Friday, 3 October 2014

Israeli forces disperse protests across West Bank, injuring 5

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Five Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces on Friday as protests erupted across the central West Bank in protest against the Israeli occupation and the confiscation of Palestinian land to build the separation wall.

The protests, which come on the first day of the Islamic Eid al-Adha festival, were held by dozens of villagers in Kafr Qaddum and Bilin.

One Palestinian man was injured on Friday by Israeli sniper fire in the central West Bank village of Kafr Qaddum and four shot with rubber-coated steel bullets after clashes erupted following a protest march, organizers said.

Dozens also suffered from excessive tear gas inhalation as Israeli soldiers shot multiple rounds of tear gas canisters at the crowd, who were chanting slogans against Israeli settlement construction in the occupied territory.

An Israeli military spokeswoman did not return a request for comment. more

Sweden to recognise state of Palestine

Sweden’s new centre-left government is to recognise the state of Palestine, in a move that will make it the first major European country to take the step, the prime minister, Stefan Löfven, has said.

The UN general assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, but the European Union and most EU countries have yet to give it official recognition.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law,” Löfven said during his inaugural address in parliament on Friday.

“A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine.”

For the Palestinians, Sweden’s move will be a welcome boost for its ambitions.

With its reputation as an honest broker in international affairs and with an influential voice in EU foreign policy, the decision may well make other countries sit up and pay attention at a time when the Palestinians are threatening unilateral moves towards statehood. more

Belgium condemns Israeli destruction of West Bank power grid section

Belgium issued a strong condemnation of the Israeli destruction of a major power grid in the occupied West Bank which was funded by the country, and serving Khirbet at-Tawil village, near the northern West Bank city of Nablus, and demanded Israel pay compensation.

Last Monday, Israel demolished and removed 70 electricity poles and around 4.5 Kilometers of cables providing electricity to the village.

The cost of the destroyed power grid and network is estimated at 55.000 Euros.

On Thursday, Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders summoned the Israeli Ambassador to condemn the recent Israeli assault, and asked Israel to pay compensation for this destruction.

Reynders said that the Israeli violations do not only target Belgian projects in the occupied territories, but also target many projects funded by other countries.

Oxfam aid organization said the power network was built in 2007, with Belgian money, and was meant to provide electricity for Palestinian shepherds in the area.

The Israeli army destroyed the network on Monday, removing 70 electricity poles and 4.5 kilometers of cables.

Reynders said that Israel first issued the destruction order in 2008 and, then again, in March of this year, but Israel went ahead and destroyed the grid last Monday, adding that Belgium conducted utmost diplomatic efforts to stop the destruction.

The Belgian official told Flanders TV that he asked the Israeli ambassador to come to the ministry to denounce the violations, and to ask Tel Aviv for compensation. more

Israel boosts security for rare clash of holy days

JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel is tightening security in flashpoint areas to ward off possible unrest this weekend when two important religious festivals coincide for the first time in three decades.

The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur begins on Friday evening, followed on Saturday by Muslim Eid al-Adha, against a backdrop of high tension over the seven-week Gaza military offensive which killed over 2,000 Palestinians.

Israeli security forces have said they will deploy additional personnel in East Jerusalem and the West Bank city of Hebron.

The authorities have also come to agreements with the Jewish and Muslim communities in mixed Israeli cities on the timing of celebrations.

A potential trigger for clashes is the difference between how the Muslim and Jewish occasions are marked.

While Muslims celebrate with outings to see friends and family as well as feasting, Jews spend 25 hours in prayer and fasting and refrain from driving.

Anyone driving on Yom Kippur risks stone throwing by observant Jews who have even been known to attack Israeli ambulances and police vehicles.

The clash of festivals has not occurred for 33 years because the two faiths use different lunar calendars. more

A conversation with Gaza’s ‘boy wonders’ Arab and Tarzan

From Mondoweiss - This week, the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival opens in Washington, DC. One of the featured pieces is a unique production called Condom Lead, directed by identical twin brothers from Gaza, Mohammed and Ahmed Abu Nasser – better known as Arab and Tarzan.

Reading the news, memories came flooding back. While I was living in Gaza during the winter and spring of 2011, I shot a series of video vignettes with local residents who embodied, for me, the spirit of creative, non-violent resistance – “faces” of Gaza the world normally never sees. Many of these kindred spirits to whom I was drawn were artists. And two of them were Arab and Tarzan. (Look at their pictures and you’ll immediately think you know why. Watch this interview, however, and you’ll learn the true inspiration behind the names.)

Three impressions come to mind when I recall the days I spent with them in Gaza: 1) How much I felt like their little sister even though I was so much older. They constantly teased me, laughing hysterically when I repeated Arabic words they taught me, only to find out that they were “bad.” 2) Awe. They are truly “renaissance” men, equally good at playing the guitar, making movies and painting (one of Arab’s oils hangs on my bedroom wall). And 3) A conviction that if they could just get exposure outside of Gaza, I’d say I “knew them when” someday. And I was right.

Late last year, I caught up with Arab via Skype in their current home in Amman, Jordan, and chatted about what has happened since those days when we goofed around in Gaza. How did they arrive at today, when they are getting the attention they so richly deserve? (In 2013, Condom Lead became the first film from Gazan Palestinians to be accepted into the Cannes Film Festival.) My first question was why they had left Gaza.

“We never had any thoughts about leaving Gaza and living abroad,” he said sadly. “The thought of returning is always there. We miss our family and friends, and the Gaza that we consider to be our heaven. But the harassment by the government became too much.”

Filmmaking is not common in Gaza (in fact, there is no formal film school, or cinemas for that matter). Combine that with the twins’ decidedly bohemian looks and the provocative nature of much of their work, and you have a mix that does not fit well with the current Islamic government.

“We were always being questioned by the ministries of internal and cultural affairs,” explained Arab, adding that their films were banned as well.


Israel approves 2,600 settler homes in East Jerusalem

Israel is to press ahead with the planned construction of 2,610 settler homes in annexed East Jerusalem, a watchdog said Wednesday, angering Palestinian leaders and prompting US President Barack Obama to express concern.

The housing units, which have been slated for construction since 2012 in the neighborhood of Givat Hamatos, were given final approval last week, Peace Now said.

Hagit Ofran, spokeswoman for the Israeli non-governmental group, told AFP the government could now publish tenders for the project, but that it would be months before building actually began.

The watchdog said the plans damaged prospects for peace and an eventual independent Palestinian state.

"Givat Hamatos is destructive to the two-state solution," it said.

"It divides the potential Palestinian state... (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu continues his policy of destroying the possibility of a two-state solution."

The timing was a political decision, Ofran said, but the exact reason was unclear.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, who himself lives in a settlement, insisted on army radio it was part of "the normal process of authorization necessary before any construction project in Jerusalem". more