Monday, 6 June 2011

Israel set to approve construction of 4,100 houses in move to boost Jerusalem settlements

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- An expert planning researcher has revealed that an official board in Israel is on the verge of approving the construction of 4,100 houses in Jewish settlements in Jerusalem.

The Israeli interior ministry tasked the board two months ago to see that settlement construction increases in Jerusalem, said Attorney Qais Nasser, who specializes in monitoring settlement activity in holy city.

In its first session scheduled for June 14, the committee is expected to approve plans to erect 4,100 homes in Ramat Shlomo, Gilo, Pisgat Ze'ev, and Har Homa.

Thanks to PIC

Quarter of US Boat to Gaza are Jewish - shows Israel's apologists don't speak for all Jews

Robert Naiman blog at Huffington Post

US Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish – "Not too shabby!"a

According to the New York Times, a quarter of the passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza are Jewish.

What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? According to the noted American Jewish commentator Adam Sandler, a quarter Jewish is "not too shabby!" Maybe the U.S. Boat to Gaza will be mentioned in Adam's next Hanukkah song.

What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? Maybe it means that the Israeli authorities will have some compunction about shooting up our boat. After all, isn't the official story of Zionism all about making a "safe harbor" for Jews in Palestine? We're not trying to make aliyah. We just want to visit. Should we be shot for trying to do so? Wouldn't it be a mitzvah to let us pass unharmed?

What does it mean that the U.S. Boat to Gaza is a quarter Jewish? Maybe it means that we can openly contest a construction of Jewish identity based on supporting the obstruction of Palestinian freedom, with a Jewish counter-narrative of universal human liberation.

U.S. Boat to Gaza passenger Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old whose parents died in the Holocaust, told the New York Times,

"The American Jewish community and Israel both say that they speak for all Jews. They don't speak for me. They don't speak for the Jews in this country who are going to be on the U.S. boat, and the many others standing behind us."

Of course, in referring to "the American Jewish community," Hedy meant organizations commonly presented in the media as representing American Jews on the question of Palestine, even though the leadership of these institutions isn't elected by American Jews as a whole and even though key policies that these institutions support, such as Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and opposition to Israel's internationally-recognized 1967 borders being the basis of a peace deal, don't represent the opinions of the majority of American Jews.

In a March 2009 poll commissioned by J Street, 60% of American Jews opposed Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank, 76% supported a peace agreement on the 1967 borders with negotiated land swaps (the position recently articulated by President Obama), and 69% supported the U.S. working with a unified Fatah-Hamas Palestinian Authority government to achieve a peace agreement with Israel.

To act as if Bibi Netanyahu has been anointed to speak for all Jews on the question of Palestine is preposterous. Even Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, has said that Israel's top leaders lack judgment and has criticized the Israeli government for failing to put forward a peace initiative with the Palestinians and for ignoring the Saudi peace initiative promising full diplomatic relations in exchange for a return to the 1967 border lines, as the New York Times noted last week.

In the 2009 poll, 65% of American Jews agreed with the statement,

Israel has the right to defend itself, but it must also take into account humanitarian considerations and avoid collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population by closing the borders and causing major civilian hardship.

I have previously noted that in challenging the blockade of Gaza, we are acting consistently with the policy advocated by President Obama in June 2010, when he said that external restrictions on Gaza's travel and commerce should be "focusing narrowly on arms shipments" rather than a general blockade of goods and persons, to which some exceptions are permitted.

But we are also acting consistently with the policy advocated by 65% of American Jews in March 2009: no to "collective punishment of the entire Palestinian population."

It will be a great day when the opinions of the majority of American Jews matter more than the tired right-wing slogans recycled to try to maintain the destructive status quo. Letting our peaceful boat reach Gaza unmolested would be a great place to start. If you agree, tell Secretary of State Clinton, whose job duties include the protection of Americans traveling abroad.

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'Israel Week' exhibition in Milan faces possible closure in face of pro-Palestine protests

(pic: The coffin of slain Italian pro-Palestine activist Vittorio Arrigoni)

From Ynet News
Italian police have refused to handle security for an Israeli exhibit at a central Milan square next week due to threats of violence by Palestinian activists, Yedioth Ahronoth reported Monday.

The exhibit, set to take place at Piazza Duomo, has been planned in honor of 'Israel Week' in the city. It includes 15 towers showcasing Israeli culture, technology, agriculture, economics, and art "to present the unfamiliar Israel".

But pro-Palestinian organizations are threatening to target the exhibit. Over the past few days the groups have been urging internet users to sign a petition to cancel the exhibit.

Web posters issued by the groups threaten to "ignite the city" and say, "No to Israeli occupation of Milano". more
If anyone has the link to the petition please forward to The Ynet article cites threatened 'violence' but provides no evidence.

Turkish foreign minister now urging flotilla to delay to see if Rafah 'opening' eases siege

Sounds like the dirty little deal between the US and Turkey reported last week - with the US offering Turkey a bigger role in mid-east 'peace talks' in return for putting pressure on the flotilla organisers to call off the mission - may have been done, although Turkey denies there is any such deal. Whatever back room fix they put in, the flotilla is still sailing to Gaza, and the Turkish government probably knows as much. Davutoğlu's timing isn't very good either, given that the Rafah crossing is again inoperative due to unnecessary Egyptian restrictions.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has advised organizers of a flotilla planning to depart for Gaza later this month to wait and see how Egypt's lifting its embargo of the Gaza Strip affects the Hamas-run coastal strip.

This is the first time Davutoğlu told flotilla organizers to reconsider their plans. He had so far rejected US and Israeli appeals to try to stop the flotilla, saying it is a civilian initiative that the government cannot intervene in and insisting that the international community should pressure Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza instead of trying to prevent the new flotilla. The Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), a Turkish charity that played the lead role in a similar mission to Gaza last year, says a new flotilla will depart for Gaza at the end of June. Last year's mission turned bloody when Israeli commandos stormed a ship owned by İHH, the Mavi Marmara, and killed eight Turks and one Turkish American. more

24 dead and 350 wounded in Israel's Golan Heights bloodbath

Syrian media sources confirmed that Israeli soldiers shot and killed on Sunday 24 protesters who gathered on the Syrian side of the border of the Israeli occupied Golan Heights marking the Naksa Day, while at least 350 were injured.

Thousands of Palestinian refugees and supporters marched near the border marking the Naksa, the day Israel the illegally arrested the rest of Palestine in 1967.more

German aid ship for Gaza leaving Hamburg on June 19 to join Freedom Flotilla II in Greece

(pic: Left-wing German MPs at a press conference in 2010 called after the attack on the Mavi Marmara)

Hurriyet story posted on GazaTV News
A humanitarian aid ship will set sail for Gaza from the German port city of Hamburg on June 19 to support an international initiative to break the Israeli siege by sending ships carrying humanitarian supplies.

The ship, named Freedom Flotilla II, is sponsored by Professor Udo Steinbach, a well-known German expert on the Middle East, and the German Initiative to Break the Siege of Gaza...

...German journalist Peter Wolter and Swiss writer Henning Mankell will also be onboard the flotilla. All aid ships bound for Gaza are expected to meet in Greece on June 27. more

Smuggling tunnel collapse at Rafah traps and kills one worker

GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- A 22-year-old worker was killed Monday when a smuggling tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border collapsed, medics said.

Sami Ahmad An-Nadi, from Khan Younis, was trapped in the tunnel in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Gaza medical services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya said An-Nadi's body was taken to the Abu Yousif An-Najjar Hospital in Rafah. more

Israeli law firm to sue maritime insurance and satellite companies that offer services to flotilla

In an effort to prevent the upcoming flotilla into Gaza, the Shurat HaDin Law Center has threatened lawsuits against companies offering services to the participating ships.

In letters to maritime insurance firms and satellite communications companies, Shurat HaDin, an independent non-profit organization, has warned that any companies that provide services that assist in the breach of the Israeli blockade on Gaza will be sued in the United States for aiding the Hamas terrorist organization...

...Darshan-Leitner told The Jerusalem Post that Shurat HaDin had recently approached mobile satellite services company Inmarsat – the only company that provides communications and navigations services to ships that sail in the region – requesting that they refuse to provide their services to ships participating in the flotilla. more

Donate to Gaza Summer Games in American Friends of UNRWA's innovative Groupon deal, 7-9 June

A fundraising appeal from Mack Levine at American Friends of UNRWA

I am a part of the organization American Friends of UNRWA (AFU)—a non-profit that supports the humanitarian work of the United Nations Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and we have an exciting campaign coming up next week that I thought you might be interested in sharing with your readers.

From June 7-9, AFU will be teaming up with the popular daily deal website, Groupon [link is to last campaign in DC] in Portland, to send children in Gaza to summer camp through UNRWA’s Gaza Summer Games program. During this time, individuals can donate $6, or multiples of $6, through Groupon to provide a shirt, hat, and pair of athletic shoes to one very deserving child in Gaza.

The best part is that all donations will be doubled by a very generous matching donor, ensuring that two children are able to enjoy their summer in a safe and fun environment. It’s a simple and affordable way to support the Games and increase awareness about the situation for Palestinian refugees, so I hope you would consider writing a brief blog post about this campaign. Here’s a video demonstrating the incredibly diverse range of fun activities that the children can participate in. The video also features the children themselves speaking about what the Summer Games mean to them.

Our recent Washington DC-based campaign was very successful, resulting in enough donations to provide gear for 1416 kids to enjoy their Summer Games experience.

With your support, I know we can accomplish something equally great with our Portland campaign! Even though this campaign is based in Portland, anyone can participate and donate. Thank you very much.

Thanks Mack for letting us know about the innovative fund-raising initiatives of American Friends of UNRWA.

A $50 dollar donation is enough to fund one Gaza child's place at the summer games. You can donate here now, as well as through the Groupon deal 7-9 June.