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Here are the headlines from Mondoweiss for 04/21/2011:

Vittorio’s missing hours
Apr 20, 2011 10:55 pm | Kate

and other questions from Lia Tarachansky, amid the news from Today in Palestine:

Land, property, resources theft and destruction / Ethnic cleansing / Settlers

On the wrong side of the wall
JERUSALEM (IRIN)  20 Apr -- The one-room school building in the Palestinian village of An Nabi Samwil, near Jerusalem, serves as a classroom for eight pupils, a staff room, storeroom and the principal’s office. During the winter months or on hot summer days, it is also the children’s playground ... The school serves 30 families in the picturesque village, which has panoramic views of Jerusalem and the West Bank. But a major problem for residents is that it is a struggle to reach either, as the village - along with 15 others - lies on the Jerusalem side of Israel’s “Separation Wall”.

Haaretz editorial: Illegal theft of olive trees must be stopped
20 Apr -- The immoral wealthy have a new and tasteless toy: ancient olive trees adorning the gardens of their villas. According to an investigative report by journalist Maya Zinshtein published in the Haaretz Hebrew edition on Monday, for around a decade now, illegal trade in ancient olive trees - including uprooting, stealing and smuggling them from the West Bank into Israel - has been flourishing ... The Haaretz report uncovered suspicions of criminal activities in this regard, along with an ugly greediness for pet trees that has nothing to do with the love of the land and its arboreal species.

Yatta herders fear demolition
HEBRON (Ma’an) -- Villagers in the southern West Bank governorate of Yatta said they feared the imminent demolition of their homes and animal sheds Wednesday, as a demolition order handed out by Israeli forces the week before came into effect ... A dozen tents and animal shelters were listed as illegal by the orders. The majority of buildings set for demolition belong to the families of Mahmoud Abu Taha, Muhammad Abu Taha and Ibrahim Al-Da‘ajneh, the residents said. The demolitions come as UN officials warned of a doubling of home and building demolitions carried out by Israeli forces since the beginning of 2011.

New shelter in Khirbet Samra
JVS 19 Apr -- A new animal shelter has been erected in the Bedouin community at Khirbet Samra, with help from Jordan Valley Solidarity volunteers. Sheep and goats owned by local families have been sleeping outside, or even within homes, since three animal shelters were demolished by the Israeli Occupational Force on 7th April ... In an act of resistance against attempts by the occupational forces to destroy their livelihoods, the Khirbet Samra community erected their new shelter from coffee sacks, wooden poles and sheets of metal.

Settlers attack villager in Burin
ISM 20 Apr -- On Tuesday 19 April in Burin a small village in the West Bank of Palestine, Aby Rusli-Eid, 36 year old Palestinian was savagely attacked by an armed gang of Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal settlement of Arusi. Aby Rusli-Eid is a policeman for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and was attacked at around 6 pm. His house is the closest in the village to the illegal settlement. Aby Rusli-Eid was sat in the living room with his wife and his five children when he heard loud shouting from outside the house, he went outside sure in the knowledge that there were armed settlers nearby but bravely choosing to keep the violence as far away from his home and his family as he could, he closed the door behind him to try and protect them. There were around 20 heavily armed settlers outside, carrying both semi automatic rifles and handguns. Aby was shot twice almost immediately, once in the arm and once in the stomach. He is currently stable and recovering in hospital but whether he will regain the mobility of all of the fingers on his right hand is currently unsure.

Union says three journalists injured near Nablus
RAMALLAH (Ma‘an) 20 Apr 19:29 -- Three journalists were injured Tuesday when Israeli soldiers and settlers attacked them in the Burin village near the West Bank city of Nablus, the Palestinian Journalists Syndicate said Wednesday.

IOF soldiers, settlers storm WB cities, villages
QALQILIA, (PIC) 20 Apr -- Israeli occupation forces (IOF) stormed the city of Qalqilia on Wednesday, detained citizens, and questioned them before handing six of them summonses to the intelligence headquarters ...
The soldiers in Awarta village installed electricity poles east of the village, its municipal council chairman Qaid Awad said in a radio statement. He added that the electricity poles would be used to supply power to a number of settlers' caravans in addition to an army base to be pitched on 1,000 dunums of village lands that were earlier confiscated. Awad warned that the IOA was planning to confiscate 4,000 more dunums of the village land.
Meanwhile, eyewitnesses in Burin village, south of Nablus, said that dozens of Jewish settlers entered the village in buses on Wednesday morning. Locals warned of possible attacks after the settlers on Tuesday assaulted and wounded a farmer. The head of the municipal council in the village said that the settlers were planning to set up a settlement outpost south of Nablus near the village.

Israeli soldiers escort Palestinian children to school / Abdul-Rahman Ubbayat
HEBRON (Ma‘an) 20 Apr -- The unimaginable has a tendency to become acceptable in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In Hebron, in the southern West Bank, many Palestinian families do not send their children to school unless Israeli troops escort them. In Tuba, a small village to the south of Hebron, instead of waiting for the school bus to take them to school, pupils wait for Israeli troops to escort them as they walk to school. Sometimes, the soldiers do not arrive in time, so the pupils just go back home ... families never feel their kids are safe escorted by soldiers whose presence in the area is mainly to protect the settlers. International volunteers are present almost every day documenting abuses against residents and reporting to human rights organizations.

Thousands of Israelis head to nature to celebrate Passover
Haaretz 20 Apr -- Jewish National Fund says it had more than 170,000 visitors to its forests, with cyclists coming out in particularly large numbers this year ... Most of yesterday's visitors to JNF forests favored those in the center of the country, the organization said, with Ben Shemen Park and British Park topping the list. The Aminadav Forest and the ancient agricultural site at Sataf also drew their fair share of day-trippers. [How nice. Forests mostly built on the ruins of ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages]

Turmoil in Syria resonates in Golan
BUKATA, Golan Heights (AP) 19 Apr -- Druse in the Israeli-held Golan Heights have been turning out in thousands in shows of support for Syria’s president as he faces anti-government protests. But the pro-reform wave stirs mixed feelings for the 20,000 Druse, who never stopped seeing themselves as Syrian but have grown up used to freedoms under Israeli rule ... There have been no protests backing Mr. Assad’s opponents. Still, even if residents hold emotional and family ties to Syria and no love for Israeli occupation, there’s little sign of eagerness to live under Mr. Assad’s regime, 43 years after Israel seized the strategic Golan from Syria..

Detention / Exile

Administrative detention / Sawsan Ramahi
20 Apr -- A largely neglected instrument of legal Israeli repression used against the Palestinian people is that of administrative detention. Thousands of men as well as women and children are held indefinitely and under horrendous conditions in detention centres dotted across the occupied territories without charge, access to a fair trial or even having been accused of committing a crime. This renders administrative detainees exceptions to the rules that would govern convicts, placing them outside the normal legal system and procedures and beyond the remit of the Red Cross.

Israel holds Australian accused of Hamas ties
JERUSALEM (AFP) 20 Apr  -- Israel has charged a Palestinian-born dual Australian-Jordanian citizen with links to Hamas after arresting the man as he tried to enter the country through Ben Gurion airport. The arrest was made nearly a month ago, and the man appeared before a district court on Sunday, but his indictment was only made public on Tuesday. A copy of the charges obtained by AFP named the man as Eyad Rashid Abu Arja, born in 1964 in the northern West Bank, and said he was detained on March 24. He has been charged with "belonging to an illegal organization" and "activities on behalf of an illegal organization," in this case Hamas, which is considered a terrorist group under Israeli law.

Israeli Bedouin jailed in Egypt since 1999 appeals for release
Haaretz 20 Apr -- Amnesty International slams Egyptian government treatment of Ouda Suleiman Tarabin, who was arrested after entering Egypt illegally; report says Tarabin never brought before judge or lawyer ... Tarabin, who is a Bedouin, was arrested by Egyptian authorities after entering the country illegally in 1999 to visit his sister, who lives in El Arish in Sinai.

Hamas: PA continues to detain members
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Apr -- Hamas accused Palestinian Authority security forces of detaining four of its members for political reasons during the week, in a statement issued Wednesday morning. Men were detained from Hebron, Nablus and Ramallah, Hamas said calling for their immediate release.

Man found dead in Hamas prison
IMEMC 20 Apr -- On Tuesday, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that Abdel Rizik, 52, died in a Gaza prison. He had been arrested on the previous Thursday. His family were informed by the Gazan police that he had died on Tuesday, but the circumstances of the death are not yet known. The PCHR has demanded that Hamas, which is the de-facto government of the Gaza Strip, investigate the matter as a matter of urgency. Hamas has accepted the need for such an investigation and has stated that Rizik was found dead in his prison cell in mysterious circumstances.

DFLP leader returns to Gaza from Libya
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 20 Apr -- A Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader returned home Wednesday after decades in exile. Ahmad Abed Al-Aziz, 63, a DFLP leader who was barred for 40 years from returning to Deir Al-Balah, lived in Libya until this week. Abed Al-Aziz, who sustained injuries defending refugee camps in Lebanon, was met by a delegation from the secular Palestinian faction after he crossed through the Erez terminal on the Israeli border.


Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz to testify in Corrie trial Wed, April 27th
20 Apr -- Colonel Zuaretz was the commanding officer of the Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade in 2003, when American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed. Troops under Zuaretz command were responsible for the military’s actions resulting in Rachel’s killing in Rafah, Gaza that day. Zuaretz is the highest ranking officer called as a government witness in the civil trial, and possibly, the highest ranking Israeli military officer ever to face cross examination in a civil suit regarding the actions of the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza during the second intifada. His testimony is expected to shed light on the Israeli military’s failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property in the region.

Attorneys accused of conspiring with security prisoners
Ynet 20 Apr --  Four Arab attorneys from northern Israel were arrested over the past few weeks, for allegedly serving as go-betweens for Islamic Jihad security prisoners and the terror group's Gaza Strip headquarters. The attorneys reportedly relayed messages, in the form of missives, between the parties. The communiqués focused on appointments within Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the group's internal hierarchy and its stance vis-à-vis Hamas.,7340,L-4058898,00.html

Activism / Solidarity

Pro-Palestinian activists set sail to 'help' Gaza fishermen ward off Israeli attacks
dpa 20 Apr -- The crew of the Oliva is to be provided with cameras to document activities and 'the suffering of Gaza fishermen in their sea,' says ISM activist -- The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) launched a fishing boat Wednesday with the aim of protecting Gaza fishermen from what they termed Israeli violations, and ending Israel's naval siege of the coastal enclave. Activists from the pro-Palestinian group and local fishermen attended the launch ceremony at a dock in the Gaza Strip.

Hundreds celebrate popular struggle at the opening of the 6th Bil‘in conference
20 Apr -- Dozens of diplomats and senior figures from across the Palestinian political spectrum joined hundreds of activists in the opening of the 6th International Bil’in Conference on Popular Resistance. Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad called for the international community to promote Palestinian self determination. The 6th International Bil’in Conference on Popular Resistance opened today in a festive opening session participated by Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, the recently released protest organizer, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Abbas Zackie of behalf of the PLO, and former Vice President of the European Parliament, Luisa Morgantini.


How much do you know about Gaza? Test your knowledge
How much do you know about Gaza? Test your knowledge with AFU’s new interactive quiz! The quiz has five questions and only takes about one minute to complete.

Gaza crossing reopens briefly
GAZA CITY (Ma‘an) 20 Apr -- ...The crossing is expected to be open Wednesday and Thursday, and close again Friday as Passover celebrations resume. Imports to Gaza have been sporadic over the past weeks, with a seven-day closure imposed in early April, causing shortages of both cooking gas and wheat reserves.

Goods: needs vs. supply Mar 20 - Apr 16

Murder of Vittorio Arrigoni

Chasing ghosts -- questioning the death of Vittorio Arrigoni / Lia Tarachansky
19 Apr -- As many answers and suspicions as I receive, I’m left only with more and more questions. Questions such as -- If he did know the people who kidnapped him, why did he order food from a restaurant shortly before being kidnapped but fail to pick it up? If the kidnappers were Salafi, did they come from the south to Gaza city especially for the operation? If Vittorio disappeared on Thursday, as Hamas alleges, why did he, a man who updated his Facebook status every few hours, stop on Wednesday night at 8:12pm? And in my mind, the most important question remains -- what happened in the hours between when Vittorio went missing and when the world found out about him being gone?

WATCH: Vittorio Arrigoni, a winner
Poignant video of 'Vik' in a WW I cemetery in Gaza - "A winner is a dreamer who never gives up"

WATCH: Hamas commandos take on activist's killers
(VIDEO) – Hamas in action: In an exclusive video by al-Jazeera Television, Hamas commando forces are seen raiding the Nuseirat refugee camp hideout of the three men suspected in killing Italian pro-Palestinian activists Vittorio Arrigoni, last week.,7340,L-4058978,00.html

Interior ministry: Two killers of Arrigoni die in a house raid
GAZA, (PIC) 20 Apr -- The Palestinian ministry of interior said the police attack on Tuesday on the whereabouts of the three men accused of killing an Italian activist was an important lesson for everyone tempted to tamper with the security and stability in Gaza ... Spokesman Ghussein affirmed the policemen acted wisely and responsibly and demanded the suspects to surrender themselves and show no resistance, but they refused to comply and started to open fire at the police force wounding three of its members. Despite what happened the police force showed restraint and brought mediators to the scene including families of the fugitives in order to convince them to surrender and avoid bloodshed, but they, especially Abdulrahman Al-Berizat declined all mediatory efforts and insisted on dying instead of turning themselves in, the spokesman elaborated.

Father of Arrigoni suspect: Hamas killed my son
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) 20 Apr -- The father of a Jordanian man who died Tuesday during a raid on a building in the Gaza Strip suspected of housing the killers of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni says Hamas killed his son. "It does not make sense that he killed himself. Islam forbids that. They killed him," Mohammad Al-Birizit said in Amman, disputing the interior ministry's claim that his son Abdul-Rahman committed suicide. "My son used to read the Koran, pray and fast Ramadan. We do not know what to do now. If we are officially informed of his death, the family will meet to decide," he told the Agence France-Presse news agency.

A crime against Palestine / Wissam Abu Zeid
21 Apr -- The last thing a supporter of the Palestinian cause expects is to be kidnapped and killed in an atrocious way by a 'Palestinian group'.  These supporters started their struggle alongside the Palestinian struggle many years ago. Many of them died for the sake of our freedom, like Rachel Corrie ... As a Palestinian I was shocked to hear that a Palestinian group kidnapped Arrigoni and demanded a ransom to set him free. Those who committed this crime are not Palestinians in patriotism nor in traditions. They are strangers to our struggle and serve a non-Palestinian agenda.

Rights group: Investigate deaths of kidnap suspects
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Apr -- The Palestinian Center for Human Rights called Wednesday for an investigation into the death of two wanted persons killed during an armed clash with security services a day earlier in Gaza. Two suspects in the murder of Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni died and another sustained injuries Tuesday

Political/Diplomatic/International news

Israel intellectuals and artists back Palestinian state
BBC 20 Apr -- Dozens of Israeli intellectuals and artists have signed a petition calling for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders and an end to the occupation. The signatories include 16 winners of the Israel Prize, the country's highest civilian honour. Among them are rights pioneer Shulamit Aloni, historian Yehuda Bauer and sculptor Dani Karavan. The petition also backs the Palestinian drive for recognition by the UN, in the absence of progress in peace talks.

Abbas: Britain and France would recognize Palestinian state
Haaretz 20 Apr -- In interview to Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, Palestinian President says PA seeks to fulfill Obama's vision to see a Palestinian state established in September.

Palestinians: Israeli peace plan 'reinvents occupation'
JERUSALEM (AFP)  20 Apr -- Leaked details of a purported new Israeli peace plan show it to be "a reinvention of Israel's occupation," a senior Palestinian official said on Tuesday. Hanan Ashrawi, a leading member of the PLO, made the remarks after a report suggesting the international community could try to pressure Israel into unveiling a new peace initiative.

Abbas: There will be no new uprising
Ynet 20 Apr -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he is opposed to another armed uprising against Israel, even if faltering peace efforts fail altogether. Abbas told reporters in Tunisia that he remains committed to a US-backed target of reaching a negotiated peace agreement with Israel by September ...  Abbas said whatever happens, he "will not accept" a third armed uprising. He noted last decade's uprising against Israel was "disastrous" for the Palestinians.,7340,L-4058984,00.html

Fatah: Door remains open for Hamas
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 20 Apr – The head of Fatah’s unity delegation said Tuesday that the party would "keep the door open" for Hamas to sign a unity deal, despite the expected announcement of a newly appointed Palestinian Authority cabinet next week.

Other news

Israeli Arabs reject government educational programs
MEMO 20 Apr -- The Follow-up Committee on Arab Education in the 1948-Occupied Territories (Israel) has rejected the Israeli Ministry of Education's plan for the school year 2011-2012; the plan emphasizes the "Jewish and Zionist values" of the state. The Committee called on the ministry to approve the Identity Book issued on the 35th anniversary of Land Day; the book includes basic information on the Arab-Palestinians' 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe), the Kafr Kassam massacre and other key events in the recent history of Palestine. The book also provides definitions and text for Palestinian cultural features, as well as suggestions for 40 educational trips across the country.

Traditions foil fire exit at Jerusalem church
JERUSALEM (AP) 20 Apr -- Thousands of Christian believers will fill the medieval chambers of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem on Saturday for a ritual known as the Holy Fire, packed shoulder to shoulder and holding burning candles as pilgrims have done for centuries. And, as in centuries past, the church will still have only one door and no fire exit. The saga of the emergency exit at the storied church has pitted common sense against religious politics and tradition at one of Christianity's most sacred sites. The winner was never in doubt. Despite dire warnings from Israeli officials, safety concerns have been outweighed by a reluctance to upset a brittle balance of power among the six Christian sects in the Sepulcher. A fire exit still does not exist ... There is only one way out: the front door, which leads to a small stone courtyard. This courtyard is unreachable by ambulances.

Israeli, Palestinian Olympic officials issue pleas for improved ties at meeting
ROME (AP) 20 Apr -- Israeli and Palestinian Olympic officials reaffirmed their desire to build stronger ties Wednesday, but came away without any tangible breakthroughs during a "Sports for Peace" meeting in Italy ... Palestinian Olympic Committee president Jibril Rajoub pushed for Israel to allow Palestinian athletes and coaches more freedom to travel from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and to make it easier for visiting teams to play football friendlies ... Israeli Olympic Committee secretary general Efraim Zinger responded by calling for an end to instances of some athletes refusing to compete against Israelis, and invited the Palestinians to train together for next year's London Games.

LISTEN -- Audio slideshow: Gaza music school
BBC 20 Apr -- The al-Qattan Music School in Gaza is a unique project. It is the only place for children to learn music in the Gaza Strip. The school specialises in Arabic instruments such as the Kanoun and the Oud. The academy was destroyed during the conflict with Israel in January 2009 - but under the leadership of its director, Ibrahim al-Najjar, it has now been rebuilt and the lessons have resumed.

Nablus woman awaiting never-met fiancé in Israli jail
Xinhua 19 Apr -- Ghufran Zamel, 28, from the northern West Bank city of Nablus, always bears a hope to arrange a wedding ceremony with her fiancé who is serving a 48- year sentence in an Israeli jail. Forty-year-old Hassan Salama was a prominent leader of Islamic Hamas movement's armed wing al-Qassam Brigades. He had spent 15 years in jail. Zamel, who was deeply impressed by Salama's character, is eagerly waiting for the moment to see him out from jail soon and get married. Zamel used to be imprisoned for 10 months also for being a Hamas activist. In the jail, she managed to reveal her feelings towards him through mediators.

U.S. human rights report slams Israel's conduct toward asylum seekers
Haaretz 20 Apr -- The 2010 Annual Report on Human Rights, published by the U.S. State Department, sharply criticizes Israel's conduct toward refugees and asylum seekers entering its territory. The report, published shortly before Passover, also takes aim at the Population and Immigration Authority for granting visas to asylum seekers that do not include basic social rights, for preventing Eritrean and Sudanese citizens from acquiring refugee status, and for its "hot return" policy, which allows the army to return illegal immigrants to a neighboring country if 24 hours have not elapsed since their entry.

Analysis / Opinion

Repressing historical truth: a form of slavery / Carlo Strenger
20 Apr -- Israeli children need to know about the Palestinian tragedy in the same way that Australian children need to know about the tragedy of the Aborigines -- Passover's central theme is the transition from slavery to freedom, and every generation needs to reinterpret this theme for its own times. I believe that for Israel and Jews around the world, freedom today means knowing that we need not repress historical truth; that fiddling with the truth is a hallmark of weakness; and that those who try to suppress truth are bound to disappear into the dustbin of history - today, in the age of global communication networks, more than ever.

Itamar murders don't justify stripping Palestinians' rights / Amira Hass
20 Apr -- we must take seriously the words of the former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Brig. Gen. Avichai Ronski, one of the founders of Itamar. Speaking in an interview with the Walla news website, even before the release of the names of the suspects in the murder of the Fogel family, Ronski said: "A village like this, like Awarta, from which the murderers of the Fogel family and of the Shebo family emerged, must suffer as a village. A situation must be created whereby the inhabitants prevent anyone in this village from harming Jews. Yes, it is collective punishment. They must not be allowed to sleep at night, they must not be allowed to go to work, they must not be allowed to drive their cars. There are many ways." Not a single word about the two murderers who came from Itamar or about the Authorities of Law and Order which excelled at not finding the murderers of two other Palestinian farmers who had been shot to death near Itamar.

Palestinians find trade, not an economy / Ray Smith
NABLUS (IPS) 17 Apr -- The Palestinian Authority is preparing to establish a state in near future. But the Palestinian economy remains strongly tied to Israel, and manufacturers are struggling to recover from the second Intifadah.

Israel and Palestine don't need more friends -- but the peace process does / Jonathan Freedland
Guardian 20 Apr -- Roleplaying PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat made me see how easily one slips from problem-solving to point-scoring ... If this is how I behaved after less than 24 hours, no wonder the two sides act the way they do. Gradually I became aware of the enormous gulf that separates those of us who view the conflict from afar -- whether from our perch on liberal newspapers or in well-meaning thinktanks -- from those who have actually to solve the problem. From this distance, the solution might seem painfully obvious: any cool-headed moderate can see where the midpoint between the two sides lies. But that is to reckon without the pressures on the negotiators within their own team, from a public opinion always ready to cry sell-out, and from the US. And that's even before you get to the demands of the other side.

Qana: A lesson still unlearned / Brenda Heard
... on 18 April 1996.  Israeli Forces shelled the compound of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in the village of Qana, Southern Lebanon ... Amnesty International, on its own research, concluded that the attack was knowing and deliberate.  Amnesty states: "the IDF intentionally attacked the UN compound. . . . the bombardment of the UN compound was not the result of an artillery scatter of stray shells which overshot the Hizbullah mortar, as claimed by the IDF, but was the result of a separate barrage of shells aimed at the compound itself. . . . even if the IDF did not have specific information regarding civilians sheltering there, the general information it did possess concerning civilians in UN compounds -- in addition to Israel’s recognition that UN positions as such are not legitimate targets -- should  have been sufficient to prevent such an attack.  The fact that the attack proceeded can only indicate a callous disregard for the protection of civilian lives and therefore a clear breach of the laws of wars prohibitions on directly or indiscriminately targeting civilians."

Palestinian Sam Bahour reviews Fatal Embrace
Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land by Mark Braverman is a courageous book, filled with urgency and hope. In the expanding library of literature that seeks to shine a rational light on the ever-deteriorating situation in Palestine and Israel, Braverman’s contribution has a very particular and useful focus. It speaks personally and intimately to Jews and Christians about the interconnectedness of the roles of their respective faith communities (the "fatal embrace") in the evolution of the ghastly mess in the Holy Land and in what needs to be done to repair it. Along the way, the author demolishes the claim that facing up to the devastation wrought by the Zionist enterprise is somehow anti-Semitic.


Monday: 17 Iraqis killed, 148 wounded
Some Iraqi soldiers are now expressing an eagerness to see U.S. troops stay past a Dec. 31 deadline. Underscoring their belief that security concerns warrant the extension, at least 17 Iraqis were killed dead and 148 more were wounded across the country. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, secret memos are revealing to the public a link between oil companies and British officials in the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. In Baghdad, a pair of suicide bombers detonated two carloads of explosives at the western entrance to the Green Zone. At least 11 people were killed and 19 others were wounded in the early morning bombing....

Tuesday: 10 Iraqis killed, 30 wounded
At least 10 Iraqis were killed and 30 more wounded in violence that included clashes during demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan. As Kurdish authorities banned "unofficial" demonstrations, anti-riot police and Peshmerga fighters broke up new protests in Suleimaniya. At least seven people were wounded in today’s altercations, and gunfire was reported. Some eyewitnesses said that student protesters were among those arrested today. Police also scattered their parents who had gathered demanding information on their children. It is believed the students are in the custody of the Kurdish government. This is the third day of intensified clashes in the province. Protesters have staged almost daily demonstrations since Feb. 17.

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Quick to report Gaddafi’s use of ‘cluster bombs,’ the NYT called white phosphorus a ‘standard, legal weapon’ when Israel dropped it on Gaza
Apr 20, 2011 10:08 pm | Ed Moloney

Editor's note: Ed Moloney has a wonderful post at his site contrasting the New York Times' alacrity in covering the use of cluster bombs by Gaddafi with its coverage of Israel's use of white phosphorus in Gaza during Cast Lead two years ago. Here is a substantial excerpt.

Hats off to The New York Times for being one of the first, if not the first, to report last Friday that Col. Gaddafi’s forces in Libya have been firing cluster bombs into residential neighborhoods of Misurata, the sole city in western Libya still in rebel hands, thereby escalating the possibility of major civilian carnage....

So how did The New York Times cover the deployment of white phosphorous by the IDF in Gaza? Again by way of contrast, the best way to start answering that question is perhaps to look at how one its European rivals covered the same story. The paper in question is The Times of London....

The Times can sometimes rise majestically to the occasion. Its coverage of Israel’s deployment of white phosphorous was one such instance. The paper’s first story appeared on January 5th [2009] under the headline ‘Israel rains fire on Gaza with phosphorous shells’ and two days later, on January 8th, followed that up with a story about the horrifying injuries caused by WP, while noting that the IDF’s official denials that the weapon was in use and identifying the shells as being of US origin: “There is also evidence that the rounds have injured Palestinian civilians, causing severe burns. The use of white phosphorous against civilians is prohibited under international law”. Another story on January 12th provided more detailed evidence of widespread civilian casualties caused by the weapon.

On January 15th, The Times reported that the UNWRA complex in Gaza had been hit by white phosphorous shells and that the UN General Secretary, Ban Ki-Moon had protested to the Israeli government (a counter claim by Israeli PM, Ehud Olmert that his forces had been forced to reply to Hamas attacks was not supported by Goldstone). It continued in terms that left little doubt the paper believed the Israelis to be liars: “The Israeli military has denied using white phosphorous shells in the Gaza offensive, although an investigation by The Times has revealed that dozens of Palestinians in Gaza have sustained serious injuries from the substance, which burns at extremely high temperatures.”

So how did The New York Times compare to its British equivalent? I did a search of the paper’s website and archive and trawled Lexis-Nexis for references in the paper to white phosphorous during Operation Cast Lead. In total there were just five reports and with the exception of the last article, filed after the Israelis had withdrawn from Gaza, the NYT’s references to WP were perfunctory, repeated IDF and Israeli government explanations for its use and made little if any mention of the death and injury caused to Gazan civilians.

The first was a story on January 11th by Ethan Bronner, the Jerusalem bureau chief for the NYT since March 2008. Although the subject had been well reported by The Times of London and other European newspapers up to a week beforehand, Bronner devoted just one sentence to WP in a report that led with Israel’s warnings to Gaza residents about a planned escalation of its incursion. Although Bronner also reported signs of growing international criticism of Israeli tactics and the dangers posed to Gazan civilians, the reference to WP was a meager one that carried echoes of the IDF’s line on its use. He wrote: “Human rights groups are also concerned about the Israeli use of white phosphorous, which creates smoke on a battlefield, at low altitudes or crowded areas, because it can burn like a kind of napalm.”

The second report came on January 16th, five days later and dealt with the shelling of the UNWRA complex. The article dwelt on Israeli doubts about the UN’s neutrality and complaints about its “institutional bias”, carried the IDF claim that its shelling was in response to Hamas fire and devoted just two paragraphs in a 1600 word article to the use of White Phosphorus.

Bylined Isabel Kershner, the story had this to say about the weapon:

Citing agency representatives who were present during the attack, Mr Gunness (a UNWRA spokesman) said three white phosphorous shells had hit the compound, causing fires that raged for hours, an allegation to which the Israeli military did not respond.

White phosphorous is a standard, legal weapon in armies, long used as a way to light up an area or to create a thick white smoke to obscure troop movements. While using it against civilians, or in an area where many civilians are likely to be affected, can be a violation of international law, Israel has denied using the substance improperly. On Wednesday, Hamas fired a phosphorous mortar shell into Israel, but no-one was hurt.

On January 22nd, the day after Israel withdrew from Gaza, The New York Times carried two pieces on WP, one by Ethan Bronner and Alan Cowell which reported that Israel had established a military investigation “to look into the issue” of alleged misuse of WP following allegations reported in what an IDF spokesman called “the foreign press”. It was the first admission by the paper that Israel’s use of white phosphorous had angered and incensed international opinion.

A second piece, solely by Ethan Bronner, finally put a human face to the consequences of white phosphorous use and reported on the ordeal of the Abu Halima family. Five members of the family, four children and their father, had perished in a WP attack over two weeks earlier and the incident had been widely reported, both in The Times of London and other European outlets, but it was only now that The New York Times was giving the story any coverage.

Bronner quoted Sabah Abu Halima, the surviving widow, at length and also doctors who had treated survivors and had seen the horrific injuries up close. One doctor said that in a few cases the damage done by WP was so acute that “seemingly limited burns led to the patients’ deaths.” Sabah Abu Halima’s grief was so profound, she said she wanted to see Israel’s foreign minister and president “burn like my children burned”.

It was a good piece of reporting that well reflected the horrors visited upon Palestinian civilians by Israeli white phosphorous. But it came far too late, like the horse that bolted the stable. It also smacked of catch up by the Gray Lady, as if someone in the New York HQ had realized that the paper really ought to say something about the matter given the level of international concern over Israel’s behavior in Gaza. But by this stage the horse had galloped several fields away.

It could be said in the paper’s defense that The New York Times was hampered, as was all the media, by Israeli government restrictions on media access to the Gaza war zone. Reporters like Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner couldn’t actually report from the ground, could not see the evidence or lack thereof for themselves and couldn’t get to speak to victims like Sabah Abu Halima, much less look into her eyes as she voiced her allegations. All their reports, bar the second Bronner piece on January 22nd, carried the Jerusalem dateline. Only when the IDF had evacuated could Ethan Bronner get into Gaza to speak to Palestinians.

That all sounds reasonable except for one thing. Like the NYT, The Times of London’s reports were all datelined Jersualem and for its detailed coverage of events on the ground in Gaza the paper seemingly relied on local stringers. And it managed to report in considerable detail both the use of WP and the devastating injuries being caused. So what about The New York Times? Did the paper have someone on the ground in Gaza and if so, why didn’t its coverage match its English counterpart?

Well yes, the paper did have someone on the ground in Gaza. Her name was Taghreed El-Khodary, a Palestinian journalist and she was the paper’s local correspondent, able to go places and speak to people inaccessible to Bronner and Kershner. On January 19th, 2009, she featured in a lengthy readers’ Q&A session reported in the Lede blog on the NYT website where she was asked about evidence that she had seen about the use of WP. She replied, inter alia: “I could find evidence of the use of white phosphorus bombs……As a result, we wrote about the use of the phosphorus. Israel used white phosphorus in densely populated areas.”

Ms El-Khodary may well have written about white phosphorous but if so, her reports about its use, the evidence she had found and her assertion that the weapon was used in “densely populated areas” never appeared in her paper, at least no edition available in any archive that I could search.

In all of this, it may entirely be a coincidence that the NYT’s Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner has what many would see as a major conflict of interest. He is married to an Israeli citizen and his son is a soldier in the Israeli army. Philip Weiss in his Mondoweiss blog reported on The New York Times response when Bronner’s background became known: “When it broke the news last year, Electronic Intifada said that it was a conflict of interest; and the newspaper’s public editor concurred; he said that Bronner should be reassigned to some other beat. The Times’ executive editor, Bill Keller, has kept Bronner in Jerusalem, presumably hoping that the issue dies down and no one says anything about it.” (Taghreed El-Khodary resigned when the NYT refused to reassign Bronner and spoke of her “disappointment” at the paper’s decision). The NYT’s other Jerusalem-based correspondent Isabel Kershner is an Israeli citizen.

Perhaps it is unfair to suggest that such considerations would or could affect how a journalist covers a particular story or how a newspaper should regard his or her stories. But put it this way. If CJ Chivers was a Libyan citizen, or was married to one, and had a son who was fighting for the rebels in Benghazi and all this was known to the world, would The New York Times have been just as quick to publish his story about Gaddafi’s use of cluster bombs, just as confident that it could weather the inevitable controversy?

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Glickism and Feithism
Apr 20, 2011 09:46 pm | Scott McConnell

Caroline Glick was on Capitol Hill, giving a speech at the Center for Security Policy national security luncheon, along with Douglas Feith and new congressman Allen West.

Really quite a performance.  I thought it was bad to see David Horowitz calling the Palestinians "Nazis" at Brooklyn college, but here we have Caroline calling Nasserism and Nazism identical in a Congressional hearing room.  I'm glad she's worried over the general situation. Oh, and the "we used to call the Iran-Iraq war the blessed war...may it go on for a hundred years." Sweet.

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New database reveals weapons to Israel, impact on Palestinians
Apr 20, 2011 04:38 pm | Josh Ruebner

Last week, Congress finally got around to finalizing the 2011 budget, which included a record-breaking appropriation of $3 billion in military aid to Israel (not including an additional $415 million in Pentagon funding for joint U.S.-Israeli missile defense projects).This money was the third installment of a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding signed by the United States and Israel to provide Israel with $30 billion in U.S. military aid from 2009-2018, an annual average increase of 25% over previous levels. 
It is well-known that Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid and that U.S. weapons provided to Israel make the United States intricately, deeply, and comprehensively complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses of Palestinians. However, until now, the extent of U.S. weapons transferred to Israel and the direct relationship between these weapons and Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians has been difficult to detail.  
Not any longer. To coincide with Tax Day, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation launched a new website: How Many Weapons to Israel? to catalogue and quantify the types, values, and quantities of U.S. weapons transferred to Israel between 2000-2009. Even for someone like myself who works everyday to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel and follows the issue closely, the results of our research are eye-popping. The sheer magnitude of weapons given to Israel is staggering; the devastation caused to Palestinians by these weapons is heart-breaking. Our research shows that during the past decade, the United States provided Israel with more than 670 million weapons and related equipment, valued at nearly $19 billion, through three major weapons transfer programs.  In our database, we detail more than 500 different weapons categories, along with the value and quantity of each type of weapon transferred to Israel.

How Many Weapons to Israel? paints a disturbing picture of the extent to which the United States is saturating Israel with weapons.  Take just one example: in the last three years alone, the United States has provided Israel with enough ammunition (47 million pieces) to kill every Palestinian in the Occupied Territories more than ten times over!  What a truly frightening thought.   
If Israel were using these weapons for their intended purpose under U.S. law, which is restricted to “legitimate self-defense” and “internal security,” then perhaps these weapons transfers would raise only fiscal concerns.  However, How Many Weapons to Israel? also makes clear the moral and political implications of arming Israel.   
From September 2000-December 2009, roughly the same period during which the United States transferred these weapons to Israel, the Israeli military killed at least 2,969 Palestinians who took no part in hostilities, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. How Many Weapons to Israel? demonstrates the direct correlation between Israel’s killing of Palestinian civilians and types of weapons provided to it by the United States.  Returning to the example of ammunition, the database reveals that Israel killed 1,931 unarmed Palestinians, including 735 children, with small arms gunfire.   
The US Campaign launched this website, as part of its ongoing organizing campaign to end U.S. military aid to Israel, to provide incontrovertible and irrefutable evidence that Israel is misusing U.S. weapons to commit grave human rights abuses against Palestinians in violation of U.S. and international law.   

With easy-to-use slideshows and spreadsheets, the US Campaign intends for How Many Weapons to Israel?to be used by activists to raise awareness about the moral and political costs of arming Israel with our tax dollars. 
This new website is designed as a complement to our sister website How Much Military Aid to Israel? which reveals the budgetary trade-offs involved in arming Israel.  On that website, viewers can use our interactive map to find out how much money their city, county, Congressional district, and state provide in weapons to Israel, and which unmet social needs could be funded instead with this money.                     
Both websites are designed as interactive tools for activists to use in their communities to educate people about the financial, moral, and political costs of transferring weapons to Israel. Activists can also sign up to receive an organizing packet from the US Campaign to be a part of our ongoing campaign to end U.S. military aid to Israel.   
And, after viewing these websites, if you are as outraged at this misuse of our taxes as I am, then you can join with me in “offsetting” the estimated $21.59 you just gave Uncle Sam for weapons to Israel this year by making a tax-deductible contribution to support the work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 350 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality.  He is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service.

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Bisharat discusses Goldstone and ‘litigating Palestine’
Apr 20, 2011 04:37 pm | Adam Horowitz

George Bisharat talks with the Institute for Palestine Studies about the Goldstone Op-Ed and the controversy surrounding the "Litigating Palestine" conference, which he helped organize at the University of California's Hastings College of the Law.

The Bisharat interview follows up on his San Francisco Chronicle article "Israeli intimidation brings shift in Gaza report." In that article he writes:

[Goldstone] now maintains that, had he seen data later revealed by Israeli military investigations, the "report would have been a different document." Of the al-Samouni family compound bombing that killed more than 20, Goldstone wrote last week: "The shelling of the home was apparently the consequence of an Israeli commander's erroneous interpretation of a drone image, and an Israeli officer is under investigation for having ordered the attack." He then expressed confidence that the Israeli military's self-investigations would lead to fair results, opining that "they also indicate that civilians were not intentionally targeted as a matter of policy." He thus adopts the Israeli position that any misdeeds during the Gaza assault were caused by individual deviants, not by policies or rules of engagement ordered by military leaders.

Yet the original report never accused Israel of widespread deliberate attacks on civilians, and thus Goldstone retracted a claim that had never been made. Most of its essential findings remain unchallenged.

Goldstone's newfound confidence in the Israeli military's self-investigations is inexplicable. The Goldstone Report itself concluded that they "do not comply with international standards of independence and impartiality." Another body of U.N. experts led by retired New York Supreme Court Justice Mary McGowan Davis found, "there is no indication that Israel has opened investigations into the actions of those who designed, planned, ordered and oversaw Operation Cast Lead."

Hence nothing should impede the progress of the Goldstone Report through the United Nations system, including, ultimately, to the International Criminal Court. Israel's impunity from international law must end not only to provide justice to its victims - but also to promote durable peace in the Middle East.

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Solidarity with the Enemy: A Passover message from Egypt to Israel
Apr 20, 2011 01:19 pm | Mohammad Talat

Maikel Nabil is an Egyptian citizen and blogger who was arrested from his home on March 28th and sentenced on April 10th by a secretive military tribunal to 3 years of imprisonment for the dubious charge of “insulting the army.” This is a grave violation of multiple human rights and a betrayal to the objectives of the Egyptian people’s revolution. This sentence must be overturned regardless of what one thinks of Nabil’s writings or of his politics. Patriotism cannot be invoked to defend injustice.

Nabil is infamous for a number of pronouncements. He is a self-declared “pro-Israel activist,” describes himself as a conscientious objector and called for ending compulsory military service in Egypt. His blog is peppered with postings which makes up in audacity for its lack of coherence and proper language. On February 4, he uploaded a YouTube video asking his “Israeli friends” to support the Egyptian people’s demand for democracy, because “democracy, human rights, and women rights are basic Israeli values,” vowing that it is “not a revolution of the Muslim Brotherhood.” He promised that this would end the cold peace and usher in a new era of real peace, concluding that “democracies do not fight each other.” Like other Nabil pronouncements, it contained a kernel of truth distorted by his trademark radicalization.

By unjustly imprisoning Maikel Nabil, the Egyptian army megaphoned his simplistic rantings and elevated him from a small-time provocateur to a prisoner of conscience honored by Global Voices and Democracy Now! As a result, I and many others hurried to read his postings for the first time. In post-Mubarak Egypt, I like to think that dissent gets treated by reason, not silencing. Maikel Nabil deserves a live TV interview, not a prison cell. In an Aswani-style, exchange, I’d like to see how he’d reconcile his praise of Israel’s democratic values with its reality of systematic ethnic discrimination; his claim of pacifism with Israel’s perpetual militarism; his call for abolishing the one-year mandatory service for non-exempt Egyptian male college graduates, in which their time and dignity are wasted running errands for commanding officers, with Israel’s 2-3 year service for all high-school graduates, male and female, in which their innocence is wasted humiliating and shooting at innocent civilians. The credibility of Maikel Nabil’s grip on reality should stop there and then.

As I stand in solidarity with Maikel and feel unthreatened by his incomprehensible worldview, I wish like him that more Israelis had taken a similar stand with the Egyptian revolution. Indeed, a few activists I know organized small rallies, wrote articles, and one built e website to collect solidarity images from around the world. However, Israeli civil society largely missed the train of the Tahrir phase in the Egyptian revolution. Their opportunity is not totally lost in the rebuilding phase, though.

Let me be clear, the only meaningful way in which Israelis can build bridges with post-Mubarak Egypt is one based on invoking justice, not power. This excludes any involvement of the Israeli state establishment or its agencies. I cannot tell others what they can do, but I can make a few suggestions. Cross-border work is toxic at the moment. Israeli solidarity action has much better chances to flourish by working to pressure the Israeli government, e.g. to come clean and pay reparations for the murders of Egyptian POWs in the six-day war of 1967, for the subsequent pillaging of Sinai resources, for the bombing of Bahr El-Baqar primary school in 1970, and push for renegotiating the Camp David accords which most Egyptians regard as instituting an unfair and undignified power dynamic.

A better advice for Israelis is to learn from the Egyptian revolution; how Egyptians -Muslim, Christian, Secular, Nubian, Sinawi, Salafi, Feminist…- came together and proved that the power of the people is stronger than the people in power’s ability to manipulate their fears and play them against one another. All over the region, the Arab peoples are shaking off regimes which for long have benefitted from extending the status quo –whether pro-Western (Mubarak), anti-Western (Assad), unclassifiable (Gaddafi) or everything in between. Even the Palestinians under occupation are mobilizing to unseat their sad excuse for leadership. Soon enough, Israel may become the only hyphenated democracy among its neighbors. What better time for Israelis –Ashkenaz, Sefardi, Mizrahi, Orthodox, Russian, Arab, Druze, Bedouin…- to take inspiration and reject the racist fear-mongering apparatus which rules them, then extend a blood-free hand to their neighbors in search of a just, humble, and true peace?

On Passover, I usually fast to celebrate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. Wouldn’t it feel right to celebrate one day the deliverance of the Israelis  through Egypt? Since January 25th, 2011 millions of Egyptians have taken their fate in their hands and are on the march with it. Seize the day, take yours, and come meet us down the road.

Mohammad Talat is an assistant professor of civil engineering at Cairo University and a UC Berkeley alum.

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Remember Lebanon?
Apr 20, 2011 11:16 am | Jeff Klein

You know, Lebanon – that small Middle East country wracked by a generation of bloody civil wars, the scene of periodic Israeli invasions and massacres, the battle ground for foreign armies. These days, when upheavals are rocking the Arab world in a crescent of unrest from Morocco to the Persian Gulf, you have to search hard for any news about Lebanon.

On our way to Palestine my son and I spent a week in and around Beirut earlier this month, visiting friends and taking stock of the political scene. We observed only faint reflections of “The Arab Spring” breaking out in most other countries of the region.

Unlike most of its neighbors, Lebanon has a constitutional parliamentary regime -- even if a uniquely fragmented and dysfunctional one. There are elections, within the country’s own peculiar system of confessional (ethno-religious) party politics, and, at least since the 1990 Taif Agreement, a more or less non-violent (or at least mostly without large-scale fighting) succession of governing coalitions. This does not necessarily produce a situation of political calm, but there is also no overtly dictatorial system or single authoritarian leader to unite the people in opposition and mass revolutionary action, as in other Arab states.

In fact, the country, still deeply divided along sectarian lines, has coalesced into two rival blocks formed around the question of Syrian (and Iranian) involvement in Lebanon: “March 8,” led by Shi’ite Hezbollah and some other Muslim and Christian supporters; “March 14,” centered around Saad Hariri’s (mostly Sunni) Future Movement and the Maronite right wing. When Walid Jumblatt’s Druze-based Socialist Party switched its parliamentary votes from March 14 to March 8 earlier this year, Hariri’s government fell, but the Hezbollah coalition designated Prime Minister Najib Miqati has so far been unable to form a government.

Meanwhile, all political players are awaiting the release of the report by the UN Special Tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri (Saad’s father). Leaks have suggested that some Hezbollah members will be named and this prospect has been further polarizing Lebanese politics – and public anxiety.

Into this mix, the Left, some sectors of the secular public and many students have been attempting to catch the wave from Tunisia and Egypt with a campaign to change the ethno-religious system of the Lebanese constitution. Activists have staged a series of marches in Beirut and elsewhere under the rubric of “The Campaign to Abolish the Confessional System.”

On Sunday, March 27, we watched a few hundred protestors in Beirut marching from Nabih Berri’s house in Ain at-Tineh, past Hariri’s headquarters near the new “Downtown” and on to Jumblatt’s residence in Clemenceau. Later that day, a much larger crowd of perhaps 5000 marched from Amchit (the hometown of Prime Minister Michel Suleiman), on the coast north of Beirut, to the largely Maronite center of Jbail (Byblos) a few miles down the road.

Echoing the mass protests seen on TV from Egypt, the Lebanese marchers chanted local versions of the slogans first heard in Cairo: As-Shab Yureed Asqat in-Nezzam at-Ta’ifi (“The People Demand the End of the Confessional System”) and, occasionally, Thawra, Thawra (“Revolution, Revolution!”)

Our Leftist friends are hopeful, but experienced observers of the Lebanese scene do not see much likelihood of the anti-Confessional movement really sparking fundamental change. The marches are continuing, but the politics of ethnic and religious segmentation – with deep roots of ethnic loyalty as well as consequences for patronage and jobs -- seems too entrenched in Lebanese society for dramatic change anytime soon. On the evening before we departed Beirut for Amman, we observed a few lonely activists preparing to bed down in a protest tent of the kind which grew into a revolutionary encampment in Cairo. But this was clearly no Tahrir Square.

Meanwhile, the 300-400,000 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon continue to inhabit squalid heir refugee camps, shut out from most educational opportunities, decent jobs and housing. After a brief flurry of hope last summer that a Hezbollah-led parliamentary majority might pass legislation to provide the Palestinians with some basic civil and economic rights in Lebanon, the bill that actually passed effected little practical change. It seems the only thing that most sectors of Lebanese society can agree on is that they wish the refugees would leave, or at least stay out of sight. Even the low-paid jobs in construction and other sectors that used to be filled by Palestinian refugees are now held by the omnipresent immigrant Syrian workers. Palestinians who succeed in obtaining work in the professions legally denied to them are paid “under the table” and grossly exploited.

In fact the hope expressed by most Palestinians we met was for emigration to the Gulf, Canada or Latin America. Given that the prospect of returning to their villages in 1948 Israel – which in some cases they can see across the border from the hills of Southern Lebanon – is increasingly remote, for many refugees that may be their only option with a future.

Within Israel and the Occupied Territories the current state of politics among Palestinians gives little ground for optimism or good prospects for mass mobilization any time soon – despite some inspiring and valiant local struggles among the villages resisting the wall and settlement encroachment.

Today’s BBC website features of graphic of “Middle East Protests: Country By Country.” Lebanon and Palestine are absent from the map. As revolutions seethe across the region, who would have imagined that Lebanon – and Palestine – would be considered the quietest places in the Middle East?

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US funding Syrian opposition?
Apr 20, 2011 11:09 am | Seham

And more news from the Arab uprisings:

Syrian security police cheif in Banias removed-group
AMMAN, April 20 (Reuters) - The head of the security police in the restive Syrian city of Banias has been removed from his post, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday, citing sources in Damascus.

Syrian opposition figure arrested in Homs
Mahmuod Issa held while students in Aleppo reportedly stage protest, a day after ministry says rallies must be licensed.

Syrian reform pledges ring hollow as more protesters killed
The concessions now being made by the Syrian government have been achieved at a very heavy cost in human lives. Syria’s President must back up his pledge to introduce reforms with immediate, concrete action to end the continuing wave of killings of protesters by his security forces, Amnesty International said today.

Syria Lifts Emergency Law as Protesters Come Under Fire in Syrian City of Homs
Syrian police reportedly opened fire and used tear gas today on thousands of anti-government protesters who occupied a key square in the Syrian city of Homs. More than 10,000 protesters gathered there Monday after funerals for an estimated 25 activists killed over the weekend. They demanded the immediate lifting of Syria’s longstanding emergency laws, the release of political prisoners, and the immediate resignation of President Bashar al-Assad. Meanwhile, newly released diplomatic cables from the online whistleblower WikiLeaks show the United States has secretly financed Syrian opposition groups and activities since at least 2005. We speak with Bassam Haddad, director of the Middle East Studies Program at George Mason University. [includes rush transcript]

Cal Perry reports from Syria
After a night of protest turned violent, several people in the Syrian city of Homs were left injured. With gunfire reported at a sit-in protest on Monday night, demands that President Bashar al-Assad have been growing. Al Jazeera's Cal Perry, reporting from Damascus, has the latest.

Inside Story: US funding Syrian opposition?
Cables released by Wikileaks have revealed that the US has been financing the Syrian opposition. The reports claim the US State Department has given at least $6 million for anti-government programmes in Syria. The money was allegedly given to the Movement for Justice and Development, which is a Syrian opposition group based in London. Reformist satellite channel Barada TV is also said to have also received funding. This all comes as 20,000 demonstrators gathered in Homs demanding Bashar al-Assad step down - a move his government claimed amounted to "armed insurrection". Demonstrators claim troops loyal to al-Assad opened fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd forcibly. Inside Story, with presenter Dareen Abughaida, discusses with guests: Nadim Shehade, from the Middle East Programme at Chatham House; and Malik al-Abdeh, a memeber of the Syrian Movement for Justice and Development, also editor-in-chief of Barada TV. This episode of Inside Story aired on Tuesday, April 19, 2011.

Bahraini man on trial for alleged ties to Iran (AP)
AP - A Bahraini man is on trial in the tiny Gulf kingdom for alleged ties to Iran.*

'Bahrain police abduct 6 female teachers'

Bahrain police have abducted six female teachers from school in Muharraq following the regime's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Bahrain arrests more doctors, opposition says (Reuters)
Reuters - Bahrain has detained a number of doctors and other medical staff as part of a crackdown on mainly Shi'ite pro-democracy protesters in the Sunni-led Gulf Arab kingdom, the opposition and an activist said on Tuesday.*

Mosques razed in Bahrain's Bu Quwah
Amid growing clampdown on Bahrain's anti-government protesters, police have reportedly destroyed mosques in northern city of Bu Quwah. Police also arrested people in the city on Tuesday, witnesses said.Also on Tuesday, tanks, armored vehicles and thugs attacked the western town of Eker.Earlier on Monday, Saudi-backed Bahraini forces demolished two more mosques.

Saudis offer to 'expand' arms deal in return for more Washington's mumnesia
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, April 19 (UPI) -- As Saudi Arabia's confrontation with Iran swells amid claims Tehran is exploiting political turmoil in the Arab world, Riyadh reportedly has offered to expand its $60 billion arms deal with Washington to keep it on the kingdom's side.... Middle Eastern sources said the Saudis offered to expand that deal when U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Riyadh April 6.... Gates flew to Riyadh seeking to patch things up with King Abdallah, and concluded (in Riyadh min you! that there was indeed "evidence" of Iranian interference in Bahrain. This fitted neatly into Riyadh's allegations of Iranian efforts to stir up Sunni-Shiite animosity in a centuries-old religious schism and to usurp the Sunni states of the region. The Americans' abandonment of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, leading to his resignation as president, alarmed Riyadh. It feared that signaled Washington might ditch the Saudis too one day. "This growing sense of isolation prompted the Saudi leadership to invoke its ultimate reserves of influence in Washington -- the Pentagon," Indian analyst M. K. Bhadrakumar noted in Asia Times Online... Bhadrakumar, a former ambassador to the Soviet Union, Kuwait and others, maintained that a "long-standing objective of the Saudi national security strategy remains … to exercise its quasi-hegemony in the Arabian Peninsula."

How Bahrain's crackdown is pushing both sides to extremes
By cracking down on dissent and refusing to negotiate with the opposition, Bahrain's ruling monarchy has pushed some protesters into the arms of more hardline groups.

Hassan Alama, "The Revolution of Anger" (Music Video)
"To the arrogant rulers, say No! O Bahrain, never fear! A revolution of the people, and a cry for their rights. I am an Arab and will avenge your blood." Hassan Alama is a Lebanese nasheed singer.

If you're a Bahraini, protesting in the UK can have 'grave consequences'
After a student protest I lost my scholarship for taking part in an 'illegal' demo and was threatened by my education ministry. I'm a Bahraini student doing my final year in mechanical engineering at a university in Britain. Last month I participated in a protest of solidarity with my people, family, and friends in Bahrain. It took place in front of the BBC building in Manchester. The protest was peaceful, and most of the demonstrators were holding Bahraini flags. We were supporting the call for democracy, equal rights and constitutional reform that promotes basic human rights and peaceful coexistence between all religious and ethnic communities in the kingdom. Three days after the protest my family received a phone call from the ministry of education in Bahrain telling them that my scholarship had been revoked. My family inquired about the reasons and justifications for this decision but nothing was mentioned apart from the fact that I had taken part in an illegal demonstration against Bahrain and that I violated the rules of the ministry of education.

Egypt report depicts violence that killed 846
The head of a fact-finding commission says former President Hosni Mubarak, now detained, was at least indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of protesters at the hands of security forces. A new Egyptian government investigation into the nearly-three-week revolution that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak in February paints a sinister portrait of a desperate police state relying on snipers, thugs and other forces that led to the deaths of at least 846 people.,0,4635815.story

Egyptian Soldiers Join Protest Demanding End to Military Dictatorship

O Zionists: cry for Mubarak non-stop
"The state-owned Middle East News Agency reported on Sunday that Israel's ambassador to Cairo, Itzhak Levanon, has left the country on his way to Tel Aviv for a visit that will last several days.  The agency gave no details on the reasons behind the departure, which comes nearly one week after dozens of Egyptians organized a protest outside the Israeli Embassy to demand the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador.  The demonstrators had gathered on Friday, 8 April outside the embassy in Giza to protest against the air strikes and artillery shells launched by the Israeli military into the Gaza Strip. The raids on Thursday, 7 April killed ten people, including two women, and injured nearly 48 others.  The protesters said the Egyptian people will stand in solidarity with their Palestinian brothers until they gain their freedom and declare their own state."

Zionists will freak out some more
"Iran and Egypt's new government signaled Monday they were moving quickly to thaw decades of frosty relations, worrying the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia that the overtures could upset the Mideast's fragile balance of power.  Iran said it appointed an ambassador to Egypt for the first time since the two sides froze diplomatic relations more than three decades ago, the website of the Iranian government's official English-language channel, Press TV, reported late Monday.   Also Monday, officials at Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that new foreign minister Nabil Elaraby is considering a visit to the Gaza Strip—an area controlled by Hamas, a militant Palestinian Islamist group backed by Tehran and until now shunned by Cairo."

Arab Awakening - The fall of Mubarak
A day-by-day account of how a protest became a people's revolution and brought down one of the most durable leaders in the Arab world.


LIBYA: Fleeing violence in Adjabiya
BENGHAZI, 20 April 2011 (IRIN) - The Libyan city of Ajdabiya, 120km south of Benghazi and one of the closest urban areas to the frontline where armed opposition fighters are battling government troops, has turned into a ghost town because most of the residents have fled, eyewitnesses said.

Libyan opposition fortifies Ajdabiya
Opposition forces are fortifying their gains in the eastern town of Ajdabiya. But without NATO air strikes, they say they are struggling to advance on government strongholds. Al Jazeera's Sue Turton has more from Ajdabiya.

NATO says it cannot stop shelling of Libyan city of Misrata
Britain to send advisory team to opposition forces in Banghazi but will not supply weapons to rebels; EU proposes deploying armed force to ensure delivery of humanitarian supplies; World Food Program already bringing food for 50,000 people.

Libyan rebels on front line frustrated by stalemate
Fighters are stuck in Ajdabiya, on the border of eastern and western Libya. They could be there for a while.,0,2229363.story

Misurata rebels show ingenuity in Libya war
Young gangs living on borrowed time use wits and captured weapons to protect streets from Moammar Kadafi's forces. The five rebel gunmen crept tensely along the side road's shuttered storefronts, past the dark furniture shop with the broken windows and the streetlamps decorated with plastic flowers. Perpendicular to them was Tripoli Street, the heart of Misurata, where Moammar Kadafi's snipers hide in office buildings and rake the city with bullets.,0,4003433.story

Libya mortar shells land in Tunisia - report
TUNIS, April 19 (Reuters) - Four mortar shells fired from Libya fell across the border into Tunisia on Monday, Tunisian state news agency TAP said on Tuesday, quoting the Defence Ministry. Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are fighting rebels in the remote western region bordering Tunisia, residents say, and thousands of people have poured across the border over the last week fleeing the violence. TAP said the shells fell in an isolated area near the town of Dehiba in southern Tunisia. No one was wounded, it added.

Potential EU military role in Libya
Facing humanitarian crisis in Misurata, European nations could send up to 1,000 soldiers into Libya to help deliver aid. The troops could only operate with a specific UN mandate, said Baroness Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign and security policy chief. Baroness Ashton spoke to Al Jazeera's Folly Bah Thibault in our Doha newsroom.

Former Libyan Diplomat on His Defection and Call for Intensification of NATO Operations
NATO intervention in Libya has been ongoing for four weeks, and the country appears locked in a military stalemate. We are joined by Ibrahim Dabbashi, the Libyan deputy ambassador to the United Nations who defected after Gaddafi’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters and now represents the Transitional National Council of Libya. “[Gaddafi] is leaving,” says Dabbashi, “but how long he will stay in power, this is the question... If the operations of NATO intensify with the coming back of the U.S., I think it will take only some weeks. But if it continues at the same level as it is now, I think it will take some months.” [includes rush transcript]

Misurata school turns to battleground
A playground has turned into a battlezone in Misurata. Gun battles have been taking place in a school in the besieged town. Al Jazeera's Mike Hanna reports.

Inside Story: Siege of Misrata

Opposition under seige in Misurata

Libya's postponed democracy
Larbi Sadiki examines the liberation movements in Libya, both internal and external, and how they benefit civic life.

The Libyan mission is creeping, no doubt
With Britain sending a 'military liaison advisory team' to Libya, how many more boots on the ground will follow? Mission creep is an unpleasant condition brought on by a surfeit of military ambition and lack of self-knowledge. Symptoms include fantasy-like delusions such as the highly contagious belief, known as Sarkozy-itis, that the sufferer alone knows what's best for the world. This is typically followed by cold sweats and hot flushes when political reality proves otherwise. Mission creep is not treatable and hindsight is the only cure. It usually ends in disaster.


UN council members call for restraint in Yemen
UNITED NATIONS, April 19 (Reuters) - Members of the U.N. Security Council called for restraint and political dialogue in Yemen as the 15-nation body discussed the violence there for the first time on Tuesday, diplomats said.

UNICEF says 26 children killed in Yemen protests
UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado said Tuesday that most of the children killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government demonstrators died of wounds from live ammunition.

Yemen Police Fire On Protesters, Killing Three
SANAA, Yemen -- Yemeni security forces opened fire on anti-government protesters on Tuesday, killing at least three amid rising international concern over the strategically located nation. The United Nations Security Council was scheduled to meet later Tuesday to discuss the deteriorating situation in Yemen, where rights groups say two months of protests calling for the president to step down have claimed 120 lives.

UN meets on Yemen amid continuing violence
Police kill at least four people and wound hundreds, as UN Security Council holds first meeting to discuss crisis.

Other Mideast/Analysis
Tunisian Court Drops Case at Heart of Protests
A Tunisian court dropped charges Tuesday against a policewoman whose dispute with a fruit vendor sparked a chain of events that unleashed uprisings around the Arab world.

Baghdad protest ban is undemocratic: Sadr (AFP)
AFP - Radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Wednesday blasted a ban on public rallies in the Iraqi capital, saying it was "undemocratic" and based on fear of rising protests.*

Saudi Arabia: Dissident Writer Arrested
(Munich) - Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch urged the interior minister, Prince Nayef bin Abd al-?Aziz Al Sa'ud, to order the immediate release of peaceful dissidents, including Nadhir al-Majid, a writer and teacher arrested on April 17.
Allies of Saudi Arabia have not publicly protested these serious and systematic violations. The European Union foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on April 18 that she had been "very pleased" with her two-day visit to Riyadh and made no public comments about the political prisoners. Neither Tom Donilon, the US national security adviser who visited Riyadh on April 13, nor Robert Gates, US defense secretary who visited on April 6, publicly commented on the kingdom's human rights violations.

UAE's repression
"The arrest of Nasser bin Ghaith, a lecturer at the Abu Dhabi branch of the University of Paris IV (Paris-Sorbonne) who has participated in the Doha Debates, a respected regional political forum, leaves observers asking what freedoms the academics working at new Western branch campuses in the emirates will enjoy. "Are professors only protected in the 90 minutes when they are giving seminars, and after that they are fair game?" asks Samer Muscati, a researcher on the United Arab Emirates for Human Rights Watch.  Human Rights Watch and the New York chapter of the American Association of University Professors have called on the New York University administration to publicly ask for the release of Mr. bin Ghaith and three other political activists who have been detained. The latest arrest occurred on Friday, according to a group known as the Gulf Discussion Forum.   "As the foreign university with the largest and most visible presence in the U.A.E., the NYU administration should speak out firmly against these violations of basic rights," said a letter signed by the leaders of the New York chapter of the American Association of University Professors, including Andrew Ross, a professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University."

Conspiracies, conspiracies
The conspiracy that the Bahrain regime is blaming for protests in Bahrain is different from the conspiracy that the Syrian regime is blaming in Syria. By the way, our statement in support of the Syrian people upset many people. People tell me about a Saudi conspiracy.  Yes, there is a Saudi conspiracy against Syria but the Syrian regime refuses to even accuse Saudi government so it talks about unidentified external hands.  But more importantly, even in the presence of a real Saudi conspiracy in Syria, and even in the presence of a real Salafite movement in the country (supported by Saudi Arabia too), there is a real and popular protest movement in the country.  People are fed up with the Ba`th rule: they got neither the Golan Heights back nor social justice (not to mention Arab unity).  I know for a fact that there are many communists active in the protests too: in Homs yesterday, the communists turned out in full force, and the sit-in attracted many from the brave Communist Action Party, which opposed the regime for decades, and waved a campaign against regime after the Syrian military intervention in 1976 (it was then named Communist Action League).  But I have to say: House of Saud is acting uncharacteristically: it is acting not cautiously but recklessly.  That is good.  House of Saud will fuck up, big time.

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Working around the wall: the life of a Palestinian journalist
Apr 20, 2011 10:41 am | Hamde Abu Rahme

I will start my story from where I have lived my whole life, along with my fellow Palestinians living under the Israeli occupation. This greatly influenced my career choice of becoming a journalist.

Bil’in is a small Palestinian village located in the central West Bank, seven miles west of Ramallah. Its population does not exceed 1,500 inhabitants. It is primarily an agricultural community, where most people live on what they earn from farming and olive trees.

IMG 2244
A photojournalist in Bil'in. (Photo: Hamde Abu Rahme)

In 2004, the Israeli government started to build the Separation Wall on the lands of this village, causing the loss of around 70 percent of its territory and an increase in unemployment and poverty. Farmers could not longer access their lands for harvest, that is if the plants and trees survived the destruction caused by the construction of the Wall.

Since then, the citizens of Bil’in and members of international solidarity groups have been relentless in demonstrating peacefully against the Wall and the neighboring Israeli settlement of Modi’in Illit. For six months, these non-violent protests were held daily. Currently, they are organized on a weekly basis. They have led to worldwide solidarity, bringing together Israelis and Palestinians, and gaining the support and approval of international activists such as Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu, Ela Bhatt, Gro Brundtland and Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

My duty as a journalist is to cover the daily events in Bil’in and to transmit a truthful image to the world. I never expected that such a task would be so difficult.
There are several problems in being a journalist in Palestine. It starts at the preprofessional stage of getting an adequate journalism education. Not only are the resources scarce, but journalism students, among others, face the daily hassle of passing through checkpoints that restrict their movement. Getting to class on time becomes a daily struggle.

Second, once one is a journalist in Palestine, he or she comes to realize that there is lack of freedom that is necessary for a journalist to accurately cover events and transmit them to the rest of the world. My story is an example of this.
When I was covering the Bil’in demonstrations, I was directly attacked with rubber bullets and tear gas fired by the Israeli army. On top of such physical assaults, the psychological effects of beatings, continuous insults, humiliation, and abuse are hardest to recover from.

In one instance, I was arrested while covering the nightly incursions carried out by the Israeli army to arrest anti-Wall protestors. The Israeli army detained me for 12 hours and accused me of blocking the army’s mission while I was doing my job. Also, I was detained and questioned for a continuous six hours by Israeli Security upon returning from a trip to Europe, where I exhibited my photographs depicting the situation in Bil’in.

Despite ongoing pressure and harassment, journalism in Palestine continues to evolve. Palestinian journalists are continuously attempting to refute Israeli propaganda claims that describe Palestinians as people who practice violence and terrorism. In addition, the Palestinian press is growing in depth and magnitude, despite the internal and external difficulties.

Israeli attacks against Palestinian media and violations of the freedom of the press have been on the rise in the past few years. Television stations, both government-run and private, have been shelled repeatedly. Journalists have been arrested and attacked. Even international journalists and foreign bureaus working in the Palestinian territories have been targeted and their work impeded by Israeli forces. Such actions render the transmission of a one-sided view of the situation, while silencing the Palestinian voice.

For more than 60 years of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territory, the Israeli viewpoint has forcefully and deliberately dominated domestic and global media outlets. In doing so, the Israeli side obscures the truth about Palestine. Israel has focused on the United States and European countries that have an influence with regards to the ongoing conflict.

Nevertheless, the emergence of the Internet—and all it offers from the speedy delivery of the news to different forms of communication—has made the world a smaller village. A Palestinian journalist can experience freedom of expression on the web. Truth about the situation can no longer be halted. On the contrary, the transparency that the Internet provides may lead to more voices representing the Palestinian side.

To practice journalism here, one must be whole-heartedly dedicated to the profession despite the constant threat to one’s life. Journalism is one of the most important professions of our time. Therefore, it must be protected by all means. International laws should be enforced to allow journalists to freely practice their profession without any restrictions.

This article has also appeared on the website Global Journalist, a project of the Missouri School of Journalism.

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Ghastly images of Israeli raid on Ketziot prison
Apr 20, 2011 08:51 am | Philip Weiss

This video is getting a lot of attention in the Palestinian solidarity community. It was on Israel's Channel 2 last week. Turkish TV has picked it up, too. It depicts an Israeli raid on Ketziot Prison, where many Palestinian political prisoners are held, in 2007. The scene is a ghastly one. I believe the killing of one prisoner is partially shown. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, who moved to Israel in the 80s before he came back to prosecute his career here, wrote a book called Prisoners that described some of his service as a jobnik in the Israeli army, serving at Ketziot. Can he shed some light on this video?

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