Egypt ‘will not allow’ new war on Gaza

An Egyptian soldier guards the Gaza-Egypt border

EL-ARISH, Egypt (Ma’an) — Egyptian security officials have expressed concerns after recent violence in Gaza despite Cairo’s efforts to secure a truce between Israel and Palestinian factions.

Security officials said Wednesday that Egypt “will not allow” a renewed Israeli operation against Gaza, in light of changes since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak, seen as supportive of Israel.

The Egyptian people refuse to accept Israel’s “wide scale aggression” and the military council and Egyptian security forces would not be able to prevent regular citizens from going toward the border, they said.

Separately, security officials have also said that two Palestinian rockets landed south of Rafah during the latest flare up in violence in which 12 members of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing and an Israeli civilian died.

(mideastnews-danmike.blogspot.com / 02.11.2011)

From Tahrir to Gaza: The faces of ‘Freedom Waves’

Michael Coleman, an Australian activist on board the boat Tahrir, a day before it left Turkey en route to Gaza.

FETHIYE, Turkey – “It doesn’t matter what we do for Gaza this month or this year. What matters is how many years we stay with Gaza,” said David Heap, a member of the steering committee of “Tahrir,” a Canadian ship currently headed for the Gaza Strip in a show of solidarity with the besieged Palestinian territory.

His comments came a day before the boat left the Turkish port of Fethiye carrying some 12 people in the most recent attempt to break the siege after Greek authorities prevented a flotilla attempting to depart from that country in July.

The boat’s name easily resonates with Egyptians, who occupied the Cairo square of the same name for 18 days last winter demanding freedom from a three-decade-long oppressive regime. “When the media asks me about the name ‘Tahrir,’ I tell them Tahrir isn’t an Egyptian name or an Arabic name,” Heap said. “Tahrir means liberation and it’s a universal name.”

This idea of the universality of freedom unites the diverse delegations setting sail on the flotilla to break the Israeli siege of Gaza.

Nicole McGrath and Robert Lovelace are a perfect example. Lovelace is a Canadian national who is descended from the native population of Canada, before Europeans arrived. This native population is now often described as economically and politically marginalized. Due to bureaucratic complications in Turkey Lovelace and McGrath were not allowed to be on board the boat, but they still offered their support.

“I am interested in helping the people of Gaza, because at home, many policies are enacted against the Indians [native population] of Canada that are similar [to Israel’s policies toward Palestinians]. The Indians of Canada have experience with settlements, for example. They lost their land, their right to their resources and the government works hard to control them to benefit from their resources,” said Lovelace, a university professor.

“I see a clear intersection with Gaza, and you can’t free yourself and allow others to continue to suffer. Everyone has to be liberated together.”

His wife, McGrath, also sees different struggles for freedom as a united human quest. “All of those struggles are similar in conscience. It’s one system [of oppression]. God knows how long it would take it to fall and it won’t be easy. But it’s in people realizing that it is not working that there is hope,” she said.

As McGrath and Lovelace came from Canada to be on a boat bound to Gaza, Michael Coleman came from the other end of the world. The Sydney, Australia-based youth worker had also tried to break the siege back in July with the Canadian boat sailing from Greece. His story goes back to just after the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla incident, when Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara ship that had set off from Turkey and killed nine activists in international waters. The incident stirred a wave of global fury against Israel and soured its relations with Turkey, a former ally.

Coleman recalls an activist from the flotilla who came to Australia and gave a speech. “At the end, she asked, ‘Who is going on the next flotilla?’ and we all raised our hands,” Coleman said. After that, he and others began collecting money to buy the boat Tahrir.

The boat sailing today from Turkey is a joint venture between Canadian, Australian, Belgian and Danish activists.

Coleman has gone as far as anyone to challenge the siege. In July, when a flotilla was supposed to leave Greece for Gaza, Coleman found himself challenging what he calls “’the outsourcing of the Israeli blockade of Gaza to European countries” by positioning himself in a small boat in front of the Greek coast guard to get in the way of their efforts to stop the Canadian ship from leaving port.

“We were arrested and sentenced to 30 days in [in jail] Greece. Luckily, that [sentence] was suspended. I am more than happy to do it again. We need a chance to get to Gaza and challenge the Israeli blockade, as opposed to challenging its outsourcing to Europe alone,” Coleman said.

Finding a suitable port of departure has been a challenge for the flotillas. “In 2010, the best country for the flotilla to leave from was Greece, but that wasn’t the case in 2011. The eastern Mediterranean is changing,” said Heap.

“If one is leaving in late 2011 or 2012, there would be more countries to choose from, which is good, because it makes it unpredictable for the Israeli forces,” said Heap.

But this diversity of options in the eastern Mediterranean doesn’t mean yet that the flotilla is ready to leave from an Egyptian port. In July, as the Greeks stopped the flotilla from departing, Al-Masry Al-Youm launched a popular initiative inviting the flotilla to set sail from Egypt.

“We were impressed by the call. Today if I am to bet on a country’s civil society, I would bet on Egypt because of its impressive track record,” said Heap. But he believes that Egypt’s revolutionary struggle is still continuing and it is showcased in Egypt sponsoring the blockade itself by making compromises on its decision to open the Rafah border crossing. While in May 2011 the Rafah border crossing was opened for Palestinians, concerns rose about the restrictive nature of this opening as many were denied passage for various reasons.

Heap, who protested in Tahrir Square in 2009 with a group of international activists against the Egyptian government’s prevention of the Gaza Freedom March to cross into Gaza via Rafah, remains hopeful. He recalls the oppressive security apparatus of the Mubarak regime, and says he is not surprised that Egyptians revolted against it a year later.

“You don’t stop the dependence of a military with decades of billions of dollars in aid from the United States. We see a tug of war between the military and the people. But we are rather optimistic,” Heap said.

(www.almasryalyoum.com / 02.11.2011)

Syria, Assad and the right-wing connection

West remains extremely reluctant to “protect civilians” being killed by the government in Syria.

Since the very beginning of the Arab uprisings earlier this year, the leaders of dictatorial governments at the centre of the storms across the region have raised the spectre of “Islamists” in the struggle to stay in power. “We’re the best you’re going to get,” is the message. Initially, this was also the mantra of some governments in the West, fearful that after years of supporting dictators in the name of “stability”, a euphemism for “we can’t let politically adroit Muslims take control”, Western governments and their allies found themselves faced with the possibility of having to deal with or worse, actually back, Muslim Brotherhood-led regimes. After years of touting democratic values around the Middle East, the awful thought dawned on Washington and London that the rejection of the democratic will of the Palestinians in 2006 which brought Hamas to power couldn’t be repeated in Tunisia, Egypt and… Well, Libya is another matter; it has oil, so NATO bombers were wheeled out to “protect civilians”.

Syria is another awkward case; no oil or other minerals worth committing the lives of NATO troops to defend, and no real friend in President Basher Al-Assad, a dictator marginally more benign than his late father but a dictator nonetheless. Calls for Western Libya-style intervention have so far been ignored, despite the slaughter of thousands of anti-regime protestors calling for free and fair democratic elections. Why is this so? Articles in the right-wing Telegraph group newspapers over the past few days give us a clue as to why the West remains extremely reluctant to “protect civilians” being killed by the government in Syria in stark contrast to the way NATO rushed to bomb the Gaddafi regime in Libya into submission.

The articles have been written by arguably the most aggressively anti-Muslim and anti-Islamist journalist writing in Britain today. Andrew Gilligan was granted what is trumpeted as Bashar Al-Assad’s “first interview with a Western journalist since Syria’s seven-month uprising began”; an “exclusive interview”, in fact. That alone should raise some eyebrows; what on earth is Assad doing, giving such a scoop to a right-wing pro-Israel newspaper group by speaking to such an anti-Muslim hack?

Scrutinise Gilligan’s articles – go on, force yourself – and there it is, buried deep in the text: “He [Bashar Al-Assad] described the uprising as a ‘struggle between Islamism and pan-Arabism [secularism]’, adding: ‘We’ve been fighting the Muslim Brotherhood since the 1950s and we are still fighting with them.'” Clearly, this is a woeful attempt to misrepresent the Syrian opposition which today includes all forces across the political divide. It is the familiar refrain from earlier in the Arab Spring which has been discredited everywhere apart from Israel, with even the US State Department acknowledging that it is more than likely going to have to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood in some capacity in Egypt; it is also the reason why Israel, alone among with the Westernised democracies, has opposed freedom and democracy for its Arab neighbours. The dictatorship of Bashar Al-Assad may not be ideal, but the alternative is much worse. That’s the line of thinking in Tel Aviv, which maintains an uneasy unofficial peace with Syria even though Israel occupies the Syrian Golan Heights. It suits both countries to maintain the status quo. Assad can posture as the Arab hard man and Israel can use him as the regional bogey in bed with Iran in order to squeeze yet more military aid out of hard-pressed American taxpayers. In the strange world of Middle East diplomacy, Israel’s President Shimon Peres has called for new talks with Damascus “without preconditions”. According to Haaretz newspaper, he refused to elaborate on this. The Palestinians, however, can teach Assad a thing or two about the futility of talks with Israel.

Gilligan comes across slightly awestruck at Assad’s apparent ordinariness. He was not the kind of Arab dictator you expect to meet, in difficult circumstances surrounded by “officials, flunkies and state TV cameras”. He has a “modest lifestyle” in a “normal – albeit guarded – street”. Assad, claims Gilligan, “was quite different” to other Arab leaders. So much so, that Gilligan was able to call him a “nerd” and the president “laughed out loud”.

Syria, said Gilligan, is “neither religiously nor ethnically homogeneous” and minorities feel threatened that reform may be allowed to go unchecked: “On Thursday night, the beginning of the Muslim weekend, Damascus’s Old City was heaving with people having a good time. Men and women were mixing freely. Alcohol was widely available. A pair of Christian Orthodox priests, in their long cassocks, walked through the crowded alleys, and small Christian shrines were tucked away in the corners. The regime is successfully pushing the message that all this is at risk. ‘I don’t like Assad, but I am worried that what follows could be worse,’ said one of the partygoers.” It looks as if Gilligan agrees; he has no qualms about “successfully pushing” the right of the majority in Britain to impose its will on minorities, especially Muslims, but he is reluctant to comment on the rule of the Sunni majority in Syria by a secular minority. The sub-text is clear; tolerance, respect for others and “people having a good time” is under threat if we allow the Muslim Brotherhood to take power in open elections. Better have limited reform under a president who wears jeans, speaks “perfect” English and – hey, he’s one of us! – “lived for two years in London”.

The question has to be asked, therefore, if the Arab Spring has run its course in Western eyes. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said military action in Syria is “out of the question” and insists that the Alliance “has no intention [to intervene] whatsoever”. If that is the case, with no prospect of a NATO-imposed safe zone in Syria to protect civilians from the excesses of Assad’s troops, we must prepare ourselves for the international rehabilitation of the Syrian president. He’s bad, but not that bad seems to be the early message conveyed by Gilligan in the Telegraph, a media organ that is as unlikely to publish anything remotely unacceptable to Israel as it is to publish anything remotely agreeable about the Muslim Brotherhood. Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad, therefore, may well be the one Arab dictator that the West cannot afford to lose; the repercussions from Israel and the pro-Israel lobby would be far too much for Western politicians to bear.

(www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk / 02.11.2011)

News of Palestine 02.11.2011

Can we the #people unite against oppressing governments ? Lets support the #freedomwaves lets break the siege on #gaza

#gaza doesnt not need aid Gaza needs #freedom .#freedomwaves

#freedomwaves needs our support, our unity, our love, and our courage to say NO to oppression

The message we carry is one of unity, defiance and hope, in spite of Israel’s policies and complicity of govts like Canada’s. #FreedomWaves

breaking news #israel announced that they will not allow #freedomwaves to reach #gaza we ask ppl eveywr to  revolute and support this action

#freedomwaves an act of liberation form the corrupted systems that support the imperialist and colonialist powers

ACT NOW!! BOATS SAILING NOW TO GAZA! SPREAD THE WORD

in the middle of the sea there are heroes writing history in the name of justice support them and support the #freedomwaves

Shalit is Free. Lift the siege of #Gaza now. ▶ Send a message to Obama, Reps & Senators

what is #freedomwaves ? its a global action against injustice against oppression its an attempt to say no in the face of the occupier

We call on all of you! ▶ To surf the #FreedomWaves for #Gaza #Palestine, for #HumanRights & Lifting of the illegal siege plz help RT

RT @osiris322: RT @earthtonadine: Israel views the #FreedomWaves Flotilla to Gaza as a ‘provocation’ – aid is a provocation, but bombing & e

RT @NYTBronner: What about: “As #FreedomWaves Head for Israel, Israelis sense Existential Tsunami” …..GOT IT! Look out for it in tomorrow’

Netanyahu verdedigt bouw in Oost-Jeruzalem

JERUZALEM – De Israëlische premier Benjamin Netanyahu heeft woensdag zijn beslissing om meer woningen te bouwen in Oost-Jeruzalem verdedigd.

Volgens Netanyahu is het de ‘plicht’ en het ‘recht’ van Israël om in alle delen van de hoofdstad te bouwen.

Het kantoor van Netanyahu kondigde de bouw van tweeduizend nieuwe appartementen in Oost-Jeruzalem dinsdag aan.

Volgens een Israëlische functionaris is de versnelde bouw in Oost-Jeruzalem, dat door de Palestijnen wordt geclaimd als hoofdstad van een toekomstige staat, een antwoord op recente eenzijdige stappen van Palestijnse kant, zoals de Palestijnse toetreding tot de Unesco.

Plicht

 

“We bouwen in Jeruzalem omdat het ons recht en onze plicht is tegenover deze generatie en toekomstige generaties. Niet als straf maar als het fundamentele recht van ons volk om te bouwen in de eeuwige stad”, aldus Netanyahu. “Jeruzalem zal nooit terugkeren naar de status van voor 1967, dat beloof ik u.”

Israël veroverde het oosten van Jeruzalem op Jordanië tijdens de Zesdaagse Oorlog in 1967. Het oosten van de stad werd vervolgens door Israël geannexeerd, een zet die nooit is erkend door de internationale gemeenschap.

De door Netanyahu aangekondigde projecten zijn niet nieuw, maar hij heeft opgedragen ze versneld te voltooien. Normaal gesproken duurt het jaren voordat de noodzakelijke vergunningen voor dergelijke projecten worden afgegeven.

Veroordeeld

 

De Palestijnen en de Europese Unie hebben het besluit van Israël veroordeeld. “Israël had een keuze tussen nederzettingen en vrede, tussen onderhandelen en bevelen, tussen het verleden en de toekomst”, zei een Palestijnse onderhandelaar.

“Deze regering heeft gekozen voor het verleden, de nederzettingen en bevelen.” Ook de Israëlische oppositieleidster Tzipi Livni veroordeelde het handelen van Netanyahu. “Het idee dat we nu meer moeten bouwen om de Palestijnen te straffen is iets dat ik echt niet begrijp”, aldus Livni.

Zware tegenslag

Volgens de Britse minister van buitenlandse zaken William Hague is de aankondiging van Netanyahu een zware tegenslag voor het vredesproces. “De bouw van deze nederzettingen druist in tegen het internationaal recht en is de zoveelste provocatie in een reeks aankondigingen aangaande de nederzettingen”, zei Hague.

Een woordvoerder van het Witte Huis zei woensdag dat de Amerikaanse regering ‘zwaar teleurgesteld’ is.

(www.nu.nl / 02.11.2011)

Syria agrees to end crackdown, Arab League says

Cairo (CNN) — Syria has agreed to end its crackdown on anti-government demonstrations, pull troops from the streets and release prisoners jailed during months of protests, the Arab League announced Wednesday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government agreed to “stop all violence from any side in order to protect the Syrian citizens,” Qatar’s foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasim, announced after an Arab League meeting in Cairo. The Syrians also agreed to allow Arab League observers and international journalists to into Syria and allow their freedom of movement “in order to witness and document the reality of the developments,” he said.

And in two weeks, they will launch a “national dialogue” moderated by the Arab League, he said.

In response, the Free Syrian Army — a group of military deserters who have helped defend anti-government protesters — said it would abide by the Arab League agreement “as long as the regime commits to the same.”

“And in the case that the regime falls short of meeting the Arab League requirements, we will be compelled to protect the protesters and work on bringing down the regime no matter how much that may cost us,” the group added in a post on its Facebook page.

Syria has made previous pledges to withdraw armed forces from civilian areas. But in some of those cases, they withdrew only armored units and left infantry in place, or returned after a brief pullout. Anti-government activists criticized those steps as efforts by al-Assad’s regime to buy time.

Syria also has made other moves aimed at defusing the protests, including plans to draft a new constitution, but they have failed to appease the demonstrators.

The Arab League declaration came amid reports of nearly two dozen more deaths in the Syrian province of Homs on Wednesday. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 21 people were killed, including eight shot to death by security forces and pro-government gunmen in the city of Homs.

Eleven others were killed in the town of Kfarhala/Al Hula after they were attacked in the factory where they worked by armed men coming from villages that support the Syrian regime, the organization said. CNN cannot independently verify the reports because the Syrian government has limited access to international news organizations.

Syria is one of several Middle Eastern and North African states swept up in the “Arab Spring” revolts that began in January in Tunisia. The United Nations estimates that more than 3,000 people have died in Syria since unrest broke out in mid-March, when protesters began calling for the end the 40-year-old al-Assad regime.

(edition.cnn.com / 02.11.2011)

Rafah crossing closed for Eid al-Adha

EL-ARISH (Ma’an) — The Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt will close on Friday for six days for the Eid al-Adha holiday, Egyptian officials said Wednesday.

Egyptian officials told Ma’an the terminal would open on Nov. 9, noting that pilgrims making Hajj would be returning to Gaza from Mecca.

The southern terminal, which is the only entry and exit point from the Gaza Strip not controlled by Israel, was opened to travelers in May 2011.

Egyptian and Palestinian authorities have struggled to cope with huge demand and coordinating procedures, leading to travel delays.

(www.maannews.net / 02.11.2011)

LEAD: Israel Navy preparing to stop two boats heading for Gaza

Tel Aviv/Montreal – The Israeli navy was preparing Wednesday  to intercept two boats heading for Gaza which have declared they will  try to break the Israeli blockade of the strip, months after a  similar attempt failed.

Pro-Palestinian groups announced the action, which they are  calling Freedom Waves to Gaza and have kept secret until now to avoid  Israeli and international action to stop it, in a statement on  Wednesday.

The two boats, carrying 27 foreign activists, were ‘at this  moment’ in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, said the  Free Gaza movement, which had organized past siege-breaking journeys.

One vessel, the Saoirse from Ireland, counted parliamentarians  among its passengers. The other, the Tahrir, carried representatives  from Canada, the U.S., Australia and Palestine, the movement said.

‘While the Tahrir will be delivering much-needed medicines, our  primary aim remains to help free Palestinians from the open-air  prison known as Gaza,’ said on-board organizer David Heap, of  campaign group Canadian Boat to Gaza, in a press release.

An attempt in July to break the Gaza blockade – denounced by  Israel and other countries as a provocation – was foiled when Greece  prevented eight boats, calling themselves the Freedom Flotilla 2,  from sailing from its ports.

‘Our efforts in Greece only fuelled our determination to challenge  the imprisonment of the people of Gaza. We said we would continue to  sail and so we are,’ said the Free Gaza statement.

Some of the activists in the latest attempt were the same as those  who participated in July.

An Israeli military spokeswoman, Lieutenant Colonel Avital  Leibovich, called the action ‘the latest provocation’ in a long line.

She said Israel would stop them from reaching Gaza, but would give  them the opportunity to unload their goods in the southern Israeli  port of Ashdod, if they agreed. The activists have refused such  offers in the past.

‘We have been following those boats for some time. The Israel Navy  is prepared to prevent their arrival,’ she said in a telephone  briefing to journalists.

‘The blockade is there for security reasons. This is why we need  it,’ she said, noting that a UN report published in early September  had declared the blockade legal.

That report also acknowledged that Israeli naval commandos had  faced ‘organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers’  when they intercepted a Turkish ship headed for Gaza in May 2010.

But it said the commandos had used ‘excessive and unreasonable’  force in taking over the ship. Eight Turkish pro-Palestinian  activists and an American of Turkish descent were killed in that  incident, which sparked an Israeli-Turkish diplomatic crisis.

Leibovich also pointed out that in March, Israel had foiled an  attempt to smuggle weapons into Gaza by intercepting the Victoria, a  German-owned, Liberian-flagged ship sailing from Syria via Turkey to  Egypt. The vessel, some 200 nautical miles west off the Israeli  coast, had some 3,000 rockets and shells hidden on board.

‘You either have a blockade or you don’t have a blockade. There is  not something in the middle,’ the spokeswoman said.

‘At this point,’ she said, the boats were ‘still far’, but she  could not give an estimated arrival time as it depended on weather  conditions and speed.

‘Currently they are far form Israel, but they are headed here and  they are headed for Gaza,’ Leibovich added.

The two boats were carrying activists from Canada, Australia, the  US, Greece, Palestine, Poland and Egypt. They announced their action  as soon as they entered international waters, saying they hoped to  reach Gaza’s shores ‘in a couple of days.’

The Canadian Boat to Gaza activists said they planned the journey  in total secrecy to avoid a repeat of the July failure. Organizer  Ehab Lotayef, who was onboard the Tahrir, said they were worried in  part about surveillance by pro-Israeli Canadian authorities.

‘But we have the wind of public opinion at our back and in our  sails, which strengthens our resolve and determination to challenge  the illegal blockade of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants,’ Lotayef  added.

(www.monstersandcritics.com / 02.11.2011)

PLO to pursue statehood despite Israeli measures

RAMALLAH (Reuters) — Israel’s tough responses to a successful Palestinian bid to join UNESCO — financial sanctions and a faster settlement drive in the occupied West Bank — are unlikely to halt a quest for recognition as a state at the United Nations.

A senior Palestinian official said Wednesday that Israel was trying to undermine the Palestinian Authority through a decision on Tuesday to freeze temporarily transfers of PA funds after it won membership of the UN cultural agency.

The UNESCO vote marked a success for the PLO in its broader thrust for recognition as a sovereign state in the UN system — an initiative opposed by Israel and its main ally the United States.

In what the Palestinians saw as a reprisal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet also decided to accelerate the building of Jewish settlements on land where the PA aims to establish an independent state next to Israel.

“It is very serious. Israel wants to strive to destroy the role of the Palestinian National Authority,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told Voice of Palestine radio.

Saeb Erekat, another senior PLO official, said in a statement that Israel’s latest decisions would “not change our course of action”, signalling the PLO would push ahead regardless in its UN initiative.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was expected to say it is “deeply disappointed” by the settlement move.

Netanyahu, in a speech on Wednesday, said construction in Jerusalem is Israel’s “right and obligation”. Israel deems all of Jerusalem, including areas taken in a 1967 war, as its capital, a status not recognized internationally.

The revenues Israel has decided to withhold include duties on goods being imported to the Palestinian territories and which amount to around half of the PA’s domestic revenue base.

In May, Israel temporarily withheld the revenues in response to a reconciliation pact between Abbas and the Hamas movement, which governs the Gaza Strip and is deeply hostile to Israel.

That suspension meant the PA was unable to pay salaries to its 150,000 employees on time for the first time since 2007. A PA spokesman said salaries for November were paid on Wednesday despite the Israeli decision.

“The (Israeli) decision to deny Palestinians access to their own custom tax revenues is an unlawful punitive measure that Israel has done in the past (2005, 2006, 2007, 2011) and will most likely do again,” the PA said in a statement.

While Israel may want to punish the Palestinian Authority for its pursuit of statehood at the United Nations, analysts question whether Israel has any interest in the PA’s collapse, not least because of its role in policing the West Bank.

PA security forces currently cooperate with the Israelis.

“This is one point of strength the PA has,” said George Giacaman, a political scientist at Birzeit University in the West Bank.

Moribund peace process

The authority was set up in 1994 as a state-in-waiting at the outset of a peace process which the Palestinians hoped would yield their independence in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which were all captured by Israel in 1967.

That process, if it still exists at all, is in deep crisis. The last round of direct peace talks broke down around a year ago because of a dispute over Israel’s expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — construction which Abed Rabbo said aimed to kill any chance of Palestinian independence.

Israel said Tuesday the areas where building would be accelerated would remain in its hands in any future peace deal.

“The Palestinians have no one but themselves to blame for the current impasse in the peace talks that stems directly from their refusal to negotiate peace, from their boycotting the negotiations and from their decision to attack Israel in international fora,” Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev said.

UNESCO was the first UN agency to admit the Palestinians as a full member since President Mahmoud Abbas applied for a full seat at the United Nations on Sept. 23.

Israel and the United States both see the Palestinian policy as an attempt to bypass bilateral peace talks. Israel also says that the Palestinians are aiming to “delegitimise” it.

Palestinian analysts say Abbas’ resolve to press ahead has only been hardened by the recent success of his rivals in the Islamist Hamas movement, which last month scored points among Palestinians by brokering a prisoner swap with Israel.

The UN Security Council is expected to decide the fate of the Palestinian application for full membership around Nov. 11. Washington has vowed to use its veto if it comes to a vote.

The Palestinians could then ask the General Assembly to upgrade their status to that of “a non-member state”, an improvement on their current standing as an “observer entity”.

They also have plans to apply for full membership of other UN agencies, regardless of the course of events in New York.

(www.maannews.net / 02.11.2011)

Gaza flotilla organizers to Haaretz: Plan kept secret until last minute

Activists from the two-vessel flotilla say did not publicize plans out of fear they would be stopped before leaving port in Turkey.

The “Freedom Waves to Gaza” flotilla organizers kept their latest attempt to set sail to the Gaza Strip under wraps out of concern that they would be stopped again before leaving the port in Turkey.

The activists from the Canadian vessel the “Tahrir,” carrying twelve Canadian, American, Australian and Palestinian passengers, and the Irish vessel the “Saoirse,” carrying 15 Irish passengers, told Haaretz that preparations were kept low profile until the two-vessel flotilla reached international waters.

Activists from the Gaza-bound flotilla holding flags of the participating countries in front of the Greek parliament in Athens yesterday.

The activists are also accompanied by reporters from news outlets including Al-Jazeera and Iranian television.

The Tahrir is carrying letters of support from activists in the U.S. to the people of Gaza, as well as some medical supplies. Some of the participants are new, and some have attempted already to sail to Gaza from Greece in July this year.

The activists arrived in Turkey in the past few days, and the boats sailed on Wednesday afternoon from the Turkish port of Fetniye.

According to Israel Defense Forces estimates, judging by the speed judging by the speed of the ships and the conditions at sea, the ships will arrive in Gaza between Thursday night and early Friday morning.

The activists told Haaretz that Turkish authorities requested they reduce the number of people on board, so not everyone was able to embark. They stressed that no particular organization was behind this new effort to sail to Gaza.

Canadian activist Wendy Goldsmith said that it was organized by “civil society with no particular leadership – pretty much as the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protests, people who protest the injustice.”

The flotilla has nothing to do with the rocket fire from Gaza or the recent prisoners swap between Hamas and Israel, added Goldsmith.

“The siege is still there. Israel had many ways to deal with its security problems, and the collective punishment of people living in Gaza is probably the worst – it’s ineffective, immoral and illegal,” she said.

She added that the activists expect an encounter with the Israeli authorities “at some point” and are concerned for their safety.

Ehab Lotayef, the organizer of the Tahrir, said in an announcement published on the website of the Irish boat that “the Palestinians living in Gaza want solidarity – not charity. They have made it clear to the world that their primary demand is for freedom. While humanitarian aid is helpful, Palestinians are still prisoners with no freedom of movement. Israel’s illegal blockade prevents not only imports into Gaza, but exports as well. And the blockade prevents Palestinians from moving freely between Gaza and the West Bank, in violation of fundamental human rights.”

The U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called on the international community to ensure the safe passage of the ships through international waters into Gaza.

CCR senior staff attorney Maria LaHood said that “CCR applauds the persistence of civil society to break the siege on Gaza, where Palestinians remain imprisoned and isolated, without access to the supplies necessary to sustain and rebuild their lives.”

(www.haaretz.com / 02.11.2011)