Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Obama: getting 'poned' Bibi style

Without adopting a new approach, the Obama administration will fail in its quest to bring peace to Palestine/Israel. 
If you don't have a child between 7 and 13 years old, you're probably furrowing your brow right now, wondering what the word "pone" could possibly mean.
It hasn't made it into respectable dictionaries yet; but it's taken over the elementary schoolyards and playgrounds where I live. And there's no better word to describe how well Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has played the Obama administration.
According to urban lore, "pone" was coined by young fans of the boy band the Jonas Brothers (who recently rocked Abu Dhabi in what was surely one of the stranger concerts in human history). In reality, the term comes from a common misspelling of the word "owned" as "pwned" in text and chat messages. It roughly translates into adult-speak as being completely "owning" by an opponent in a sport or game, to the point of humiliation. ("You got totally poned, dude," is a common refrain around my house after a particularly one-sided basketball).

Obama's Middle East turkeys

Barack Obama continues to feed carrots to the Netanyahu administration, receiving very few concessions in return.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's government has repeatedly treated even the most polite requests to live up to its international commitments (i.e., freezing settlements) with contempt. So now the Obama administration has escalated from simple requests to a version of "pretty please, with a cherry on top."
This approach supposedly comes from the President's top Middle East adviser, Dennis Ross, who is notoriously close to the Israeli government - although one can be certain that AIPAC and the Democratic campaign committees that cultivate the AIPAC donors are weighing in heavily.
Ross seems to think that an "all carrots, no sticks" policy is the best way to deal with Bibi. He is wrong. We have fed Netanyahu so many carrots that he is choking on them and, in return, we have accomplished nothing. Moreover all this Bibi coddling is a total misreading of the prime minister, who is known in Israel as an insecure and easily intimidated bully.
Bullies and push backs
Like most bullies, Bibi backs down only when his adversary pushes back. Netanyahu's hard-line and racist foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman pushes back. And Bibi gives him everything he wants.
President Obama pushed back once - during the battle that followed the settlement expansion announced while the Vice President was in Jerusalem - and Bibi panicked. In fact, he was on the verge of caving when Obama caved first after AIPAC and its congressional cutouts got mad. Bibi duly noted Obama's surrender, and now, given the triumph of his preferred US political party, he believes, with good cause, that there is nothing he cannot do with complete impunity.

Half of Israeli Jews oppose having Arab neighbors

Survey finds 46% of Israeli Jews consider Arabs as worst neighbors, while quarter of population thinks haredi and gay neighbors the least desirable. 'Media fuels radicalization,' says Justice Minister Ne'eman

Almost half of Israeli Jews – 46% – wouldn't want to have Arabs as neighbors, a survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute indicated Tuesday.

Meanwhile, 39% of the participants said they would not want to live near migrant workers and mental patients in rehabilitation, while 23% said that the ultra-Orthodox would make the most difficult neighbors. A quarter of the participants consider gay neighbors the least desirable. 
The survey also suggests that 86% of Israeli Jews believe that critical decisions regarding the future of Israel must be decided by a Jewish majority.
Supreme Court President Dorit Beinish said during the Israel Democracy Institute's annual conference in Jerusalem that these findings demonstrate the depth of the gap within the Israeli population. 

"We are a very split and polarized society," she said. "We don't have a unified apprehension of what is a Jewish democratic state, or a foundation to what we aspire to achieve. We need to bridge between the different parts."
According to Beinish, the relationship between Israel's sectors is characterized by "demonization, hatred and suspicion. One is afraid of the other, and that doesn't work."

'Ideologies have dissolved'

Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman blamed the media for fueling the situation. "What is happening in the State of Israel is radicalization, and the media greatly facilitates it," he said. "The media doesn't report the good things, only the bad. We need to speak to each other as equals."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

WEST BANK: Israel bulldozes Fayyad’s Freedom Road

On Sept. 1, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad celebrated with the residents of Qarawat Bani Hassan the inauguration of a mile-long road linking the small West Bank village to a spring its residents consider the lifeline of the community. It was called Freedom Road.

While Fayyad was on a trip to Japan this week, hoping to get more funding for his two-year “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State” program, of which building that road was one project, Israel on Wednesday destroyed the road, which is located in Area C of the West Bank.
According to the Oslo breakdown of the West Bank, Area C, which makes up more than 60% of the West Bank land, remains under full Israeli military control. But Area C is also an important segment in Fayyad’s state building program, crucial to his dream of setting up the necessary infrastructure for a viable Palestinian state by August 2011.
Israeli officials had informed Fayyad and the village residents that they would not allow the road because it was located in an area under its full control.
According to the village mayor, the Israeli army tried to stop construction on the $335,000 road, paid for by the Palestinian Authority, several times. But they continued with the project, and when the road was completed, Israeli officials informed the mayor two days before the inauguration that he had one week to destroy the road or the army would be sent in to do so.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Two-state solution, R.I.P.

By Stephen M. Walt


Yesterday the Israeli Knesset voted 65-33 to approve the so-called referendum law, which requires a national referendum on any subsequent withdrawal from the Occupied Territories. According to Israeli journalist Dimi Reider, the new law:
"Conditions any Israeli withdrawal from any of its territory -- into which Israel, alone in the world, includes the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem -- on passing a nation-wide referendum. To overrule the law, the Knesset would need a privileged majority of 80 out of 120 parliamentarians."
In other words, you can kiss the two-state solution good-bye. (For a similar appraisal of the new law, see Mitchell Plitnick here.) Given the current (and likely future) state of politics within Israel, this law in effect gives a veto to the hard-line settler faction. Even in the unlikely event that Netanyahu agreed to allow the Palestinians to have a viable state and a capital in East Jerusalem, the deal would probably be killed by the referendum or just die in the Knesset. Needless to say, the bill was fully supported by Netanyahu and his Likud Party.

Israel's leaders have handcuffed themselves to the extreme right

On Monday the government joined forces with the most right-wing parliament ever witnessed in the history of the state.

For years, right-wing circles have tried to derail diplomatic steps taken by Israeli governments by, among other things, drafting laws that predicate territorial concession upon an absolute Knesset majority or a referendum. On Monday the government joined forces with the most right-wing parliament ever witnessed in the history of the state, for the purpose of handcuffing the political leadership's moves in the peace process.
Labor Party ministers, who were absent when the vote was taken, along with Minister Shalom Simhon who supported the law, effectively promoted a grave result. At a time when the hearts of many Israeli citizens, as well as those of the state's best friends around the world, are filled with doubts about the level of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's commitment to the two-state solution, his office turned into a lobby in support of a law formulated by his party's hawkish wing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

'Anti-fence activist Abdullah Abu Rahma still in jail after completing sentence'

Palestinian sources say military court preventing release of leader of Bilin protests against separation fence who was convicted of incitement, despite having completed his prison term

The president of the Military Court of Appeals Colonel Aharon Mishnayot accepted a military prosecution request Monday and ordered the arrest of Abdullah Abu Rahma who serves as the director of the Bilin village's popular committee against the seperation fence, despite the fact that he completed his prison sentence for his involvement in organizing the anti-fence protests last Thursday, Palestinian sources reported.

Anti-fence activists and members of the committee claim that the decision goes against Supreme Court guidelines regarding jailing prisoners who completed their sentences, which stipulates it can only be done in special circumstances. The military prosecution approached the court at the last minute to prevent Abu Rahma's release Thursday and initiated a hearing on the case.

israeli knesset mandates referendum to withdraw from annexed land

Bill architect Likud MK Levin says bill is of the utmost national importance for retaining the unity of the people.

The Knesset yesterday passed a law mandating a referendum before any decision to withdraw from sovereign Israeli territory. The law, which passed by a vote of 65-33, will take effect immediately.
Because the law only applies to sovereign Israeli territory, no referendum would be needed to withdraw from any part of the West Bank. However, a referendum would be required for a pullout from East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, as both have been annexed by Israel. It would also be required if, under a future deal with the Palestinians, Israel ceded land within the pre-1967 lines in exchange for keeping the settlement blocs.

The law states that any withdrawal must first be approved by the Knesset. If it passes the Knesset by a two-thirds majority, or 80 MKs, then no referendum will be necessary. Otherwise, the withdrawal must then be ratified by a referendum.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The endgame for the peace process

Future historians will argue over the precise moment when the Arab-Israeli peace process died.
Future historians will no doubt argue over the precise moment when the Arab-Israeli peace process died, when the last glimmer of hope for a two-state solution was irrevocably extinguished. When all is said and done, and the forensics have been completed, I am sure they will conclude that the last realistic prospect for an agreement expired quite some time before now, even if all the players do not quite realise it yet: anger and denial are always the first stages in the grieving process; acceptance of reality only comes later.

There are growing signs, however, that the realisation is beginning to dawn in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and, most strikingly, Washington, that the peace process, as currently conceived, may finally be dead.

Washington: hoping for a miracle?
We should begin in Washington, in the aftermath of the seven-hour marathon meeting between Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, and Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, in New York last week.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The peace process’s last hurrah?

Over the past year, the terms of the debate among close observers of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have turned increasingly gloomy: is the peace process dead or merely dying? The U.S. may be about to answer this question: either the peace process will produce an agreement on borders by late February or it will be over.  According to widespread news accounts, that is when the U.S. will agree to drop requests that Israel suspend settlement construction.  We don't know the fine print of the U.S. pledge -- and in fact, the fine print does not seem to have been written. But if the U.S. really does back off any future requests for a settlement freeze, it is engaged in a very high stakes game of chicken with the peace process. The U.S. ploy has been widely described as a gamble, because even if a 90-day settlement works to secure a border agreement, there are many bridges to cross before a full two-state solution is achieved. But I would go farther than calling the U.S. plan a gamble; it may be close to a diplomatic doomsday device that could bring the current peace process to a full stop.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Israeli actions jeopardize two-state solution

Israel's refusal to cease Jewish settlement construction will make it impossible to create a viable Palestinian state. Failure of the two-state solution has ramifications for the region and the U.S.



The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached a critical stage. For more than two decades, the two-state solution has been the basis of international efforts to make peace in the region. Yet the Israeli government's refusal to cease settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem will shortly render the creation of a territorially contiguous and viable Palestinian state impossible.

A failure of the two-state solution will generate further instability in the region, strengthen rejectionist elements on both sides and likely mean that the conflict will drag on for generations. It will also damage U.S. standing in the Middle East and America's national security interests.

Despite this, there does not seem to be a recognition on the part of Israeli leaders and some in the U.S. of the urgency of the moment. Many observers in the region and elsewhere have concluded that Israel's policy of creating "facts on the ground" has already made a division of the land unfeasible.

What if they don't solve Israeli-Palestinian borders in 90 days?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is heading back to Israel with an offer from the Obama administration of a large basket of incentives in exchange for a 90-day extension of a settlement freeze. The reported contours of the administration's offer include 20 free advanced F-35 fighter jets and assorted promises to defend Israel at the U.N. and other international fora (which meets Israeli fears but in reality would almost certainly be forthcoming under any foreseeable circumstances). In exchange, Israel would renew its partial settlement freeze for 90 days. During that period, the Israelis and Palestinians are to go back to the bargaining table and (reportedly) concentrate on sketching out an agreement on borders, which would generate progress and reduce the risk of future battles over settlements.
It's easy to be skeptical. The United States seems to be giving a lot for a temporary fix which only kicks the can down the road another few months, while neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians seem to see this as a moment of opportunity. The deal only makes sense if serious progress on reaching agreement on borders can be made in three months. But the three months in question include Thanksgiving, the Eid al-Adha, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, and the seating of the new U.S. Congress. Even if the parties have already sketched out the contours of the deal -- and I sure hope they did that spadework before committing themselves to such a high-stakes deadline, though I'm kind of afraid that they didn't -- experience suggests that getting that deal through the Israeli and Palestinian systems won't be easy. Since the United States promises not to ask for another extension, the 90-day deadline gives all kinds of incentives for those who don't really want a deal to stall. Oh, all right… I'm skeptical.

Barak: Israel must reach deal with U.S. before Palestinians do

Defense Minister weighs in on Obama administration proposal for package of incentives in return for 90-day freeze on West Bank construction. 


Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that Israel must secure a deal with the Obama administration to pull the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, in order to keep the upper hand in the Middle East peace process.
The defense minister's remarks come a day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presented his cabinet with an American proposal for a new 90-day Israeli moratorium of settlement construction in the West Bank, in exchange for certain incentives from the U.S., including the purchase of 20 new warplanes. The proposal, which Netanyahu says has not yet been finalized, was met with opposition from many Likud ministers and Knesset members.
"There are two options," Barak told Army Radio. "Either we reach understandings with the Americans to find a way to force the Palestinians to sit around the negotiating table, or the Palestinians and the Arab world will reach understanding with the Americans and it will be us eating frogs." 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Did Bibi Win the Midterms?

The Republican Congress isn't even in office yet and already it's screwing up the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. 

As a general rule, American politicians do not rally to the side of foreign leaders when those leaders directly confront the president of the United States. I don't, for example, recall liberal Democrats cheering on French President Jacques Chirac when he defied President George W. Bush on Iraq, even though they thought he was right. Siding with France would have seemed unpatriotic -- and, of course, stupid. The American people, and thus their political leaders, will instinctively line up behind the president in the face of a direct challenge from abroad. Unless the country in question is Israel.
Witness the events of recent days: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, seems to have decided that it's open season on Barack Obama. In his speech this week in New Orleans before the general assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, Netanyahu not only repeated his longstanding view that Iran will curb its nuclear program only in the face of a credible threat of military action, but added -- gratuitously, and with questionable accuracy -- that the regime had stopped trying to build a bomb only in 2003, when it feared an attack by President-You-Know-Who.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Netanyahu exploited his U.S. trip to embarrass Obama

Netanyahu took advantage of the stage he was given to embarrass the Obama administration.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to the United States this week damaged Israel diplomatically, undermined the country's relations with the U.S. administration and showed Netanyahu up again as a rejectionist who does nothing but look for excuses and delays to avoid making decisions.
Netanyahu flew to the annual conference of the United Jewish Communities and the Jewish Federations of North America in New Orleans; from there he went on to New York. Strengthening ties with Diaspora Jewry is certainly a worthy cause, but Netanyahu took advantage of the stage he was given to embarrass the Obama administration.
His public call on the Americans to create a "credible military threat" against Iran merely exposed the disagreements between him and the administration, portraying Israel as a warmonger trying to drag America into another entanglement in the Middle East. No wonder Netanyahu's declaration evoked a dismissive response from Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Netanyahu focused on issuing warnings about Iran and the "delegitimization" of Israel, pushing the peace process with the Palestinians to the sidelines. His messages sounded coordinated with the scandalous speech by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman at the UN General Assembly.
Then came the reports about Israel's approval of large construction plans in Har Homa and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods. Netanyahu again found himself in a public controversy with U.S. President Barack Obama and insulted Vice President Joe Biden, shortly after Biden had praised him enthusiastically in a speech.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Interpol hunts two Israelis for Kosovo organ trafficking

Moshe Harel among seven indicted for membership of a criminal group trafficking people into Kosovo to remove human organs for transplant; another Israeli citizen, Zaki Shapira, identified as co-conspirator. 


At least seven people, including an Israeli citizen, are suspected of involvement in an international network that falsely promised poor people payment for their kidneys and then sold the organs for as much as 100,000 euros ($137,000), according to an indictment obtained by The Associated Press.
The indictment is the starkest revelation of the extent of organized crime in the country since Kosovo declared independence in 2008.
Five Kosovo nationals, including Ilir Rrecaj, a former senior health ministry official, have been charged with five counts, ranging from trafficking in persons to unlawful exercise of medical activity and abuse of power. None of the suspects are in custody
Moshe Harel, an Israeli citizen, and Turkish doctor Yusuf Sonmez - are listed as wanted by Interpol. Sonmez is the subject of several criminal proceedings in other countries, including Turkey, for human trafficking and removal of organs, according to the indictment.
Both Sonmez and Harel are fugitive from justice, the indictment said.
Two other doctors, Israeli national Zaki Shapira and Turkish national Kenan Demirkol are identified in the 46-page document as unindicted co-conspirators.

Monday, November 8, 2010

rabbis: Don't rent to refugees

Six of ultra-Orthodox city's religious leaders sign halachic ruling forbidding locals to rent apartments to Africans. 'Yeshiva students scared to walk on street at night,' says neighborhood rabbi, calling upsurge in Sudanese residents a 'spiritual danger'

A few months after the publication of a rabbis' petition calling to avoid renting apartments in Tel Aviv to African immigrants, rabbis in Bnei Brak issue a similar halachic ruling Monday, prohibiting residents to rent out apartments in the religious city and its surroundings to African refugees and illegal immigrants at large.

According to the halachic ruling, signed by six leading rabbis from the city's haredi sector, "This appeal is against a horrible act of lawlessness, by which apartment owners rent their property to illegal immigrants etc'. This phenomenon has grown into gigantic proportions, and nowadays the situation is intolerable," it read.

"It is not only a general nuisance but leads to more serious problems. Families have already appealed to us over fears they have for their children", stated the law which included a clear warning: "Those who rent out the apartments (to the immigrants) take responsibility for spiritual consequences on their heads be it".
One of the signatories, Pardes Katz Rabbi Menashe Zelicha, told Ynet: "The Sudanese refugees have become a great nuisance for the residents. Some residents felt uncomfortable in Tel Aviv, where the secular public has more access to the media. (The public) expressed resentment and made them feel unwanted, so one of them came here and called over all his friends."

Settlers got land bargains in east Jerusalem

"A string of Israeli governments has helped cement the Jewish presence in Arab areas of Jerusalem by selling or leasing property to settler groups at bargain prices, court documents released Sunday show.
The establishment of these Jewish enclaves appears meant to make partition of Jerusalem along ethnic lines — generally seen as a key aspect of any future peace deal — exceedingly difficult.
Buildings were sold to settler groups in and around the sensitive Old City of Jerusalem at a fraction of the going market rates by governments that were involved in peace talks with the Palestinians, who claim those same areas.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

israeli court okays jews-only building in Jaffa POalestine

Zionazi occupier's supreme Court President Dorit Beinish rejected an appeal filed by Arab residents of the Jaffa neighborhood of Ajami, in which they inveighed against a decision allowing for the construction of a Jewish-only apartment complex. 

 Beinish, however, hinted that the permit for the building constituted "wrongful discrimination".

The petitioners claimed that the Jewish Emunah movement, which intends to market the apartments to the national-religious sector, was engaging in discriminatory marketing.

Thus, the petition says, the Israel Land Administration was acting unlawfully when they agreed to lease the land to the movement.

Beinish stated that that the appeal is purely "theoretical" because land rights have already been given to Emunah and payments have been made. However, she did add that in future cases similar to this one, such bids must include a stipulation forbidding discrimination regarding housing.

israeli Police, Bedouin clash as state demolishes condemned Negev mosque

Rahat mosque, which police say was funded by the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch, had been marked for demolition as a result of it being illegally constructed; residents begin rebuilding demolished mosque Sunday.

Riots broke out at the Bedouin city of Rahat late Saturday night as a massive evacuation force arrived at the Negev town and demolished a condemned city mosque.
 Police sources said the mosque had been marked for demolition months ago as a result of it being illegally constructed, adding that the structur's construction was funded by the Islamic Movement's Northern Branch during the Gaza war, in late 2008 and early 2009.

A massive evacuation force, comprising over 5,000 policemen, tractors, and ambulances, descended on the town late Saturday, with initial reports claiming riots broke out between police and thousands of locals.
Thousands of the city's residents reportedly hurled stones at the police officers securing the demolition, with police returning tear gas fire. A few protestors were arrested.
Police forces then moved to demolish the structure as soon as the mosque had been emptied of scripture and ritual objects.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Israeli gave East Jerusalem lands to rightist groups without tenders

Investigation reveals Israel Lands Administration transferred properties in Silwan and in Old City to Elad and Ateret Cohanim for low prices, bypassing law.

The Israel Lands Administration is transferring properties in the Silwan neighborhood and the Old City of Jerusalem to right-wing groups Elad and Ateret Cohanim for low prices, without issuing a tender as required by law, a Haaretz investigation has found.
The state and the groups involved concealed the transactions and refused to give any information about them.

At the end of a lengthy legal struggle conducted by left-wing activist Dror Etkes, the court decided to have the ILA release only part of the information, to prevent the properties' identification,

Haaretz has located three of the properties the ILA reported on at the court's instruction. The inquiry shows the ILA's list does not include dozens of properties, perhaps because they were handed over to other related organizations or subsidiaries, some of which are registered abroad.
Some of them may be tax shelters.
Haaretz has exposed transcripts of conversations held by controversial Elad leader David Beeri with then-Public Security Minister Avi Dichter during a visit to some of the properties in 2008.
The transcripts illustrate that even if the acts were carried out by law, as the organizations keep saying, their end - increasing the Jewish population of East Jerusalem - sometimes justified unconventional means.
Elad commented that it is acting to buy properties but everything it does is legal, transparent and honest.
The ILA said it had passed on all the required information. Ateret Cohanim chose not to comment.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Arrest fears prompt Israel to relocate strategic forum with U.K.

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague says Britain will soon change a law that has threatened Israeli officials with arrest for war crimes if they visit Britain.


Israel said an annual strategic forum of Israeli and British officials set to be held in London has been relocated to Israel due to continued fears that Israeli leaders could be arrested on war crimes charges.
The announcement came as British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrapped up a visit to the region.

An Israeli official said the annual Israeli-British Strategic Dialogue is being relocated to Israel this year. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
Pro-Palestinian activists in Britain have sought the arrest of senior Israeli civilian and military figures under universal jurisdiction. The threats have forced some Israeli officials to cancel travel to Britain.

The most recent was Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who canceled a trip to London, this week, for fear he would be arrested for war crimes.
The row over the law, and Israel's fury that it has not been changed, has overshadowed Hague's visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories - his first since taking office in May.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was pleased by Britain's explicit commitment to change the law.
"Israel welcomes the British government's explicit commitment to amend the universal jurisdiction law," a statement released after Hague met Netanyahu in Tel Aviv said.
Hague, meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Wednesday, said the British government "will soon be putting a proposal to change the law."
Israel had said it was postponing its strategic dialogue with Britain until the law was amended.
"It is a real problem when Israeli officials cannot travel to Britain, and so long as the problem exists, it will harm relations between the two countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on Wednesday.
The statement from Netanyahu's office Thursday said he and Hague had a "productive" meeting.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

AIPAC lauds re-election of pro-Israel stalwarts

Pro-Israel group hails success for supporters on both sides of the political divide, as well as election of three new Jewish members of Congress.

America's largest pro-Israel lobby group on Wednesday hailed the results of midterm elections in the U.S. which saw staunch supporters re-elected to Congress on both sides of the party political divide.
"Many of the strongest friends and supporters of the U.S.-Israel relationship were reelected on Tuesday," the group said in a statement.

These included Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Reps. John Boehner (R-OH), widely tipped to be named Republican majority leader in the lower House of Representatives, which his party seized from Democratic control.
Other pro-Israel successes cited by AIPAC included outgoing House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), as well as Eric Cantor (R-VA) and Steny Hoyer (D-MD).

Israelis suspected of conning elderly Americans in lottery scam taken to Ben-Gurion Airport, where US law enforcement officials await

Five Israeli suspects in the "Nigerian sting" affair were brought to Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday ahead of their extradition to the United States on Thursday.

The suspects are accused by American authorities of conning hundreds of elderly US citizens out of tens of millions of dollars.
According to the charges the suspects allegedly phoned elderly Americans and informed them that they had won the lottery and demanded a fee of several thousand dollars for the transfer of the prize money, but the money never existed and was not transferred. 

By Jared Malsin
UMM AN-NASSER, Gaza Strip (Ma'an) -- A string of shootings of Palestinian workers, many of them only teenagers, in the northern Gaza Strip has brought renewed attention to a live-fire exclusion zone imposed by Israel on the Gaza side of the Green Line.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon removed settlers and most soldiers from Gaza in 2005, but Israeli forces still patrol the buffer zone, a swath of Palestinian territory along Gaza’s northern and eastern borders.

Many of those injured are desperately poor Palestinian workers who venture into the exclusion zone to gather gravel and other construction scrap from what remains of the former Israeli settlements in the north.

Defense for Children International documented 14 cases between March and October of this year of Palestinian youths under the age of 18 who were shot by Israeli forces while collecting gravel in the border zone.

While a few of these teens were shot as close as 50 meters from the border, others were 500, 600, even 800 meters from the border when the shooting occurred. The youngest of these children was 13, the oldest 17.

Twenty-five Palestinian civilians have been killed in the border area since the end of Israel's three-week offensive on Gaza in January 2009.

Every day the workers set out to the abandoned settlements of Nissanit, Elli Sinai, and Dugit, using donkey carts to haul sacks of small stones and gravel. These aggregates, used in construction, are among the items banned from Gaza by Israel, creating what one UN report called a "lucrative but dangerous market" based on recycling such materials.

Many of the workers who collect this scrap live in the town of Umm An-Nasser, known in Gaza as the Bedouin Village, a community of about 5,000 people on the edge of Beit Lahiya.

Sitting under a tent on the edge of the buffer zone, Israeli watchtowers in the distance, Fadi Abu Hashish, 26, says he does this dangerous, backbreaking labor simply because "there's no other work."

Abu Hashish said since he’s been old enough to work, the border with Israel has been sealed. His father and grandfather, he said, used to work picking citrus and vegetables across the border in the city of Ashdod, but because of Israel's closure of Gaza, these jobs are simply no longer an option.

Abu Hashish and other workers explained that once they collect the stones from the settlements they wash them, crush them into smaller parts, and then sell them. A team of three men, he said, would earn around 150 shekels ($40) per day.

And although the workers with their creaking donkey carts are visible to the Israeli soldiers monitoring the area from watchtowers, unmanned aerial drones, and other surveillance equipment, the shootings continue.

Fadi's cousin, Ahmad Toufiq Abu Hashish, was shot in the lower leg by Israeli soldiers while collecting gravel on 13 October. In an interview in his family’s Bedouin-type encampment on the edge of the exclusion zone, said the incident took place at 6 a.m., around 600 meters from the border.

"They fired just one shot. It wasn't a warning shot; it was a shot in my leg," he said. His cousin, Fadi, who was working with him that morning, confirmed that just one shot was fired.

As it's considered too dangerous for ambulances to venture into the border area, his brother and cousin laid him on their donkey cart, carrying him back to the Bedouin Village, where an ambulance transported him, unconscious, to Kamal Edwan hospital in Beit Lahiya.

Abu Hashish attended school until the 10th grade, and had been collecting scrap in the border area for about a month when he was shot. He said he earned about 30 shekels a day.

Physicians at Kamal Edwan informed him that his bones were shattered. After spending 20 days completely immobile in his family's camp, he is to return to the hospital to see if the leg has healed enough to install a prosthesis.

He told Ma'an that once his leg heals, he'll have no choice but to return to collecting gravel: "I have to go back. There’s no work."

Asked why he thought Israelis shot him, he said, "Really, I don’t know."

While Ahmad gave his testimony, lying on a blanket on the dirt floor of the tent, the sound of gunfire and exploding tank shells could be heard, coming from the border area.

Information gathered by aid agencies, the UN, rights groups, shows that Ahmad Abu Hashish's story is far from unique.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, eight Palestinians, all civilians, were shot by Israelis soldiers along the border in September alone. Six of these were workers collecting construction scrap. In a separate incident in the border area, Israeli tank shells killed a 91-year-old shepherd, and two boys, aged 16 and 17.

Bassam Masri, head of orthopedics at the Kamal Edwan hospital, told the British newspaper The Guardian earlier in October that around 50 people have been treated for gunshot wounds suffered in or near the buffer zone while collecting rubble in the past three months.

The Israeli military has publicly declared a 300-meter no-go zone on the Gaza side of the Green Line, but a UN study released in August, based on more than 100 interviews, shows that "Since late 2008, Palestinians have been totally or partially prevented from accessing land located up to 1,000-1,500 meters from the Green Line (depending on the specific area)."

These restrictions mean that 17 percent of the total land area of the already tiny Gaza Strip, and 35 percent of its agricultural land, is off-limits to Palestinian use. This in turn has contributed to a variety of humanitarian problems, further damaging the economy and directly affecting more than 113,000 people who live or work in or near the border.

Confusion about the boundaries of the exclusion zone persists. "Despite the potential for civilian casualties, the Israeli authorities have not informed the affected population about the precise boundaries of the restricted areas and the conditions under which access to these areas may be permitted or denied.”

Regardless of the actual size of the buffer zone, rights advocates say the ongoing shootings of civilians are unacceptable.

Mahmoud Abu Rahma of the Al-Mezan Center for Human rights told Ma'an: "Even if the Israelis announce a 300-meter buffer zone, people who go there in the daylight, and who do not appear to be a threat to the soldiers guarding the border fence, then there is no reason to shoot them."

"Shooting unarmed civilians who are only doing work is illegal under international law," Abu Rahma added.

Al-Mezan, along with the Israeli groups Adalah and Physicians for Human Rights, is preparing to demand that Israeli authorities investigate these shootings.

But, based on past experience dealing with the Israeli government, Abu Rahma noted, "we don’t have high hopes, but these are the tools available to us."

"As long as construction materials are not allowed in Gaza these people will continue to collect this scrap. We need some kind of protection for them," he also said.

In response to an inquiry from Ma'an, the Israeli military sent the following statement: "In light of the attempts of terrorist organizations to execute terrorist attacks around the security fence, in 2008 the IDF declared a buffer zone extending 300 meters west of the fence that would be closed to the Palestinian population. The IDF distributed leaflets written in Arabic, warning residents not to approach the fence."

"It is important to stress that the IDF acts in order to prevent harm to civilian populations in its operations and any complaint expressed regarding its soldiers' conduct will be taken into consideration and examined according to the existing policy, which it has declared repeatedly in the past."

"Since the beginning of 2010, 60 incidents of small arms shooting towards IDF forces, 34 incidents of improvised explosive device (IED) plantings, and 15 incidents of anti-tank missile fire were documented. A prominent incident is one in which an IDF officer, Maj. Eliraz Peretz, and soldier, Staff Sgt. Ilan Saviatkovski, were killed, and additional two soldiers were wounded, in an encounter with militants south of Kisufim crossing."

The military did not respond to a specific question asking why Palestinian civilians were shot when they were outside the 300-meter zone.


School's out: why Gazans can't reach class in the West Bank

Gaza -- When Israel announced in June, following its deadly interception of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, that it would ease its siege on the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, I almost let my hopes rise. 
I am a Palestinian human rights lawyer living in Gaza. Earlier this year, I was accepted into the Master's degree program in Human Rights and Democracy Studies at Birzeit University, located in the West Bank. Before the "easing" of the blockade, I tried repeatedly to persuade the Israeli authorities to allow me to leave Gaza and attend my classes, but was blocked at every turn. Would Israel's new announcement mean that I'd finally be able to go to school this year?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Olmert: Terror's origin is Islam

Olmert says foreign governments should get out of political comfort zone for effective war on terror; former PM also slams Netanyahu's foreign policy moves

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert criticized PM Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign policy as well as Western nations, for their inability to fight terrorism effectively, and offered his solutions to this failure.  

Olmert addressed the Israeli government's role in the war on terror during a national security conference on Tuesday, organized by the Israeli Export and International Cooperation Institute.  

"One of the problems in the war on terror is not the knowledge or technology, but the readiness of governments to invest in the war on terror for political reasons," he said. "I heard what the Shin Bet chief said about terrorists' use of technology. This technology also allows those combating terrorism to fight, and that encourages us to develop new tools."

Palestinians abused in Shin Bet facility

Two human rights groups release report based on testimonies of 121 Palestinians held in Petah Tikva detention facility, including claims of isolation and disgraceful hygienic conditions, continuous cuffing of detainees’ hands, sleep deprivation. State: Court rejected similar unfounded claims

The law enforcement authorities in the State of Israel are violating the human rights of detainees in a Shin Bet detention facility in Petah Tikva regularly, according to a report released Tuesday morning by the B'Tselem organization and Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual.
The report reveals ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees, claiming that complaints on the matter have led to no criminal investigations. The State explained in response that the interrogations were being supervised, and that the court had rejected similar claims in the past. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Israel bans Palestinian PM from East Jerusalem event

Public Security Minister Aharonovitch issues warrant forbidding the participation of Palestinian PM Fayyad in ceremony marking PA-sponsored school renovations.

Israel is banning Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad from attending a Palestinian Authority-sponsored event in East Jerusalem, Haaretz learned on Monday.

Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch to prevent the planned visit with the organization's website saying it was "committed to protecting human rights in Israel, ensuring sound government, and preserving the national integrity of the State of Israel and the Jewish people."
Fayyad was scheduled to make an appearance on Tuesday at two East Jerusalem schools to mark the PA-sponsored renovation of 15 educational institutions in the city. The reception and ceremony was to take place in the Dahyat al-Salam neighborhood.
On Monday, however, Jerusalem policemen arrived at the Dahyat al-Salam reception hall, handing over a warrant signed by Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, according to which PA-sponsored events were forbidden on Israeli soil.

Zionazi Deputy PM Meridor cancels London visit following lawsuit threat

Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister reportedly faced charges linked to his role in the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla.


Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Dan Meridor cancelled on Monday a planned visit to London, England, after receiving information that he might be facing a lawsuit or an arrest warrant upon arrival.

The Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry notified Meridor that he may face charges connected to his alleged role in the IDF raid on the Gaza-bound ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010. The Israeli raid resulted in the deaths of 9 Turkish activists. Meridor refused to comment on the cancellation.

Officers suspected of robbing Palestinians

Two Border Guard officers took wallets, cell phones from Palestinians they were sent to arrest, police say    

Border Guard officers were dispatched to arrest Palestinians residing illegally in Israel, but instead opted to steal their wallets and personal belongings, police say.

The two officers were arrested on suspicion they repeatedly took advantage of their operational activity in order to rob Palestinians.
The two were interrogated by the Police Investigations Unit, and will be brought to a remand hearing at the Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on Monday.
In one of the incidents, the officers – one serving in mandatory service and the other an non-commissioned officer – were dispatched to the southern town of Rahat and located a house where, according to suspicion, Palestinians without a visa were residing.

According to testimonies obtained by the Police Investigations Unit, the two entered the basement of the house, took the Palestinians' wallets and cell phones while threatening them with their weapons, and escaped the scene.
The Palestinians filed a complaint with the Police Investigations Unit, and the two officers were arrested later that day. The officers are suspected of robbing some 15 illegal residents. Some of the stolen artifacts were located and returned to their owner.

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