Monday, 9 May 2011

US says Israel withholding Palestinian Authority tax funds is 'premature'

Israel is behaving very foolishly in its disregard for the wishes of its bankroller and protector, the US.
The United States slammed Monday Israel’s decision to withhold Palestinian Authority funds saying "any decision following the Hamas-Fatah agreement is premature.”

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Mark Toner admitted that the Israelis “have their concerns,” but stressed that that the U.S. government's position is that “we believe that we need to wait and see. We believe it's premature to make any decisions. What's important now is that the Palestinians ensure implementation in a way that advances the prospects of peace." more

12-year-old Gaza war survivor Rema Al Massari wins national US essay competition

A good news story from the USA - young Gaza war survivor one of nine winners of national essay prize.
Though the biggest challenges Rema Al Massari faces now is learning English and making new friends, the 12-year-old Algonquin Middle School student survived much more horrendous obstacles to get that point.

Al Massari and her family were forced to flee and hide for 21 days after the Gaza War began in 2008. As she ran from home to home and saw the devastation and death around her, Al Massari said her determination to survive grew stronger.

The sixth-grader student is one of nine national winners in the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest — a competition that recognizes students who have overcome personal barriers as did Jackie Robinson, who was the first black Major League Baseball player. more

Israel's narrowing room for manoeuvre as illegal siege of Gaza begins to crack

Under the headline 'Israel's blockade of Gaza is cracking', an interesting article on Al Jazeera analyses the tight corner Israel is in with regards to maintaining the siege.
Israel lacks political credibility to maintain Gaza blockade

While 29 Democratic Senators have urged President Barack Obama to suspend US aid to the Palestinian Authority should Hamas join the PA government, European and international support for the unity government is robust.

On May 6, the EU announced that it will provide an additional US$85million in aid to support the PA in light of Israel's withholding of $105million of tax revenue belonging to the Palestinian Authority. Similarly, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon - along with a coalition of donor nations - have urged Israel to release the Palestinian funds. Meanwhile, the United Nations' envoy to the Middle East, Robert Serry, has described the unity government as "overdue", demonstrating general international support for the unity government that includes Hamas.

Similar international support exists for ending the siege on Gaza. Especially since Israel's raid on the Gaza flotilla in May 2010, support for the debilitating siege has steadily dwindled. In the aftermath of the fatal attack in international waters, even the US described Israel's blockade as "untenable" and called on Israel to change its policy toward Gaza.

The White House not only supports an easing of the siege, but it also supports Egypt's post-revolution government. Shortly after Mubarak's departure, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Egypt to congratulate the new government - and promised it diplomatic support as well as economic aid. Although not impossible, it is unlikely that the US will challenge Egypt's decision, which reflects the US' blockade policy as well as the US-brokered AMA, and risk undermining the government's nascent development.

Finally, within Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lacks the political support necessary to take any significant risks. Opposition leader Tzipi Livni has accused Netanyahu of isolating Israel and stated that her Kadima party would not join a Netanyahu-led coalition even in the face of September’s "political tsunami". Livni also opposes the Palestinian unity government, but explains "there is a difference between defending Israel and aiding the survival of a prime minister that only damages the country". more

Official: Freedom Flotilla 2 to leave European ports in third week of June

Following rumours about delays, flotilla organisers meeting in Paris have officially announced that Freedom Flotilla II - 'Stay Human' will be leaving towards the end of June. Turkish charity IHH announced last week that it would be sending a 1,000 ton ship to join June's flotilla aid mission to break the siege. See the press statement at GazaTVNews.
The international steering committee of Freedom Flotilla II just concluded its planning meeting in Paris, a few weeks before the scheduled departure of the flotilla to Gaza.

Freedom Flotilla II will leave during the third week of June, with ships departing from various European ports including Marseilles. We"re very pleased to announce the recent addition of a Swiss-German boat to the flotilla. In July 2010 Germany"s Bundestag passed a resolution calling for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

A number of our respective governments have said the same. The UN Human Rights Committee Fact Finding Mission into the 2010 flotilla attack found Israeli"s blockade on Gaza to be unlawful. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that Israel must end its illegal closure of Gaza. more

IDF opens fire on farmers near Khan Younis in southern Gaza

Gaza strip, (Pal Telegraph)-Israeli forces stationed at the military control towers opened fire at a number of international activists and Palestinian farmers in Khozaa town in the east of Khan Younis city, without causalities reported.

According to local sources, Israeli forces stopped firing as some international peace activists intervened to protect Palestinian farmers from Israeli shooting. more

63rd anniversary of Nabka to see thousands of Egyptians marching into Gaza

Great news from Egypt - thousands to march on Gaza. This was meant to have happened in March but didn't come off. From Al-Masry Al-Youm.
In the wake of youth-led uprisings across the Arab world, several international activist groups are calling for a “march of millions” into Gaza. The march is scheduled for 15 May, the 63rd anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel - commonly referred to in Arabic as the Nakba, or catastrophe.

The march seems to have resulted from simultaneous calls for a large initiative to mark the anniversary made by several unrelated international activist groups, including some inside the Palestinian territories.

Since its announcement, the initiative has been described by various online groups as “The 2011 March of Return,” “The Palestinian Refugees' Revolution,” and, in some cases, “The Third Palestinian Intifada.” The number of similar groups, both online and on the ground, multiplied shortly after Facebook, at the request of the Israeli government, shut down one of the earliest Palestinian-based pages calling for the march.

In Egypt, the movement is being organized by a coalition of groups, including the seasoned pro-democracy movement Kefaya, a new pro-Palestinian group called Kollana Makawma (or We are All the Resistance) and two contingents of hardcore football enthusiasts, or Ultras.

Buses will depart from Cairo’s Tahrir Square at noon on 14 May and then meet up with more protesters in Suez. Planners say they hope to reach Gaza by the evening, march on the border crossing, and participate in the marches and protests inside the Palestinian territory scheduled for the following morning. Though many of the logistics of the trip remain unclear, activists say they are not concerned about the feasibility.

Besides the march, protests are also scheduled to be held outside the Israeli embassy. more

US senators show their bias in demand for funds cut-off to PA after Fatah/Hamas deal

The news late last week that 29 senators were demanding the US cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority because of the national reconciliation accord was a depressing knee-jerk reaction on the part of the senators concerned. A slightly more thoughtful approach is on display in the New York Times editorial published yesterday, suggesting it would be a very bad move, if only because it would mean the US loses any leverage in the situation, shifting "the political balance dangerously toward Hamas". Below is a clip on the matter from the influential Foreign Policy magazine.
29 U.S. senators have asked President Barack Obama Friday to cut off aid to the Palestinian government if it joins with Hamas, in a previously unreported letter (PDF) obtained by The Cable.

"The decision of Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas to form a unity government with Hamas - a designated terrorist group - threatens to derail the Middle East peace effort for the foreseeable future and to undermine the Palestinian Authority's relationship with the United States," begins the letter, which was spearheaded by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Robert Casey (D-PA). more

Dundee council set to vote on pro-Palestine motion as Israeli Embassy objects

An Israeli Embassy spokesman today criticised the local council in Dundee, Scotland, for not siding "with the one country in the region where Arabs do have a vote". He is of course referring to the second-class citizens Israel likes to refer to as 'Arab Israelis', but who see their representatives branded as terrorists and refused the right to travel, while in the settler state itself they suffer institutional racism and attacks on a constant basis. Apartheid would be a far better description of the so-called democracy experienced by Palestinians in what was their own country - Palestine before the catastrophe (Nabka) of 1948.
The Israeli Embassy in London has criticised a pro-Palestinian motion due to be debated by councillors in Dundee.

The motion has been proposed by Liberal Democrat group leader Fraser Macpherson. It was due to be discussed at a meeting of the city council's policy and resources committee on Monday evening, but has been rescheduled for mid-June.

It attacks the Israeli government, comparing its treatment of the Palestinians to South Africa under apartheid, and notes the council's pride in its links with the people of Palestine.

One of Dundee's twin towns is Nablus in the West Bank. In October the Palestinian flag was raised, along with flags from the nations of the other twin towns, atop Caird Hall.

Last year also saw activist Ali El-Awaisi, who was on the Gaza-bound aid ship stormed by Israeli commandos, invited to speak to councillors.

An Israeli embassy spokesman said, "We are surprised that at a time when all in the west should be standing behind those literally dying for democracy during the Arab spring, Dundee City Council have chosen to criticise the one country in the entire region where Arabs do have the vote"


Israeli army's colonial objectives exposed in training to 'conquer' Arab village

Mondoweiss draws attention to an article in the Jerusalem Post highlighting how colonialism is still the raison d'etre of the Israeli army, as they train to 'conquer' a Palestinian village.
63 years ago today, before the Arab armies had entered Palestine, and before Israel had declared its independence, Zionist militias were engaged in the conquest and ethnic cleansing of dozens of villages, from Abu al-Fadl near present-day Ramle to Akbara, which was 2 kilometers south of Safed. This week, as Palestinians plan to observe the formal anniversary of their dispossession on May 15, or “Nabka Day,” the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Speier reported that Israeli soldiers from the 202 paratrooper battalion “put their skills into action by conquering a simulation Arab village.”

“Each platoon needs to likhbush [conquer] an area in the village, and we get to likhbush an area called Yassin, south Yassin,” said company commander Matan Pelen. After the exercise was completed, Pelen commented, “This area is now ours, it’s under our control.” more

More land grabbed by settlers in Jerusalem project to displace 300 Palestinians

From the International Middle East Media Center. More settlements to be approved as armed settlers attack bedouin on Sunday evening.
The Islamic-Christian Committee for Defending Jerusalem and the Holy Sites, warned on Sunday of a new Israeli plan to build 386 units for Jewish` settlers in Sheikh Jarrah Palestinian neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem.

The Committee issued a press release stating that Israel is ongoing with its serious violations against the Palestinian people and their homes in East Jerusalem, and is acting to foil the recently achieved Palestinian unity agreement.

Hasan Khater, secretary-general of the committee, said that the so-called Israeli regional Construction and Planning Committee, approved the new constructions recently.

Khater added that the constructions will be conducted on 8000 square/meters, and will include a synagogue, a religious Jewish school (Yeshiva), and a kindergarten.

He further stated that the project is in its final planning stages and is financed by Jewish billionaire, Arieh King, in cooperation with a fundamentalist settler organization. more

Settlers demand bedouin leave Wadi Al Hilwa under the barrel of a gun
A group of extremist armed Israeli settlers attacked, on Sunday evening, Wadi Al Hilwa area in the northern plains of the West Bank, and demanding local Bedouins to leave the area. more