Sunday, 21 September 2014

Countering Israeli greenwashing at the People’s Climate March

From The Electronic Intifada - As a possibly historic People’s Climate March in New York City approaches this weekend, a debate among participants and the organizers over Israel-aligned co-sponsors smolders below the surface...

...The story reaches far beyond several Israel-aligned groups sponsoring a single climate march. Faced with consistent negative global perceptions over state policies in the occupied Palestinian territories and in the region, the Israeli foreign ministry officially launched the “Brand Israel” campaign in 2006. With the help of US marketing executives, the Israeli government poured in enormous resources to “rebrand” Israel in a positive light upon the world. By 2010, the ministry allotted some $26 million for branding efforts.

Part of the spin campaign comes under the guise of protecting the environment. In June 2012, Israel, for the first time, launched “an international television campaign on CNN to brand itself as a green country which pioneers ‘green technology,’” its US embassy stated. “Israel advertises its green technology edge to strengthen its image as a ‘Green Country,” according to the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection.

Efforts to rebrand Israel explicitly aim to divert attention away from Israeli policy in the occupied Palestinian territories, instead focusing on Israel’s positively spun and frequently overblown “green” achievements. The mission of the Green Zionist Alliance (GZA), a co-sponsor of the People’s Climate March, harmonizes with Israel’s rebranding campaigns.

Spokespeople from the Green Zionist Alliance were not available for comment, directing inquiries to their website. GZA’s statement on Gaza this summer attempts to equalize the disproportion of violence and calls for a two-state solution. Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” that lasted 51 days killed more than 2100 Palestinians (mostly civilians, including more than 500 children), as well as five Israeli civilians (including one child), a Thai migrant worker, and 66 Israeli soldiers.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Israel ranks at the bottom 33 out of 36 countries in “water quality” and 25 out of 36 countries in air pollution.

In order to mask Israel’s ongoing military occupation and colonization of the occupied territories and to hide its poor record when it comes to adverse environmental impacts, the Israeli government and its allies abroad continue to pour enormous resources into branding projects. more

Gaza families mourn amid failure to find missing shipwreck victims

More than two weeks after a boat carrying migrants to Europe sunk off the coast of Malta, none of the bodies of Palestinians who are thought to have drowned at sea have been recovered by search teams.

Eight Palestinians are known to have survived the Sept. 6 shipwreck that killed around 500 migrants, and they are being cared for between Italy, Greece, and Malta.

But Palestinian ambassador to Italy Mai al-Kaila on Saturday told Ma'an that rescuers have had difficulties recovering bodies from the sea because the boat capsized in international waters.

Despite this, however, she said that Italian coastal guards are continuing the search for the missing.

Al-Kaila said that Italian authorities have promised to give political asylum to two Palestinians who survived the shipwreck, and the pair will also be allowed to bring their families to live in Italy.

Meanwhile, Marwan Tubasi, Palestine's ambassador to Greece, told Ma'an Saturday that authorities in that country had granted three Palestinian survivors permission to stay for six months, and that the embassy was working to acquire them Palestinian passports as well. more

Soldiers kidnap 8 more Palestinians on West Bank as detainee numbers mount further

At least eight Palestinians have been kidnapped, on Sunday at dawn, during Israeli military invasions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank districts of Hebron, Bethlehem and Jenin.

Local sources in Hebron, in the southern part of the West Bank, have reported that several Israeli military jeeps invaded Beit Ummar town and al-‘Arroub refugee camp, north of Hebron, and Yatta town, south of the city, searched a number of homes and kidnapped four Palestinians.

The soldiers kidnapped Wahid Hasan Sabarna, 23, from his home in Beit Ummar, and Fares at-Teety from his home in the al-‘Arroub refugee camp.

In addition, soldiers kidnapped Ahmad al-Qawasmi also after breaking into his home and ransacking it, in Hebron city.

In Yatta town, south of Hebron, soldiers invaded at least one home, and kidnapped Mohammad Maher al-‘Adra, 22.

In Bethlehem, soldiers kidnapped three Palestinians from the al-Walaja, west of Bethlehem, allegedly while trying to enter Jerusalem for work, without carrying permits.

The three have been identified as Hamza Saleh Ma’ali, 28, Mohammad Salah Ma’ali, 20, and Baha’ Karim Abu at-Teen, 24.

In addition, a number of military vehicles invaded al-’Arqa village, west of the northern West Bank city of Jenin, before the soldiers searched and ransacked a number of homes, and kidnapped a resident identified as Mahmoud Tawfiq Yahia, 21. more

Cabinet approves $5 billion plan for Gaza rehabilitation

The Palestinian cabinet has recently approved a $5 billion plan for economic revival and reconstruction in the Gaza Strip in the wake of the Israeli assault, a senior official said Saturday.

"We will seek to collect international donations in order to materialize our ambitious vision of rebuilding Gaza during the donor countries conference scheduled to be held in Cairo on Oct. 12," Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa said in a statement Saturday.

The rehabilitation of infrastructure in Gaza will cost $1.9 billion, while reconstruction and rehabilitation of houses will cost another billion.

Some $700 million will be needed for humanitarian, social, health, and education aid for Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom lost homes and family members and some of whom became disabled as a result of the war, the statement added.

Meanwhile, $1.2 billion will be needed to reactivate Gaza's economy and increase productivity. more

Gaza ceasefire indirect talks to resume in Egypt on Wednesday

RAMALLAH (AFP) -- Indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians on consolidating the Gaza truce are set to resume in Cairo Wednesday, two days after new reconciliation negotiations between Fatah and Hamas, officials said.

On August 26, both sides agreed a truce that ended 50 days of deadly conflict in the enclave and provided for a resumption of negotiations within a month to discuss unresolved issues.

These include the construction of a seaport and restoring the territory's airport, and exchanging Palestinian prisoners for the remains of captured Israeli soldiers.

The indirect talks between Israel and a delegation of all Palestinian groups will be preceded by talks between the two heavyweights of Palestinian politics, the Fatah faction of president Mahmoud Abbas and its rival Hamas.

"Egypt has invited Palestinian and Israeli delegations to resume talks in Cairo on September 24," a Palestinian official said.

There has been no official word yet from Israel, but an Egyptian official confirmed the date and added that Fatah and Hamas had also been invited to meet on Monday. more

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Palestinian man succumbs to wounds from Gaza ordnance explosion

A Palestinian who was severely injured after an unexploded Israeli ordnance blew up in the Shujaiyya neighborhood of Gaza City on Friday has died of his wounds.

Spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza Ashraf al-Qidra said that Muhammad Riyad Abu Asir, 24, passed away, bringing the total number of dead to three in the explosion.

Al-Qidra earlier identified the victims as Ayman Ziad Abu Jibbah, 23, and Abdullah Jibreel Abu Asir, 23. more

Fleeing Gaza, only to face treachery and disaster at sea

ABASSAN, Gaza Strip — Samir Asfour, 57, held a mobile phone that never stopped ringing in one hand, a cigarette in the other. His Palestinian passport was sticking out of the chest pocket of his white jalabiya.

“I will travel whenever I can,” he said, speaking nervously outside his home in Abassan, a small town east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. “I need to go and bring back their bodies from wherever they are.”

Mr. Asfour’s son Ahmed, 24, and three of Ahmed’s cousins, ages 17 to 27, are among dozens of young Gazans missing in the Mediterranean. Mr. Asfour last heard from them on Sept. 6, a week after they left Gaza for Egypt. There, they intended to board an illegal migrant ship bound for Italy. Their final destination was not clear, but relatives said they had been heading to Europe in search of jobs and better medical care.

The ship, with about 500 migrants aboard, sank last week off the coast of Malta after it was rammed by human traffickers on another boat during an argument with the migrants, according to survivors. Nearly all aboard are believed to have died.

Mr. Asfour said he had contacted one survivor who made it to Malta, Mamoun Doghmosh, who confirmed that he had seen Ahmed on the boat. Mr. Asfour said he was sure that his son was dead because he was sick and could not swim.

The recent war between Israel and Hamas, the militant group that dominates Gaza, prompted a wave of attempts by Palestinians to reach Europe with the aid of Egyptian smugglers, despite — or perhaps because of — Israeli and Egyptian restrictions on regular movement in and out of the Palestinian coastal enclave.

Fleeing conflict, unemployment and an outlook that many here described as hopeless, at least 1,000 Palestinians have left Gaza in the past three months seeking passage to Europe, according to Palestinians tracking the migration, joining the increasing flow of asylum seekers and migrants from Syria, and from Egypt, Sudan and other parts of Africa who set out from ports in Egypt and Libya. Facebook posts by those who made it safely to Europe encourage others to attempt the journey. more

Victory for BDS campaign as UEFA decides against Jerusalem tournament bid

The Union of European Football Associations has rejected an Israeli bid to host games during the 2020 European Championships. The decision follows a campaign by Palestinian sports teams and campaign groups and activists across Europe.

The Israeli Football Association bid to host games in Jerusalem as part of the UEFA 2020 tournament that will take place across 13 cities, but UEFA announced on Friday that Jerusalem was not one of the successful bidders. Israel was one of just 6 countries that failed in its bid to host games.

75 ​Palestinian football teams and NGOs​​ wrote to​ UEFA president Michel​ Platini arguing that holding the UEFA 2020 games in Jerusalem would be tantamount to “rewarding” Israel for its massacre of more than 2,100 Palestinians, including over 500 children, during its recent 52-day assault on Gaza.

Campaigners across Europe pressured UEFA and national football associations not to accept the Israeli bid. Sit-ins were held by Palestine solidarity activists at the headquarters of French and Italian football associations. ​ ​

Abdulrahman Abunahel, the coordinator in Gaza with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee said:

“Given that awarding Israel the right to host the games would have been a sign of support for Israel’s massacre in Gaza and its war on Palestinian football, UEFA has made the only sensible decision.

“We thank all those who joined us in opposing Israel’s bid to host games in Jerusalem, a city from which Israel is ethnically cleansing Palestinians. Our online campaigning and the occupations of football association buildings in France and Italy undoubtedly played a role in persuading UEFA to to make the right choice.”


Egyptian army kills Palestinian, detains 2 as they exit tunnel

Egyptian border police shot dead a Palestinian and detained two others after they exited the opening of a smuggling tunnel in the border town of Rafah on Saturday morning, Egyptian military sources said.

Border guard officers reportedly spotted three men walking out of a tunnel opening in area of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier area on the Egyptian side of Rafah, a town that straddles the border.

The sources said that officers shouted at the men to stop, but the men instead attempted to return into the tunnel.

As a result, officers opened fire, killing one. The other two men then stopped and were taken into custody. more

Friday, 19 September 2014

Israeli police brutally assault Jerusalem youth

Israeli police assaulted, this past Wednesday, 16-year old Shadi Raed Ghurab as he was walking along Nablus Street, in occupied East Jerusalem.

Police severely beat the boy with batons while being detained in the interrogation room, at the Salah Eddin Street police station, according to Jerusalem's Wadi Hilweh Information Center. The Center noted that he suffered fractures in his arm and leg, as seen in the photo.

Shadi explained that an officer detained him on Nablus Street and, then, took him to Salah Eddin Street police station. After the interrogator entered the room, he mocked the child for being a resident of the Al-Thori neighborhood, which resulted in a number of verbal altercations.

Additionally, according to the boy's testimony, the interrogator then transferred him to a different room which did not have any cameras, upon which he was assaulted by not one but three officers. more

What's in the UN's Gaza reconstruction agreement?

GAZA CITY (IRIN) -- On Sept. 16, the United Nations announced a new deal that is supposed to ease restrictions on the Gaza Strip.

In his public statement on the day, Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East, gave few specific details about the deal but said it would "enable work at the scale required in the Strip, involving the private sector in Gaza and giving a lead role to the Palestinian Authority in the reconstruction effort."

Why is the agreement necessary?

Following the 50-day war between Israel and Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza, much of the enclave is in ruins. At least 18,000 homes were destroyed as Israel dropped thousands of bombs on the heavily populated area, while key infrastructure including power plants and water networks were also badly damaged.

Rebuilding efforts are made even more challenging by a pre-existing blockade. Since 2007 Israel and Egypt have limited or banned many basic goods from entering the Strip. Among those that Israel restricts are fertilizers, cement, steel cables and even some fabrics.

Tel Aviv defines such goods as "dual use" -- meaning that while they are needed for the civilian population, they could also potentially be used by militant groups in attacks.

With the catastrophic level of destruction and ongoing humanitarian crisis, rebuilding without easing the blockade is nearly impossible. A key housing group has estimated that without lifting the restrictions on cement and other dual-use goods, restoring Gaza just to the level it was before the war could take 20 years.

As such, the UN, the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have reached a deal that seeks to increase access while aiming to assure Israel that none of the goods will fall into the hands of Hamas or other groups that it labels terrorists.

What are the terms?

Not all the terms have been ironed out yet and agreements on specifics -- such as cement -- have not been made public. Indeed both Israeli and Hamas officials IRIN spoke to were hesitant to talk about the exact terms of the deal.

What is known so far is that there are two main areas of works that this applies to -- UN projects and private Palestinian projects. The former have been subject to fewer restrictions in recent years, but a new deal has been agreed whereby the Israeli government will approve UN projects upon receipt of only basic information and their general locations. This, in theory, should speed up UN operations.

The second category -- Palestinian projects -- is the more contentious issue. Under the new rules, Palestinian businesses trying to bring in "dual-use" goods must first register with a database run by the Palestinian government in the West Bank, not Gaza. This online database will register the import and transfer of items.

There will be two different monitoring procedures -- one for small-scale works such as people rebuilding their homes and another for larger private construction projects. Both of these involve UN monitoring teams overseeing the projects. more

2 killed, 3 injured by unexploded Israeli ordnance in Shujaiyya

Two Palestinians were killed and three were injured on Friday when an unexploded Israeli bomb blew up in the al-Shujaiyya neighborhood of eastern Gaza City.

A Ma'an reporter in Gaza said that a huge explosion was heard in the al-Shujaiyya area and ambulances rushed to the area immediately.

Spokesperson for the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza Ashraf al-Qidra said that two Palestinians were killed in the explosion.

Al-Qidra identified the two as Ayman Ziad Abu Jibba, 23, and Abdullah Jibril Abu Aser, 23, and said that their bodies were taken to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City.

In mid-August, six people were killed in a similar explosion, and watch groups have warned that the ordnance is a particular threat to children, who often think the bombs are toys. more

Saudi Arabia promises $500 million for Gaza rebuilding

GAZA: Saudi Arabia has pledged $500 million to help rebuild Gaza, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami al-Hamdallah said Thursday, with the full cost of postwar reconstruction expected to be around $4 billion over three years.

Saudi Arabia’s commitment comes ahead of a conference in Cairo on Oct. 12 when Palestinian leaders hope other donors, including Turkey, Qatar, the European Union and United States, will step forward with promises of support.

“ Saudi Arabia has initiated donations by pledging $500 million,” Hamdallah told reporters in Gaza, speaking via video conference from the West Bank. He said he hoped further pledges would cover the full cost of reconstruction in time.

An estimated 18,000 homes were destroyed during the seven-week war, while a further 40,000 were extensively damaged. more

Israeli bulldozers enter border area in southern Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Several Israeli bulldozers entered the southern Gaza Strip on Friday and leveled Palestinian land, locals said.

Witnesses told Ma'an that bulldozers entered some 150 meters into the al-Qarara area near Khan Younis and razed local land.

The incursion is considered a violation of the ceasefire agreement signed in August.

Last week, four Israeli bulldozers entered the al-Qarara area and demolished private land.

Since the signing of a ceasefire agreement that ended 50 days of fighting between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in Gaza on Aug. 26, the Israeli navy has fired at Gaza fishermen multiple times under the pretext that they had surpassed fishing zone limits. more