Archive for March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013

Land, property theft & destruction / Danger to Islamic sites / Restriction of movement

Land in village of Qusin used as garbage dump by settlers
ISM 27 Mar by IWPS — On Wednesday March 27 at 15:00 the village of Qusin organized a tour of a nearby quarry that is regularly used as a garbage dump. The residents of Qusin invited the Minister of the Environment, IWPS and the International Solidarity Movement to inspect the amount of Israeli trash that has accumulated in the recent weeks. The quarry had been partially refilled with dirt and gravel covering the majority of the trash, leaving three large piles of plastic, wood and metal exposed. The effect was that of a large land fill in the middle of a mined industrial zone. The organizers of the visit explained that the toxins from the trash are seeping through the soil into the water sources of the nearby villages, endangering the local residents. Local community organizers from Qusin reported abnormally high cancer rates in the village. Residents of Qusin have started to regularly visit and protest as a community at the dump site.
link to palsolidarity.org

Palestinians demonstrate against sewage settlers spill onto their land
[photos, video] 972mag 29 Mar by Haggai Matar — About 100 Palestinians from the ancient village of Sebastia and their supporters held a demonstration today to protest against settlers spilling their sewage onto the village’s agricultural lands. This was the third demonstration in two months; villagers are starting weekly demonstrations, much like the ones against the wall and settlements that take place every Friday in Bil‘in, Ni‘ilin, Ma‘asara, Nabi Saleh and Qaddum. Demonstrations took place in all of those villages as well on Friday, some of them with violent confrontations with army forces. In addition, activists in the newly formed popular committee say they are planning to take the matter to the Supreme Court … Several speakers talked about the sewage that since December has been flowing into their fields from the nearby settlement of Shavei Shomron.
link to 972mag.com

Settlers confiscate Palestinian land in Nablus
NABLUS (PIC) 31 Mar — Israeli settlers established fish farming ponds in Ain Rabii south of the city of Nablus, expanding their settlement activities in that area, Palestinian center revealed. Mahmoud al-Sifi, director of Nablus Land Research Center, stated that settlers from Bracha settlement, established on lands belonging to Burin village south of Nablus, have recently begun building fish farming ponds in Ein Mkhna area in Kafr Kalil [Kafr Qallil] and Burin villages. The activist against settlement projects confirmed that according to eyewitnesses the Israeli settlers have established fish farming ponds and a swimming pool at the expense of the residents’ lands.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

Israeli settlers turn life of northern West Bank family into nightmare
Xinhua 31 Mar — In spite of more than 10 years of harassment and suffering, Hani Amer and his family are still sticking to their house and land in the outskirts of an Israeli settlement which was built on his land in the northern West Bank city of Salfit. Amer, better known as Abu Nidal, in his mid 50s, said “I mark this special day with more determination to stay in my house and on my land, despite the lesion caused by the Israeli soldiers and the Jewish settlers.” His house and land looked like an island surrounded by the Israeli settlement on one side and by the separation wall that Israel builds in the West Bank on the other. Abu Nidal’s house and land are three acres (1.2 hectares) only, where it used to be 23 acres (9.3 hectares) and most of it was confiscated to expand the adjacent settlement.
link to www.china.org.cn

Presidency condemns settlers breaking into al-Aqsa Mosque
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 31 Mar — The Israeli authorities Sunday allowed the entry of around 280 extremist settlers, protected by Israeli police, and six undercover Israeli police into al-Aqsa mosque yards, provoking the Palestinian worshipers after the undercover police urinated in the courtyards of the mosque, leading to clashes with the Israeli police. Israeli special units showed up at the scene and arrested tens of worshipers, used teargas, rubber bullets and electric shocks against the provoked worshipers, causing several suffocation cases among them. Israeli police also attacked the women and workers with clubs.
Meanwhile, tens of Jewish settlers Sunday broke into the historical and cultural site of Solomon’s Pools located between the town of al-Khader and the village of Irtas, south of Bethlehem. Presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudineh warned of the implications of these measures that desecrate the sanctity of Islam religion and will only cause tension in the region.
link to english.wafa.ps

Jordan, Palestinians sign agreement to protect J’lem holy sites
Ynet/AP 31 Mar — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan’s King Abdullah signed Sunday an agreement by which they pledge to cooperate on protecting holy sites in Jerusalem. The agreement was signed during Abbas’s visit in Jordan, in the presence of Palestinian Minister of Religious Affairs Mahmoud al-Habash and his Jordanian counterpart. According to al-Habash, the agreement was devised in order to coordinate the protection of the al-Aqsa Mosque and all the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. He added that the agreement reiterated Jordan’s historic role in securing the holy sites as well as the Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank and east Jerusalem. Jordan’s 1994 peace treaty with Israel recognizes Jordan’s role as custodian of Christian and Muslim shrines in the city, which Israel captured from the kingdom in the 1967 Mideast War.
link to www.ynetnews.com

Israeli forces ‘close West Bank roads’
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 31 Mar — Israeli forces on Sunday closed two main roads in the northern West Bank as settlers celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover, witnesses said. Israeli soldiers blocked Palestinians from the main roads connecting Nablus and Qalqiliya, and Nablus and Ramallah, witnesses told Ma‘an. Meanwhile settlers held marches in the areas, they added.
link to www.maannews.net

For Palestinian Americans, home brings little freedom
TURMUS AYA, WEST BANK (The National) 31 Mar by Hugh Naylor — Ahmed Kassem is a Palestinian and an American. His US passport, however, does not protect him from the suffering of living in Israeli occupied territory. Like other West Bank hamlets, Turmus Aya faces attacks from Jewish settlers, a judicial system of military tribunals and checkpoints blocking access to holy places and friends in Jerusalem … In several West Bank villages near Ramallah, Palestinian Americans form the bulk of residents. With money earned in the US, they often build palatial residences as second homes or for relatives who live permanently in the territory. “They contribute a lot to the Palestinian economy and like any other Palestinian community, they are committed Palestinians,” said Nour Odeh, a PA spokeswoman.But their US citizenship matters little when it comes to Israeli policy. Or as Sam Bahour, a Palestinian American who lives in the West Bank, put it: “Because we’re Palestinian residents here, Israel refuses to acknowledge we’re Americans.” He was referring to the Israeli-regulated identification cards issued to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that grant them residency in those territories. When Palestinians are issued these cards, Israel stops recognising their US citizenship, blocking them from acquiring Israeli visas and denying them entry through Israel’s international airport and other ports of entry … An official from Israel’s foreign ministry said the policy of denying entry to US citizens of Palestinian origin who hold West Bank identification documents was part of the interim peace accords of the 1990s, signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation. [this assertion is doubtful to say the least]
http://www.thenational.ae/news/world/middle-east/for-palestinian-americans-home-brings-little-freedom#ixzz2P5cXyPe3

Unlikely Jerusalem village takes the lead on Land Day
Mondoweiss 31 Mar by Allison Deger — Last year Palestinians protested in thousands to mark Land Day, an annual commemoration of six killed during a 1976 march against land expropriations in the Galilee, but this year’s protests failed to capture the same momentum. Along with the main march in Sakhnin, the location of the first Land Day demonstration, Palestinian grievances were contained to the expected sites of hot conflict — Qalandia checkpoint and Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem — with the unforeseen addition of the Beit Safafa neighborhood in Southwest Jerusalem. While each of the annual days of protest in the Palestinian activist calendar mark some form of oppression by Israeli authorities, Land Day is the only action to specifically originate from Palestinian citizens of Israel. During the first Intifada the protest struck a chord with West Bank Palestinians when four were killed marching in 1988, and three in 1989. Since that time Land Day has shifted into a special occasion where all Palestinians — Israeli citizens, West Bank, Gaza, refugees and diaspora — can unite under a single banner. Yet last year both protestors and the Israeli authorities were surprised by the tens of thousands who turned out … Outside of the official Land Day protest in Sakhnin in Northern Israel, [this year] the largest demonstrations took place in Jerusalem. On Salah al-Din Street, which links the Old City to Sheikh Jarrah, hundreds marched peacefully alongside 100 border police, and Israeli police. “Unfortunately the Israelis tried to stop the demonstration even though no stones were thrown,” said Muath al-Khatib, a photojournalist for Watan, a Palestinian news service.
link to mondoweiss.net

Violence / Raids / Attacks / Suppression of protests / Arrests

Israeli troops open fire at protesters as Palestinians mark Land Day
QALQILIYA (Ma‘an) 30 Mar – Clashes erupted Saturday between Palestinians and Israeli forces in the northern West Bank village of Jayyus east of Qalqiliya, witnesses said. Eyewitnesses told Ma‘an that hundreds of Palestinians gathered in agricultural lands west of Jayyus to plant trees commemorating Land Day before Israeli troops stormed the area. The soldiers fired tear-gas canisters at the Palestinians who in return hurled stones at the soldiers. Dozens were hurt as they inhaled tear gas, according to onlookers …  Israeli forces have deployed heavily across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem since Friday preparing to disperse demonstrations in Palestinian cities and villages in commemoration of Land Day. In Ramallah in the central West Bank, young Palestinians clashed with Israeli forces near Qalandiya checkpoint which separates Ramallah and Jerusalem. A Ma‘an reporter said Israeli soldiers heavily fired tear-gas canisters and rubber-coated bullets, hurting several Palestinians. In Bethlehem, activists commemorated Land Day near Rachel’s Tomb raising Palestinian flags. Lawmaker Mustafa Barghouthi, secretary-general of the Palestinian National Initiative, joined the commemoration. Land Day, Barghouthi said, should not be restricted to March 30, as “each day for our people is a land day during our battle with the occupation who steals our land and our future. The only way to respond to the plots against our land is by escalating popular resistance across homeland.” Violent clashes erupted in al-Khader south of Bethlehem, where youths threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who fired tear gas and live ammunition. Red Crescent medics said dozens from the town were injured and two people were hospitalized.
In the Gaza Strip Palestinians commemorated Land Day near Erez crossing in the northern area and in Rafah in the south. A demonstrator was shot and injured by Israeli fire in Rafah, Israeli media reported citing Palestinian sources. Speaking to a Ma‘an reporter, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Palestinians should count on resistance and stick to it until “all Palestine is liberated.”
link to www.maannews.net

80-year-old attacked by settlers may need surgery
TULKAREM (Ma‘an) 31 Mar — An 80-year-old Palestinian farmer who was attacked Friday by Israeli settlers is still in hospital and may need surgery, medics said Sunday. Hasan Barhoush is being treated for fractures and bruises at Thabit Thabit Hospital in Tulkarem. He was working on his fields in Kafr al-Labad village, near the Israeli settlement Enav, when a group of settlers attacked him.
link to www.maannews.net

7 injured as settlers attack Palestinian school buses
NABLUS (Ma‘an) 31 Mar — Settlers threw rocks at a two Palestinian school buses south of Nablus on Sunday, injuring seven children, a Palestinian Authority official said. Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said settlers smashed the windshield of two buses returning from a school trip. Seven children were injured and taken to the Rafedia Hospital in Nablus, Daghlas said.
link to www.maannews.net

Twilight Zone: Aged eight, wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt and placed in Israeli custody
Haaretz 29 Mar by Gideon Levy & Alex Levac — 27 Palestinian children never made it to school this week; IDF troops lay in ambush for them on the streets of Hebron – …IDF troops lay in ambush for them from the early morning hours on the streets of the Hebron neighborhoods that are under the army’s control, and arrested them indiscriminately. Only after they were in custody did the Israeli security forces examine the video footage they had in their possession, to see which of the youngsters had thrown stones at Checkpoint No. 160 earlier that morning, which separates their neighborhood from the settlers’ quarter of the city. It was here, a few weeks ago, that IDF soldiers shot and killed a teenager, Mohammed Suleima, who was holding a pistol-shaped lighter … The fact that 18 of the children were under the age of 12, the age of criminal responsibility according to the 1971 Israeli Youth Law (Adjudication, Punishment and Methods of Treatment ), was apparently of no interest to the IDF, the Israel Police or the Border Police. Nor was the severe report issued just two weeks earlier by the United Nations Children’s Fund, which condemned Israel for arresting some 7,000 Palestinian children in the past decade. “Ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system appears to be widespread, systematic and institutionalized,” the UNICEF report stated, and added, “In no other country are children systematically tried by juvenile military courts.”
link to www.haaretz.com

Facts on the ground loom over Bil‘in as protests enter ninth year
972mag 30 Mar by Noam Sheizaf — …Nothing seems further away from the diplomatic game than a walk through the hills surrounding Bil‘in under a surprisingly bright sun. It wasn’t the State Department or the European Union that rescued some of the village’s land, only the struggle of the local farmers, which entered its ninth year this month. Two of the village’s residents — a brother and sister — have been killed, hundreds wounded, arrested and imprisoned. But the people of Bil‘in did what almost nobody else could — they stopped the growth of a settlement and pushed the wall closer to the Green Line.
link to 972mag.com

Israeli forces detain man at Jerusalem rally
JERUSALEM (Ma‘an) 31 Mar — Israeli forces on Saturday detained a Palestinian during a rally in Jerusalem’s Old City, witnesses said. Israeli forces suppressed the demonstration in Salah al-Din street and detained Shadi al-Moghrabi, witnesses told Ma‘an, adding that al-Mograbi was assaulted during the arrest.
link to www.maannews.net

Army invades Beit Fajjar, kidnaps a child
IMEMC/Agencies Saturday March 30, 2013, Israeli soldiers [raided] Beit Fajjar town, south of the West Bank city of Bethlehem, and kidnapped one Palestinian child after breaking into his home and violently searching it, the Radio Bethlehem 2000 has reported. Local sources reported that the army kidnapped Omar Anwar Thawabta, 16, for the third time in a row, after more than twenty military vehicles invaded the town. Thawabta was kidnapped two times before and was released on bail.
Last week, the army kidnapped 30 Palestinians after claiming that they are members of a cell that belong to the Fateh movement of Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas. Israel claims that members of the so-called cell opened fire at Israeli military vehicles and settler cars, and that they planned further attacks against the army and the settlers. The Fateh movement denied the Israeli claims
link to www.imemc.org

IOF soldiers round up two Palestinians in 24 hours
JENIN, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested two Palestinian citizens from Jenin and Tobas over the past 24 hours. Local sources said that IOF soldiers manning Al-Hamra road block detained at dawn Saturday a man from Tobas. Other IOF units stormed Fare’a refugee camp and Erqa village, west of Jenin, and combed areas near to the racist, separation wall.
On Friday, IOF soldiers in 12 armored vehicles stormed Jenin city and arrested a young man with a pistol in his possession despite having a permit. Local sources said that the soldiers wreaked havoc on the home of Tawfik Abu Mashaykh before taking away his son.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

Israeli forces ‘detain 3 in southern West Bank’
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) 31 Mar — Israeli forces detained three Palestinians in the southern West Bank on Sunday, local officials said. Israeli forces stormed Husan village, west of Bethlehem, before dawn and detained Muhammad Shawasha, 26, and Husam Hamamreh, 30, local council member Taha Hamamreh told Ma‘an.
Meanwhile further south in Beit Ummar, Israeli soldiers detained 15-year-old Issa Ikhlayyil at the main entrance to the town, popular committee spokesman Muhammad Awad said.
link to www.maannews.net

IOF arrests 6 citizens, including a child, in Jerusalem and Bethlehem
WEST BANK, (PIC)– …Palestinian sources reported that the occupation forces have also raided the town of Doha near Bethlehem where they arrested a young man and summoned another to the headquarters of the Shin Bet.
Shalala Street and Bab al-Zawiya Street in al-Khalil have witnessed an intensive presence of Israeli soldiers who stormed the town of Halhoul.
Meanwhile, two Jerusalemite youths and a child have been arrested by the occupation after raids into their homes in the town of Issawiya in the center of occupied Jerusalem, spokesman for the Follow-up Committee in the town Raed Abu Ryala stated.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

The re-arrest of the dean of Arab prisoners Sidqi al-Maqt
MAJDAL SHAMS (PIC) 31 Mar — The Israeli police forces, disguised in civilian clothes, arrested on Saturday night, the former dean of Arab prisoners Sidqi al-Maqt, 47, outside his house in the village of Majdal Shams in the occupied Syrian Golan, Arab sources from the occupied Golan revealed … Arab sources in the occupied Golan stated that al-Maqt’s arrest came following his refusal and Golan people’s rejection of Israeli league matches being played in the occupied Syrian Golan in an attempt to normalize relations with the people of Golan, who boycott anyone who deals with the occupation authorities. An Israeli court in Nazareth imposed house arrest for 14 days on the liberated prisoner al-Maqt and a fine of 5000 shekels, and prevented him from approaching the football stadium next to his home for 3 months. Al-Maqt’s lawyer stated that the Israeli court’s decision came following his rejection of  an Israeli football match at the stadium next to his house. The court accused the liberated prisoner of incitement against the Israeli match. Sedki al-Maqt was released in August last year, after serving 27 years in Israeli jails on charges of resisting the occupation and establishing a resistance movement.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

3 Palestinians killed, 236 arrested in March
NABLUS (PIC) 31 Mar — Israeli occupation forces (IOF) killed three Palestinian citizens, including a teenager, and rounded up 236 others including a heart patient, a disabled man and five fishermen from Gaza. Ahrar center for prisoners’ studies and human rights said in its monthly report on Saturday that 231 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank and five in Gaza. It said that one of them Jihad Bleidi from Tulkarem suffers a heart ailment while another Motez Obeido from Al-Khalil suffers from motor disability. The report said that the detainees include former prisoners and three journalists in addition to MP Mohammed Jamal Al-Natshe. Ahrar said that the three martyrs were the teenager Mahmoud Al-Teeti from Al-Khalil and two others, Mohammed Asfur and Moayad Ghazawne, from Ramallah.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

PA security forces kidnap three Hamas members, summon others
WEST BANK (PIC) 31 Mar — The Palestinian authority security forces kidnapped three Palestinians affiliated with Hamas and summoned for interrogation three others in the West Bank. Local sources said that the PA preventive security apparatus re-detained Islamboli Riyadh after he was released by the PA intelligence agency. Riyadh was an ex-detainee in PA and Israeli jails. The preventive security summoned on Saturday Kamel Abu Zant, who spent four years in Israeli jails and still refuses to release another ex-detainee named Anas Al-Khalili who has been in its jail for more than 10 days. The PA intelligence, in turn, summoned Alaa Shiberi, from Hamas, to come to its headquarters on Monday for interrogation. He was already detained by the PA and Israel. In Al-Khalil city, youth activist Bahaa Farrukh was summoned for interrogation by the preventive security because of his participation in public events.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

Prisoners / Hunger strikers / Court actions

Prisoner’s health continues to deteriorate, says Prisoner Club
RAMALLAH (WAFA) 31 Mar – Prisoner Maysra Abu Hamdiah’s health condition is “horrifying” and [he] is starting chemotherapy due to the severe deterioration in his health, said the Palestinian Prisoner Club (PPC) attorney Jawad Boulus on Sunday. Boulus said that he met Abu Hamdiah and the later was handcuffed to his bed, “I filed a complaint, but the prison administration claimed that instructions prevent them from untying him.” Abu Hamdiah was transferred to Soroka’s cancer center and was not allowed to meet Boulus despite of previous coordination. Boulus was later permitted to meet Abu Hamdiah after intervention … The Ministry of Prisoners and Released Prisoners’ Affairs lawyer said that Abu Hamdiah is in a tragic condition. The Ministry’s lawyer said that Abu Hamdiah can’t talk and suffers from severe pain all through his body.
link to english.wafa.ps

Prisoners protest lack of treatment for detainee with cancer
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Mar — Palestinian prisoners protested in Israeli jails on Saturday against the continued detention of Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, who suffers from cancer. Abu Hamdiyeh was transferred unconscious to hospital in Beersheva, Palestinian minister of prisoners affairs Issa Qaraqe said Saturday. Qaraqe told Ma‘an that Abu Hamdiyeh’s cancer had spread because he had not received adequate treatment. Fuad al-Khuffash, head of the Ahrar prisoners center, said detainees were returning meals in Eshel prison to protest the medical neglect of Abu Hamdiyeh. Prisoners will escalate protests if Abu Hamdiyeh is not released, al-Khuffash said in a statement.
link to www.maannews.net

Israeli prison administration stalls urgent surgery for prisoner
HEBRON (WAFA) 31 Mar – The Israeli prison administration keeps stalling the treatment of Palestinian detainee Mohammad Sayara, whose health condition is in a continuous deterioration and is in need of an immediate surgery to protect his foot from being amputated, Sunday said Ibrahim Najajreh, an official in the Ministry of Prisoners Affairs
link to english.wafa.ps

Gaza families to resume visits to relatives in Israeli prisons next week
GAZA (PIC) 31 Mar — The International Committee of the Red Cross declared that Gaza families will resume visits to their relatives in Israeli jails from next week … The occupation authorities had informed the Red Cross on March 18 of their refusal of family visits from the Gaza strip under the pretext of the Jewish holidays.
link to www.palestine-info.co.uk

Israel releases former Palestinian minister
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 31 Mar — Israel on Sunday released the former Palestinian minister of local government after detaining him for 13 months without charge. Issa Khayri al-Jabari, 47, returned to Hebron after being jailed under administrative detention, without trial or charge. Fifteen Palestinian MPs are currently detained in Israeli jails, according to the prisoner rights group Addameer.
link to www.maannews.net

Bethlehem police free journalist pardoned by Abbas
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Mar – Palestinian police late Friday released a journalist pardoned by President Mahmoud Abbas after a court upheld his year-long sentence for insulting the president on Facebook. Mamdouh Hamamreh was released Friday night from a police detention center in Bethlehem a day after an appeals court upheld his sentence on charges of insulting the leadership. Hamamreh, a correspondent for the Islamic Jihad-affiliated al-Quds satellite channel, was charged over a photo posted to Facebook juxtaposing Abbas beside a similar-looking man who played the part of a collaborator with French colonial forces in a Syrian television drama.
link to www.maannews.net

Gaza siege

Haniyeh heads to Cairo for talks
GAZA CITY (AFP) 30 Mar  — Gaza’s Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh headed to Cairo on Saturday to discuss his movement’s complaints about Israeli compliance with an Egyptian-brokered truce. Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said Haniyeh would be discussing “Israeli violations of the truce,” which ended eight days of deadly violence in and around the Gaza Strip last November. Last week, Hamas complained to Egypt that Israel was not keeping its end of the bargain. Al-Nunu said that the Gaza premier would be discussing “the problem of (Palestinian) prisoners (held by Israel) and Hamas-Egypt relations.”
link to www.maannews.net

Hamas: Fatah militant responsible for attack on Fatah leader
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 31 Mar — The gunmen who opened fire at a Fatah leader in Gaza City were recruited by the leader of a Fatah-affiliated militant group, the Hamas-run Ministry of Interior said Sunday. On March 15, masked gunmen riding a motorbike opened fire on senior Fatah leader Jamal Obeid as he left a mosque after Friday prayers. Obeid was hit in the foot. The interior ministry in Gaza said Sunday that the gunmen were arrested within 72 hours of the attack. They told interrogators they were given a handgun and paid to carry out the attack, the ministry said in a statement. The suspects tried to claim they were affiliated to Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades, in video-taped confessions, according to the ministry. The attack was masterminded by the leader of a Fatah-affiliated militant group who has not been arrested yet, the ministry added.
link to www.maannews.net

‘Trade not aid’ focus of new attempt to break Gaza blockade
EI 27 Mar — GAZA CITY (IPS) by Eva Bartlett — “An ark is literally a large floating vessel designed to keep its passengers and cargo safe,” according to the group preparing Gaza’s Ark. But its is z”a vessel that embodies hope that the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip can soon live in peace without the threat of the Israeli blockade.” An initiative by Palestinians in Gaza and international solidarity activists, Gaza’s Ark entails “purchasing a run-down boat from a local fishing family,” said Michael Coleman, a member of Free Gaza Australia and the steering committee for Gaza’s Ark. “The refurbishing will be done by Palestinians in the port of Gaza, and the sailing will be with a mixed crew of Palestinians and internationals,” said David Heap, spokesman for Gaza’s Ark in Canada and Europe. The sailing date has not been announced yet.
link to electronicintifada.net

Israeli cruelty reached a point of no return in the 2008-90 Gaza war / Gideon Levy
Haaretz 31 Mar — There have been crueler military actions, more wicked army operations, but there was never anything quite like the IDF’S Operation Cast Lead — She was standing there screaming, the veins in her neck seeming about to burst. “What’s happened to you − have all of you gone crazy? Who knows what he had in his house, maybe there were weapons there?” The crowd of curious onlookers gathered around her, and they too were shouting: “She’s absolutely right … Garbage! Garbage! That’s what you are.” This scene took place on Saturday, January 17, 2009, on Day No. 21 of the Israel Defense Forces assault on the Gaza Strip known as Operation Cast Lead. It was the penultimate day of the operation. The place: a corridor in the Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, outside Tel Aviv. The occasion: A press conference with Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, a Gaza Strip physician who once worked at Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva, and who the previous day had lost his three daughters and his niece when an IDF shell hit their family home in the Jabalya refugee camp, near Gaza City. It was perhaps the purest, most distilled moment of the entire operation: a moment when Israeli cruelty and hatred reared their heads, without excuses, without any cloak of “security-related” or “love of the Land of Israel” motivations. Pure, undiluted cruelty and hatred, this screaming at a bereaved father, who even in his hour of profound sorrow did not speak hatred, and who has spoken peace ever since his tragedy, as well … Nor was there any parallel when it came to the Israeli public’s response: the sight of the dozens of families sitting on plastic chairs they’d brought from home, perched on the sandy hillocks around the Gaza Strip, full of young and old alike − who came to watch, be proud and maybe even rejoice as clouds of white phosphorous and black smoke rose from the world’s largest prison.
link to www.haaretz.com

Political, economic developments

Palestinian leader clamps down on critics
HUSSAN, West Bank (AP) 31 Mar  — Mahmoud Abbas’ government in the West Bank is getting tougher with critics, interrogating, prosecuting and even jailing several journalists and bloggers in recent months for allegedly “defaming” the Western-backed Palestinian leader. Rights activists say the legal hassles are meant to silence dissent and that the campaign is intensifying despite promises to the contrary by Abbas. Targets of the crackdown include supporters of Abbas’ political rival — the Islamic militant Hamas — and political independents who have written about alleged nepotism and abuse of power in Abbas’ Palestinian Authority.
Abbas’ aides insist the Palestinian leader opposes any curb on expression. They blame overzealous prosecutors and security officials, but government critics say Abbas could easily halt the clampdown.
http://www.salon.com/2013/03/31/palestinian_leader_clamps_down_on_critics/

Hamas grows stronger in West Bank with Israeli ‘help’
RT 31 Mar — Hamas is becoming more popular with Palestinians in the West Bank, which for years had been politically dominated by Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party; Israel may passively contribute to this trend by failing to hold peace talks
link to www.youtube.com

Abbas approves new budget
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 30 Mar — President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday signed off on the budget for 2013 that was approved by Salam Fayyad’s cabinet on Thursday, a legal adviser said. Hassan al-Ouri said the president accepted the budget which was submitted by the cabinet as per a constitutional requirement that it be signed before the end of the month. Al-Ouri added that the president will take into consideration feedback from members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and amend the budget accordingly if necessary.
link to www.maannews.net

Pro-Palestinian march caps alternative world forum in Tunisia
TUNIS (AFP) 30 Mar — More than 15,000 people marched in central Tunis on Saturday chanting support for the Palestinian people, as a week-long anti-globalization forum wrapped up its first-ever meeting in an Arab country. “Land, liberty, dignity,” chanted the marchers as they made their way to the emblematic Habib Bourguiba Avenue — epicenter of the 2011 protests in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring in several Arab capitals. The march on Saturday was organized to coincide with Land Day commemorations in Palestine and parts of Israel to mark the 1976 killing of six protesters demonstrating against Israeli plans to confiscate Palestinian land.
link to www.maannews.net

1st annual National Palestinian Security Conference kicks off in Gaza
[interviews] PressTV 30 Mar — Hundreds of Palestinians and intellectuals from across the Middle East have participated in the first annual National Palestinian Security Conference in the blockaded Gaza Strip. The gathering aims to evaluate Palestinian resistance and governance. It also intends to reactivate political thinking amongst educated people in Palestine. The conference was organized by the Management and Politics Academy for Postgraduate Studies in Gaza. Attendees spoke of the importance of holding this conference nearly four months after Israeli forces waged an eight day war on Gaza.
link to www.presstv.ir

Israel urging Egypt to send back Tel Aviv envoy
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 30 Mar – The Israeli government is exerting efforts to convince Egyptian authorities to send Cairo’s ambassador back to Tel Aviv, the Israeli Broadcasting Authority reported Saturday. Egypt recalled Atif Salim in November 2012 in protest of Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip. The IBA, an official Israeli state broadcaster, quoted “high-ranking” sources as saying that Egypt’s efforts to relocate the Israeli embassy in Cairo were making progress.
link to www.maannews.net

Analysis / Opinion / Reviews

This year’s Land Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing ethnic cleansing / Samira Shackle
MEMO 19 Mar — On 30 March, Palestinians around the world will commemorate Land Day. It marks a day in 1976, when Israeli security forces shot dead six Palestinians and injured around 100 more, as they protested against Israeli expropriation of Arab-owned land in the country’s north … The Palestinians who died that day were not those living in the occupied territories, but citizens of Israel. Land Day serves as a reminder that these citizens – who now number over 1.6 million people, or 20.5 percent of the population – still exist. They face a raft of discriminatory legislation that essentially reduces them to the status of second class citizens. More than 50 laws discriminate against Palestinians in Israel. Among these is a law allowing Jews who lost property in East Jerusalem and the West Bank during 1948 war to reclaim it, but not giving the same right to Arab Israelis who lost property in West Jerusalem or other areas during the same war. Across the world, and particularly in this conflict, land is a singularly vexed and emotional issue. The expropriation of Palestinian land continues unabated in Israel, on both sides of the “Green Line” … The real flashpoints in this year’s Land Day events (which have already got underway) are the Naqab and Jerusalem. In 2011, the US academic and UN investigator, Richard Falk, described the situation in East Jerusalem as “ethnic cleansing” … Just as settlement expansion in the West Bank has the aim of undermining the possibility of a Palestinian state, so land-grabbing within Israel points to a deep-seated discomfort with the mere existence of Arab citizens … ministers in Israel today are comfortable speaking about “population transfers” of Arab citizens, which essentially means forced displacement. The state prevents Arab towns and villages from expanding, meaning that the younger generation has no option but to relocate.
link to www.middleeastmonitor.com

Hooded, hanged and left in agony for hours on end: Palestinian security chief tells how he was tormented ‘suspects’ with MI6’s knowledge … and reveals how Britain helps pay for it with £33m foreign aid
Daily Mail 30 Mar by David Rose — …Nowadays, he adds, the preferred method is termed ‘shabeh’ – the hooding and tying of the prisoner in a variety of agonising positions for up to eight hours. He does not elaborate on the details, but claims: ‘It works with 95 per cent of the subjects.’ It also takes considerable skill: ‘You have to deal with it as if you were playing a guitar. Each case has its own speciality.’ This extraordinary interview is the first admission by a former perpetrator of the widespread torture of Palestinians — not by Israel, but by the Palestinian Authority (PA) which governs the Israeli-occupied West Bank. It was given to me last week in a dusty Palestinian city. Across the table was a well-dressed, middle-aged family man with an infectious smile — a former PA official. He spoke only on the strictest condition of anonymity as he feared becoming a torture victim himself should his identity become public. But he wanted to speak out because he was sure that the ends – a Palestinian state and the defeat of extremism — justify the means. But perhaps the most shocking revelation is that torture sessions still being perpetrated by his former colleagues are financed with Britain’s help. Our taxpayers give £33 million direct to the PA, while £53 million is donated by Britain for various aid projects — more UK aid per head than we give any other nation. Then again, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, which has officers based in Jerusalem, works closely with the Palestinian agencies that carry out the torture, seeing them as sources of valuable intelligence.
link to www.dailymail.co.uk

The bitter herbs of the Mavi Marmara / Oudeh Basharat
Haaretz 30 Mar — The Gaza flotilla incident challenged and embarrassed Israeli policy makers, finally defeating them. This is good for Israel in the long run, demonstrating the futility of living solely by the sword — Don’t belittle the fact that the victims were Turkish. Their nationality keeps the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident high on everyone’s agenda. The Turks have a state, a government, representatives at the United Nations and regional influence. The Palestinians have none of these. The moral lesson to be drawn from this is that if you die in a confrontation, at least be Turkish: never die as a Palestinian (not even as a citizen of Israel). Your death will then be like a grain of salt lost at sea. In October 2000, 13 Arab citizens were shot dead, and the shooters remain in the realm of UFO’s.
link to www.haaretz.com

Film review: Gaza love story triumphs over Israeli obstacles / Sarah Irving
EI 29 Mar — More than 1,000 years ago, in the middle of the Arabian peninsula, Qays ibn al-Mulawwah fell in love with Layla bint Mahdi ibn Saad. He recited poetry expressing his adoration of her, but in naming her continuously and publicly, convinced Layla’s father that he was mad, and so lost the opportunity of her hand in marriage. Layla was married to another man, and theirs became one of the great tragic love stories, a Middle Eastern Romeo and Juliet. It became known as Majnun Layla (Possessed by madness for Layla). In Habibi (My beloved; the full Arabic title Habibi Rasak Kharban translates as Darling there’s something wrong with your head), the American-Syrian-Lebanese filmmaker Susan Youssef transfers the Majnun Layla tale to Gaza in 2001, near the beginning of second intifada. Qays and Layla, both from Khan Younis, have met at Birzeit University in the West Bank. When the Israeli occupation revokes their permits, both have to return home to Gaza and the watchful eyes of their families and community.
link to electronicintifada.net

Obama is missing the real Israel
Salon 21 Mar by Sandy Tolan –Turning away from the military occupation of the West Bank is dangerous for all sides. Here’s why — President Obama’s current three-day trip through the Holy Land has gotten much attention, but his visit is notable for what he won’t see, and apparently doesn’t want to. Consider a territory the size of Connecticut, that’s been around for nearly 47 years, and holds nearly three million people. It’s carved up by hundreds of blockades, barriers, “special security zones,” “closed military areas,” “killing zones,” and roads accessible only to the privileged minority. It features an adult male population where nearly two of every five have been arrested or imprisoned, many without ever being charged. And yet, it remains essentially invisible.I’m talking about the Occupied West Bank, 60 percent of which remains under the full military control of Israel. You’d be forgiven for not knowing, as references in the U.S. to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank have fallen out of favor …How did 47 years of such military domination get relegated to footnote status? How, in a region filled with correspondents, have we come to essentially ignore the expropriation of ten percent of the West Bank to build a separation barrier, the razing of hundreds of thousands of olive trees for “security” purposes, regular military sweeps into ostensibly “autonomous” areas, the detention without charge of hundreds of people at a time, the demolishing of thousands of family homes, the sealing off of the Jerusalem holy sites to nearly all West Bankers, except by special permit, and the military control of more than half of their land base? It’s not as though these issues are never covered; but they’re below the radar, aberrations that are not built into the basics of policy or press coverage.Why? I believe the answer lies in the four-word mantra of U.S. policy and American press coverage of the region: Israelis must feel secure.
link to www.salon.com