Record number of Palestinians displaced in 2011

 

Palestinian youths hurl stones toward an Israeli watchtower during a demonstration against the Israeli closure near Rachel’s Tomb.

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli authorities have displaced a record number of Palestinian families in the West Bank including East Jerusalem this year, a coalition of rights groups said Tuesday.

Some 20 leading aid agencies and human rights groups released a joint statement condemning the violations as the Mideast Quartet prepares to meet in Jerusalem.

“The increasing rate of settlement expansion and house demolitions is pushing Palestinians to the brink, destroying their livelihoods and prospects for a just and durable peace,” executive director of Oxfam International Jeremy Hobbs said.

“There is a growing disconnect between the Quartet talks and the situation on the ground. The Quartet needs to radically revise its approach and show that it can make a real difference to the lives of Palestinians and Israelis,” he added.

The increase in house demolitions in 2011 has been accompanied by the expansion of illegal settlements and a sharp increase in settler violence.

Since the beginning of 2011, more than 500 homes, wells and other structures have been destroyed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, displacing over 1,000 Palestinians, UN figures show.

This is twice as many people over the same time period last year and the highest figure since 2005. Half of those displaced are children.

Around 4,000 housing units have been approved in East Jerusalem over the past year, the highest number since 2006, the Israeli organization Peace Now said.

Settler attacks against Palestinians have increased by over 50 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and by 160 percent since 2009, UN reports show.

Meanwhile, over 10,000 olive and other trees have been destroyed this year.

“The Quartet should call ongoing settlement expansion and house demolitions what they are: violations of international humanitarian law that Israel should stop,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Phillip Luther, regional director for Amnesty International, said the figures show the Quartet’s approach has failed.

“Israel’s escalating violations show the fundamental failure of the Quartet’s approach. It’s time for the Quartet to understand that they cannot contribute to achieving a just and durable solution to the conflict without first ensuring respect for international law.”

(www.maannews.net / 13.12.2011)

PVV verliest raadslid in Den Haag

Jeltje van Nieuwenhoven en Marnix Norder (L) (op de rug gezien) van de PvdA zitten vrijdag tegenover PVV-leden Machiel de Graaf (2eL), Sietse Fritsma, Richard de Mos, Karen Gerbrands en Arnoud van Doorn (VLNR) tijdens de definitieve uitslag van de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen in Den Haag.

Raadslid Arnoud van Doorn maakt geen deel meer uit van de PVV-fractie in de Haagse gemeenteraad.

Van Doorn maakt vanaf hedenavond geen deel meer uit van de Haagse PVV-fractie. Maar hij blijft wel in de raad. Zo meldt hij zelf op Twitter.

Hij had tot vanavond het twitteraccount ‘@arnoudpvv’ en nu ‘@arnoudvdoorn’.

Tijdens de gemeenteraadsverkiezingen eindigde de PVV in Den Haag met acht zetels als tweede partij achter de PvdA met tien zetels.

(www.volkskrant.nl / 13.12.2011)

Activists: Soldiers open fire toward Gaza demo

 

Palestinians demonstrate against Israeli incursions and land confiscation near the barrier north of Beit Hanoun
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli forces fired toward Palestinian protesters on Tuesday during a demonstration against land confiscation near the Israeli border, activists said.

Saber Zaanin, local coordinator, said activists and internationals were fired upon while heading toward the destroyed Dumra village north of Beit Hanoun, inside Israel’s buffer zone.

Israeli forces fired at them and tanks headed toward the wall. International solidarity activists got on a farming plow, which was pushed inside the buffer zone by 200 meters, he added.

Zaanin pointed out that the activity is a message for the people in Nabi Saleh that they “are not alone facing Israel and its walls”, and that the “seeds of resistance planted in the buffer zone area are for peace.”

An Israeli army spokesman did not immediately return a call late Tuesday.

(www.maannews.net /13.12.2011)

Palestinian flag flies at UNESCO to mark admission as new member

 

Palestinian flag raised at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France

13 December 2011 –

The Palestinian flag was raised for the first time at the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today as the UN agency marked Palestine’s admissionas a full member.Senior UNESCO officials and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attended the ceremony, which follows the decision of the agency’s General Conference on 31 October to admit Palestine as UNESCO 195th member.

Membership took effect on 23 November after Palestine signed and accepted the agency’s constitution in London. UNESCO thus became the first UN agency to admit Palestine as a full member.

The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace.

 

In remarks welcoming Palestine to the agency, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova noted that membership “goes beyond raising the flag” and includes critical rights and responsibilities, as well as the sharing of universal values such as tolerance and respect for others.

“Membership allows a country to bring to the world that which it cherishes most – the wealth of its culture, the resonance of its dreams for mutual understanding,” she said.

“The Palestinian people, as all peoples, must be able to preserve their culture and heritage. They must benefit from quality education, education for peace. A strong educational system teaches respect for human rights. A vibrant culture respects the culture of others. In this connected world, healthy societies flourish through ties with others. UNESCO stands for all of this.”

Ms. Bokova stressed that “multilateralism has never been so important. This must be a chance for all to join together around shared values and renewed ambitions for peace.”

In his address to assembled delegations and guests, Mr. Abbas said the admission to UNESCO was “a tremendous source of pride to us… Palestinian writers, artists and researchers have played a vital role trying to preserve the culture and identity of our people. UNESCO has also played a fundamental role – and has been a loyal partner.”

Today’s ceremony was also attended by Katalin Bogyay, the President of UNESCO’s General Conference, and Alissandra Cummins, the Chairperson of the agency’s Executive Board.

(paper.li / AltahrirNieuws / 13.12.2011)

Zahhar: No elections in May

 

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar said Tuesday it was unlikely that elections would be held in May as scheduled.

In an interview with Egyptian media, Zahhar said a unity government and security committee needed to be formed to ensure a transparent vote, Cairo-based Al-Ahram reported.

He questioned on what basis elections could be held as neither of these prerequisites had been met, according to the newspaper report citing the Middle East News Agency.

After meeting Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal for reconciliation talks in Cairo last month, Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas said he “hoped” elections would be held in May 2012.

Zahhar blamed Fatah for the anticipated delay.

“We reached an agreement with Fatah in May, and we agreed to hold elections the next day, but (Abbas) requested that we wait until November, then December until we reached the new date which is May 2012.”

Asked about his expectations if elections were held, Zahhar said Hamas would win a majority in the West Bank and make “overwhelming” gains in the Gaza Strip, which it currently rules.

Zahhar said no progress had been made in its reconciliation with Fatah, the party of President Mahmoud Abbas which leads the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in May to end years of bitter hostility, but the terms of the deal have yet to be implemented. Both parties hailed the latest round of talks in Cairo as “positive” but progress remains to be seen on the ground.

Both sides had agreed to release all prisoners held for their political affiliation in the West Bank and Gaza, but Zahhar said the detainees remained in jails.

Meanwhile, Hamas could not be blamed for breaking Israel’s siege in any way it could, Zahhar said.

“We pay salaries, provide jobs and we are not indebted a penny. However, Hamas was boycotted only by those who have interests with Fatah, namely aggressive clans and security services who run death squads and cooperate with Israeli security services.”

Asked about reports that a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood would be established in Palestine and that Hamas would merge with the group, Zahhar said the Egyptian movement did not create branches anywhere in the region and did not need one in Palestine.

“The presence of Muslim Brotherhood in countries like Syria and Jordan is only at the level of local organizations following the movement’s ideology.”

Muslim Brotherhood followers in Palestine were independent and not affiliated to anyone, he said, adding that the movement had been oppressed under ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak but was now open to the world.

Zahhar noted that the movement did not necessarily control its followers around the world, but rather supported them without interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.

According to Article II of Hamas’ charter, the Islamist movement was established as a wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.

Asked whether reconciling with Fatah in a unity government meant Hamas would deal with the US administration, Zahhar said his party was open to dialogue “with whoever wants to listen and be listened to.”

But Hamas will not repeat Fatah’s mistakes and will never give up its non-negotiable principles in exchange for relations with the US, he added.

Zahhar noted that Hamas was on Washington’s list of terrorist organization and said it was unlikely that the US would seek to engage the party.

(www.maannews.net / 13.12.2011)

Israeli forces demolish old buildings near Bethlehem

 

Bulldozers demolish a house in the West Bank village of Al-Khader, near Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers demolished on Tuesday morning three old buildings on the outskirts of Beit Jala, near Bethlehem, known as Wadi al-Makhrour, after claiming they were built on Israeli land.

The mayor of Beit Jala, Raji Zeidan, said the buildings were recently refurbished. The buildings, according to Zeidan, belong to Fuad Qasasfa, Khadir Salamah, and Abed Audah.

He also highlighted that several landowners in the area recently received warnings from the Israeli authorities warning them that reclamation of land is prohibited.

On Monday, the parish priest for Beit Jala, Ibrahim Shomali, said the situation for residents of Beit Jala, which is predominantly Christian, was deteriorating fast due to Israeli measures.

“The situation of our Christian community is not a good situation,” he said.

“Nobody is hearing us except him (Jesus); he can hear, he can help, he can hope and he can change the minds of the political leaders in Israel to give us what we need and what is just for our people and our country.”

Shomali was speaking to reporters about Israel’s plans to confiscate land belonging to the Cremisan vineyard to make way for its wall.

The owners are fighting the takeover in Israeli courts. “For us, we don’t believe it will have an effect because they do what they do for the good of their country, not the good of peace or the Palestinian people.

“But we can’t go to other places, this is the only choice we have.”

Israel has stepped up its demolitions of Palestinian property in occupied land this year, razing double the number of homes and water wells from 2010, human rights groups said Tuesday.

The statement endorsed by 20 organizations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch further said settler violence against Palestinians had risen in 2011 and that Israel had sped up its expansion of settler enclaves.

They urged members of the Middle East peacemaking “Quartet” — the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — to put pressure on Israel to “reverse its settlement policies and freeze all demolitions that violate international law”.

(mideastnews-danmike.blogspot.com / 13.12.2011)

A Muslim republic in the Netherlands? An interview with Henny Kreeft

by Eren Güvercin

08 September 2009

Bonn, Germany – Henny Kreeft is the leader of the Netherland’s Muslim Party (NMP). In this interview with freelance writer Eren Güvercin he talks about his unusual route to NMP leadership and the main goals of his party.

Mr. Kreeft, why was the NMP founded?

Henny Kreeft: The initial idea for a party came from two Dutch Muslims in 2007. I read an article about it, telephoned them and we eventually met up. After that, they asked me to take over where they had left off. I had wanted to take some time to think about it, but in the end I agreed. They passed on the project to me, and I created the party as it is today.

Reading their party manifesto I realised that it represented a response to the attacks on Islam and Muslims. I accepted this element, but I wanted the NMP to be more than just a one-issue party. So I made it a real party.

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders’ party, Party for Freedom (PVV) is extremely successful in the Netherlands. Why do you think that is?

If you repeat a message over and over again, eventually people will start believing it, especially if it’s being reported in the media on a daily basis. What happened was that after 9/11, some youth from a Moroccan background experienced problems in Holland. Wilders took it from there and added his interpretation of sections of the Holy Qur’an, thereby creating a major problem out of what had only been a minor problem to begin with.

What is the NMP’s approach to this party?

First, we have to explain that Islam does not equate with war, but that it is about peace, solidarity, family issues—and that Dutch Muslims just want to lead normal lives here like everybody else. We intend to mend the rift between Muslims and non-Muslims and to improve the negative image of Islam.

Second, we have to invest in our future, and the most important way and probably the only way to do this is to invest in our youth.

What are the key points of your party programme?

Apart from improving relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, and investment in our young people, we also oppose the ban on the burqa (a garment that fully covers a woman’s body, head and face). We believe a woman should be able to make a free choice whether she wears one or not.

Are there only Dutch citizens in the NMP, or are there Muslim members from other backgrounds?

We are open to people of all origins. At the moment our members include Dutch people, and people of Moroccan and Bangladeshi origin.

What about the NMP’s election chances? Do they look good?

We’ll have to wait for the local elections in March, the results should give us an idea of what the NMP can actually achieve in the Netherlands. A professor at Amsterdam University recently predicted that we could get four seats in the local council. But I would be happy with a minimum of two.

What is the NMP’s message to Dutch society?

Don’t be afraid. We don’t want to establish a “Muslim republic” in the Netherlands! We are simply a Dutch political party, working within the law in Holland, and anybody can join us.

(www.commongroundnews.org /13.12.2011)

Palestine flag raised at UNESCO headquarters

UN cultural agency holds flag raising ceremony to welcome Palestine as organisation member despite controversy.

UNESCO Director Bokova, left, was joined by Palestinian President Abbas at Tuesday’s flag raising in Paris [Reuters]

Palestinians have raised their flag at the headquarters of the UN cultural agency in Paris in a historic move and symbolic boost for their push for an independent state.

Cheers rose alongside the red, black, white and green flag during a ceremony held in the rain on Tuesday.

“This is truly a historic moment,” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said at the ceremony, his speech punctuated by rousing applause and standing ovations.


 

“We hope this will be a good auspice for Palestine to become a member of other organisations,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland, reporting from Paris, said, “it was a moment steeped in symbolism”.

Palestine was admitted as a member of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in an October vote that prompted the US to cut off funds to the agency.

Two US laws required the halt in the flow of funds to the agency, forcing it to scale back literacy and development programmes in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and the new nation of South Sudan.

The Palestinians also are seeking full-fledged UN membership, but Washington has threatened to veto that move, saying a negotiated settlement with Israel should come first.

Abbas said on Tuesday that efforts were continuing to gain full UN membership and admission to other international institutions.

“We are currently holding talks with the parties. We have not yet asked for a vote but this could happen at any moment,” he said.

“If we don’t have a majority, we will repeat our request again and again.”

Al Jazeera’s Rowland said: “President Abbas made it quite clear that it was an important and significant step on the road towards Palestinian statehood. And he also reiterated his willingness to restart peace talks with Israel.

“It seems that everyone agrees that negotiations are not in any way ruled out by this move but [it] certainly has led to a more tense diplomatic atmosphere,” she said.

UNESCO ‘distraction’

US officials have said UNESCO’s decision risked undermining the international community’s work toward a comprehensive Middle East peace plan, and could be a distraction from the aim of restarting direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The US contributes $80m annually in dues – 22 per cent of UNESCO’s overall budget – and its 2011 contribution was not yet in when the laws took effect, immediately throwing UNESCO into crisis.

Several countries are lobbying the US to renew its funding.

“The suspension of the lion’s share of the funding to UNESCO really threatens the UN body’s ability to continue with very important, particularly educational programmes, some of which are in Palestinian territories themselves,” our correspondent said.

“Really the problem now for UNESCO is to find other donors, other member states to come forward and bring that money.

“There is a serious question over the future ability of UNESCO to carry out some of its very important projects.”

UNESCO is known for its programme to protect cultures via its World Heritage sites, but its core mission also includes activities such as helping eradicate poverty, ensuring clean water, teaching girls to read and promoting freedom of speech.

(www.aljazeera.com / 13.12.2011)

France issues warm welcome to Palestinian admittance to UNESCO

PARIS, Dec 13 (KUNA) — France on Tuesday issued a warm welcome to Palestine as it was admitted to UNESCO, a process that was supported by France but opposed by the United States and Israel.
“What we want to say about the (admission) ceremony is that we welcome Palestine to UNESCO,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said.
He recalled that France “voted in favour of this admission to UNESCO and we are happy to see the Palestinians come in and that this has become concrete.” The Palestinian demand to join the UN body set off a clash between some Europeans and the United States and Israel and led to the cutting off of funding to UNESCO by the US Congress and Israel.
Valero said that France urged the United States to resume financing of UNESCO as the work of this organisation was in line with the values shared by the US.
He said that France and its partners would continue to seek ways to fill the gap left by the US funding cut and UNESCO was also seeing where it could make budget adjustments.
But Valero also noted that it was difficult for member countries to increase contributions because of the difficult economic context in many areas.
He noted that the issue will be discussed at the next Executive Board meeting of UNESCO, which will take place in February.

(www.kuna.net.kw / 13.12.2011)