and opposition activists to send medical supplies through Rafah," said MB MP Hamdi Hussein.

Will sensible minds prevail in Washington?

Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star 12/3/2008
      The appointment of Hillary Clinton as the next United States secretary of state has generated much discussion and debate, most of it focused on personality and based on speculation and entertainment. The Obama team’s policies will speak for themselves in due course, which is how this administration will be judged.
     Election campaigns and running an administration are two different things. Politicians are not normal human beings, and do not respond to standard ethical values that define the rest of society. Like Shakespearean actors, they enjoy a mandate from the rest of us to perform on a large stage, to entertain, to exaggerate, dance, perhaps even occasionally to enlighten and move us. They make promises they do not expect to keep, and adopt some positions they know they will reverse in office.
     We should enjoy this for the good things it offers - like leadership anchored in the legitimacy of the consent of the governed - while noting the intemperance and expediency of politicians who can also embody the clarity and decency of ordinary Americans. In 1998, before she officially became a politician, Hillary Clinton came out strongly in favor of the rights of the Palestinians when she said that they should have a state of their own - years before this became an accepted position in the US. Once she became a US senator from New York, though, she donned the politician’s hat and espoused fiercely pro-Israeli positions. In the presidential election campaign, she embraced Israeli positions on issues like Iran and Hamas. Speaking before the pro-Israel AIPAC in June, she said, "The United States stands with Israel, now and forever."

Correction to the Speech in Favor of Israel by Ban Ki-moon

Kawther Salam, Palestine Think Tank 12/3/2008
      During the event commemorating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians, which I attended at the UN in Vienna, a message of UNSG Ban Ki-moon was read by Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, DG of the UN in Vienna.
     I listened to the message read by Mr. de Costa, and I found that the language used in the speech of SG Ban Ki-moon was not fit for the occasion to the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians. The speech was based on contradicting standards which ignore the UN resolutions related to the historical facts surrounding Palestine and Palestinians, and replaced them with improper phrases which honoring the criminal Israeli occupation and their alliance, and harms the feeling of Palestinian participants who live in the exile since 60 years ago.
     SG Ban Ki-moon was wrong in almost all aspects in his speech. [see link below] SG Ban Ki-moon ignored that the cause of the current situation is the disrespect by Israel for uncounted resolutions and pleas of the international community regarding Palestine and, the continued blocking of all good faith solutions to our problem in by the representations of the USA and UK in the security council. The statement of Ban Ki-moon read at the Day of Solidarity with the Palestinians was a complete abdication of the idea of an international community guided by the precepts of respect for each other, for laws and treaties, in favor of the real terror and cajoling of by the representatives of the main sponsors and promoters of genocide and terrorism around the world, namely Israel, followed by the USA and the UK. -- See also: SG Ban Ki-moon''s speech

Bottom of the bottom

Khaled Amayreh, Al-Ahram Weekly 12/3/2008
      While Arab activists and intellectuals rally to the cause of Palestinian refugees, officialdom in Ramallah denounces their efforts.
     The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) has strongly denounced a recent conference on the plight of Palestinian refugees held in the Syrian capital, Damascus, organised by a coalition of factions and figures dedicated to the right of return, which according to organisers -- amongst them Hamas -- is the heart and soul of the Palestinian problem.
     The conference asserted the centrality of the right of return and warned Palestinian, regional and international players that any resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict not including the repatriation of millions of uprooted refugees to their original homes and villages in what is now called Israel would be strongly rejected by the Palestinian people.
     The PA didn’t specifically object to what was said in Damascus, although critics argue that President Mahmoud Abbas and his aides are not sincere about their declared commitment to the right of return. Indeed, Abbas reportedly told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on many occasions that the Palestinians would accept any "just and agreed upon resolution" of the refugee issue. This is a clear departure from the erstwhile Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) position that resolution of the refugee plight would have to be pursuant UN Resolution 194, which calls for both repatriation and indemnification.

Iraq’s US Security Charade

Ramzy Baroud, Palestine Chronicle 12/4/2008
      ’There is nothing worth celebrating about all of this.’
     World media rashly celebrated the "historic" security pact that allows for US troops to stay in Iraq for three more years after the Iraqi parliament ratified the agreement on Thursday, 27 November. The approval came one week after the Iraqi cabinet did the same.
     Thousands of headlines exuded from media outlets, largely giving the false impression that the Iraqi government and parliament have a real say over the future of US troops in their country, once again playing into the ruse fashioned by Washington that Iraq is a democratic country, operating independently from the dictates of US Ambassador to Baghdad Ryan Crocker and the top commander of US troops in Iraq, General Ray Odierno. The men issued a joint, congratulatory statement shortly after the parliamentary vote, describing it as one that would "formalise a strong and equal partnership" between the US and Iraq.
     Jonathan Steel of the British Guardian also joined the chorus. "Look at the agreement’s text. It is remarkable for the number and scope of the concessions that the Iraqi government has managed to get from the Bush administration. They amount to a series of U-turns that spell the complete defeat of the neo-conservative plan to turn Iraq into a pro-Western ally and a platform from which to project US power across the Middle East."

Lie to us, but do not ignore us: Settler taped shooting Palestinians point blank

Faud Al-Lahham, Ma’an News Agency 12/5/2008
      Bethlehem – Ma’an - A video of an Israeli settler shooting two Palestinians at close range was made public by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem on Thursday.
     The sounds and images of a machine-gun waving settler were transmitted to international, local and Israeli TV stations.
     The footage showed a middle-aged Israeli from one of the illegal settlements inside the Palestinian city of Hebron firing at 40-year-old Husni Matariyah at point blank range. The bullet hit the left side of Matariah’s chest. The settler then shot Matariah’s 65-year-old father Abed Al-Hai in the hand.
     The injured men were moved to Hebron’s A’lia Hospital in poor and critical condition. The man who shot them, despite being caught on video, is free and preparing himself for a new crime.
     Although his crime was cruel and brutal, it is not out of the ordinary in Palestine for settler mobs to decide that they will exact some sort of punishment against Palestinians. Indeed, such acts have been going on for decades. Ever since settlers took over the first Palestinian home in the center of the city, ever since the first trailer home was dropped in the center of Palestinian gardens, these acts of the settlers have continued under the sponsorship of the Israeli army. -- See also: Jewish settlers in Hebron shoot Palestinian men

Obama’s Palestinian friend

Akiva Eldar, Ha’aretz 12/5/2008
      No one stopped Rashid Khalidi, the Columbia University professor of Modern Arab Studies, at Ben-Gurion airport. Having just landed after the long flight from New York, the professor was anticipating the traditional reception from airport security personnel reserved for visitors with "suspicious" names. To his surprise, he entered the airport like anyone else, with no problems or delays. Perhaps word had gotten around at Ben-Gurion that he was the Palestinian friend of United States President-elect Barack Obama.
     Khalidi, 60, who spent three weeks in Israel and the territories before continuing on to Beirut this week, doesn’t like all the fuss surrounding his relationship with the president-elect. Up to now, he had avoided speaking about it publicly, for better or worse. The reason may be, as reflected in my interview with him at his hotel in Jerusalem, overlooking Damascus Gate, his disappointment in his Chicago friend’s treatment of the Arab and Islamic community in the United States. Or maybe it’s also discomfort with the Democratic candidate’s response during the campaign to reports about the ties between them. "He is a respected scholar, although he vehemently disagrees with a lot of Israel’s policy," said Obama in a widely publicized comment from a May campaign event, in response to a question about their relationship. His spokesman made certain to add that the president-elect has been "clear and consistent on his support for Israel.