Israel’s Nuclear Weapons Program and the Displacement of Palestinian Bedouins

Lance Bartholomeusz, Director of UNRWA Operations in the West Bank condemned Israel’s latest round of large scale demolitions of homes in the Palestinian Bedouin refugee community Um al-Khair in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Israel uses parts of the Negev desert for testing weapons with nuclear material and to dispose of nuclear waste from its not-IAEA monitored Dimona nuclear facility.

The director of the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine’s Israeli-occupied West Bank issued a press release, stressing that the UNRWA condemns the latest round of demolitions of Bedouin’s homes in Um al-Khair, in the South Hebron Hills.

As a result of Israeli authorities home demolitions, 31 Palestinian refugees including 16 children were made homeless, stated Bartholomeusz. He added that this community has endured several rounds of home demolitions and stressed that residents often faced harassment from residents of the nearby, illegal Karmel settlement. The UNRWA West Bank director voiced his indignation and the UNRWA’s protest, saying:

“I am appalled. Looking in the eyes of a young Bedouin boy in a red shirt standing amongst the crumpled ruins of his demolished home, how can anyone justify this?

Some 700 Palestinians have been affected by home demolitions since January 2016, a number that approaches the total of affected people in 2015. Bartholomeusz added that the UNRWA is gravely concerned about demolitions in violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the destruction of private property  and obliges Israel, as occupying power to administer the occupied territory for the welfare of the protected Palestinian population.

The UNRWA already urged the international community in 2014 to stand against the forced transfer of Palestinian Bedouins. In 2015 the Israeli parliament (Knesst) adopted a bill that threatens 40,000 Palestinian Bedouins from the Negev desert with being displaced. The targeting of Bedouin communities happens within two primary contexts.

For one, Israel’s continued, de facto annexation of Palestinian territories and settlement expansion. For the other, the use of Bedouin land, especially in the Negev, for military exercises and in part to place nuclear waste from Israel’s non-IAEA monitored nuclear facility in Dimona.

Reports from June 2015 strongly suggest that Israel tested bombs with nuclear material in the Negev desert. Within this context it is particularly noteworthy that the high cancer rates among Palestinian prisoners may be attributed to nuclear toxic waste which Israel buries near several prisons in the Negev desert.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

Israeli Army Raids Campuses of Two Primary Schools in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, April 14, 2016 (WAFA) – Israeli armed forces Thursday raided the campuses of two Palestinian primary schools in the town of al-Khader to the south of Bethlehem, according to witnesses.

One of the teachers informed WAFA that an Israeli military force broke into the schools’ campuses during the lunch period for no specific reason, spreading fear and panic among students.

Faculty members at both schools reportedly fended off the Israeli raid and forced them out of the schools.

Israeli forces often target schools and other educational facilities; Israel tends to use force against students and teaching staff in violation of international law.

According to the Global Research website, “The Israeli violations practiced against the Palestinian educational process had notably increased in 2015.”

According to a report issued by Quds Press, “53,998 Palestinian male and female students and 3,840 Palestinian male and female teachers, as well as a number of the staff of the Palestinian Ministry of Education and its institutions, were subjected to attacks by the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) during the last year; these attacks included killing, wounding, arrests and detentions, as well as house arrests, restriction of movement at checkpoints and denial of safe access to schools.”

“255 Palestinian schools were subjected to attacks by the Israeli occupation and the settlers, the Israelis attacks against Palestinian schools included, incursions, shooting and bomb attacks, causing material losses, in addition to disabling the educational process completely or partially.”

Regarding the attacks on schools, data issued by the Palestinian Ministry of Education showed that 54 schools had been subjected to the Israeli occupation’s violations, during which tear gas canisters, sound bombs and bullets were fired toward the school yards and classrooms, as well as beating teachers and students severely, and storming the school yards.

The Israeli practices against the educational process in Palestine resulted in, according to the ministry’s report, the cancellation of 9,322 courses, as well as the delivery of orders to stop the work in two schools.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

Palestinian FM denies claims PA is backing down on UN settlement resolution

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki said Thursday that Palestinian efforts to present a draft resolution on illegal Israeli settlements to the UN Security Council were still ongoing.Al-Maliki denied recent claims by Israeli media that the Palestinian Authority was backing down on presenting its draft resolution to the Security Council.He added that the draft resolution came after the Israeli government’s continued flaunting of international law, which deems settlements in occupied territories to be illegal.Al-Maliki demanded that Israel stop its organized policy of expanding settlements by stealing Palestinian lands.Earlier this week, Palestinian leadership started consulting with Arab nations on the draft resolution, in consultations overseen by Egypt.The Palestinian Authority last week put the draft resolution into circulation among members of the council in preparation for Abbas’ visit to the UN headquarters in New York from April 21 to 23.The resolution will be the first to directly condemn Israeli settlements as illegal under international law since the US vetoed a similar resolution in 2011.The construction of Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian land has long been considered a violation of international law by the UN, although Israel contests this and has yet to be held accountable by the international community.PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat denounced on Wednesday recent Israeli plans to expand settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, calling it a “war crime.”The resolution will mark the latest attempt by the Palestinian leadership to counter ongoing Israeli violations in the international arena, brought on in part by decades of failed negotiations.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

Tunisia: The Last Vestige of the Arab Spring?

On Monday, April 4, Tunisia became the first country to announce that it would reopen its consulate in Tripoli, the capital of Libya. While Tunisia did so out of concern for its citizens living in Libya, as well as for trade considerations, the move also reinforced Tunisia’s place as an outlier. Approximately five years after the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the only country left standing with a democracy and not mired in a civil war or an authoritarian takeover. While its neighbors, especially Libya, have all but collapsed, Tunisia has remained above the fray, even as the threat of ISIS rises.

Read on to find out how the Arab Spring affected Tunisia, how it is handling the ISIS threat, and what unique qualities have allowed the country to succeed following the Arab Spring when every other nation has essentially failed to live up to its promises.


HISTORY OF TUNISIA

The settling of the land where Tunisia now sits has been ongoing for thousands of years thanks to the country’s access to both the Mediterranean and the inland Sahara region. In classical times, Tunisia was home to Carthage, the powerful empire that challenged Rome but ultimately lost. After its defeat, it was ruled by Rome and later by the Berbers who converted to Islam in the 7th century after their defeat by Arab invaders. Tunisia was then ruled by a series of Muslim empires until 1881 when it was conquered by the French, becoming one of its colonies.

The French maintained control over Tunisia through a mixture of repression and concession, but that was not enough to stem the Tunisian independence movement, known as Destour. In the 1930s, Habib Bourguiba, who later became Tunisia’s first president, started the Neo-Destour party to renew the independence effort. Bourguiba was imprisoned in France but was later released by the German occupiers during World War II, at which point he began advocating for the gradual independence of Tunisia. In 1956, France officially granted Tunisia complete independence with Bourguiba as the head of state.

Habib Bourguiba served as Tunisia’s president from 1957 to 1987. During his tenure in Tunisia, Bourguiba ruled as a one-party leader who led a relatively western-style government. The first few years after its independence were marred by residual conflicts with France. Other significant events occurred later in Habib’s rule, such as when the Arab League and the PLO temporarily relocated their headquarters to Tunisia. In 1987, Bourguiba was replaced by his prime minister, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in a nonviolent coup. Problems with corruption and human rights violations led many to become dissatisfied with Ben Ali’s rule, eventually sparking a revolution.


TUNISIA AND THE ARAB SPRING

Perhaps it is fitting that Tunisia is the last country espousing the promise of the Arab Spring since it was in Tunisia where protests initially started. In December 2010, an unemployed man named Mohamed Bouazizi lit himself on fire in protest after Tunisian police stopped him from selling fruit on the street. This act sparked protests that led to mass unrest. The protests eventually prompted the end of Ben Ali’s rule, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia. Since then, the country has had two democratic elections and enjoys relatively high levels of freedom.

However, things in Tunisia did not go off without a hitch. The first election was won by an Islamist group in 2011. By 2013 however, the momentum behind this group had stalled and was accompanied by the assassination of a prominent opposition candidate. Instead of collapsing, the party in charge looked at its neighbor in Egypt, which was seeing a nearly identical situation unfold, and agreed to try something different. In Tunisia, the ruling Islamist party agreed to step down while maintaining a role in the election process. This negotiation was orchestrated by four groups of activists which eventually earned them the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite some success, the country faces several significant challenges. Namely, Tunisia has been slow to clamp down on corruption or hold security forces accountable for their history of violence. It is also struggling to deal with the growing influence of extremism among its citizens. Still, it bears asking, how or why has Tunisia succeeded while every other country involved in the Arab Spring failed?


PRESERVING DEMOCRACY

One explanation of Tunisia’s success appears to be the very same Islamist party, Ennahada, which was elected after the revolution and then subsequently gave up power. Unlike many of its regional neighbors, such as the Muslim Brotherhood,Ennahada is much more secular and abhors the ideals of radical Islam. Aside from its ideology, what probably preserved democracy in Tunisia as much as anything else was its decision to give up power, which is one of the pillars of any democracy. By stepping aside in a volatile environment, Ennahada showed that change can be achieved peacefully through democratic means.

Despite these encouraging signs, more work needs to be done. In a recent poll, 83 percent of Tunisians stated they believed the country was going the wrong way. Much of this discontent is focused on slow-moving political reforms, especially when it comes to the economy. Many of Tunisia’s educated young working class have had a hard time finding jobs and are losing faith in the government’s ability to solve the problem. On top of all this is the security threat from Libya and ISIS. Tunisia has kept the democracy experiment alive through voting and the peaceful transition of power, but many Tunisians are getting frustrated with the current path.

The following video looks at Tunisia in the context of the Arab Spring and how it has been successful:

THE THREAT OF ISIS

Tunisia’s success with democracy is all the more impressive given the large influence that ISIS has in the region and within the country. This paradox is most clearly illustrated by the fact that, despite being the most democratic and literate countries in the Islamic World, Tunisia is also the largest source of foreign fighters for ISIS. Between 6,000 and 7,000 Tunisians have left their homes to join ISIS with another 15,000 barred from making the trip. Even more interesting, many of these fighters have come from middle-class, even affluent, backgrounds. This throws the traditional narrative of terrorist breeding grounds into question. Some locals and experts attribute ISIS’s success in recruiting to a sense of disappointment with the post-Arab Spring government.

While Tunisia grapples with being simultaneously being the Islamic world’s most promising democracy and at the same time home to the most ISIS fighters, it must also look to danger from abroad. In 2015, Tunisia was home to two terrorist attacks that left 38 and 21 people dead respectfully. These attacks were conducted by ISIS and targeted tourists. As a result, the tourism industry, which makes up close to 10 percent of Tunisia’s economy, fell decreased significantly.

Perhaps Tunisia’s greatest threat, though, comes from neighboring Libya. Libya is where many Tunisian ISIS recruits go to train before coming back to plan attacks. One such attack was beaten back earlier this year in March when Tunisian security forces managed to fight off an invasion attempt from ISIS soldiers in the town of Ben Guerdane. Although they managed to successfully repel ISIS in Ben Guerdane, the fear and likelihood of more attacks remain strong. In fact, Tunisia is now constructing a wall along its border with Libya with help from the United States and Germany.

The video below takes a closer look at Tunisian government’s difficulty preventing its citizens from joining ISIS:

CONCLUSION

Five years after the start of the Arab Spring the results do not look promising. Three of the countries involved are engaged in civil war–Yemen, Libya, and Syria–and in Bahrain, the monarchy clings to its power. Meanwhile, authoritarian rule has been restored in Egypt. By most accounts, Tunisia is the only power to experience any meaningful progress toward democratization. Tunisia’s success is even more inexplicable because it is also the number one source of foreign fighters for ISIS and it remains under the constant threat of attack by ISIS fighters who are based in Libya.

But Tunisia and its Arab Spring idealism continue to endure. The nation is certainly not without difficulties and it nearly succumbed to the same problems that doomed Egypt. How was Tunisia able to navigate this mind field when everyone else failed? A leading explanation is Tunisia’s peaceful transition from one government to another, despite its political and social chaos.

Ultimately, though, people’s patience is not infinite and new polls suggest concerns over the political process, the economy, and national security may threaten the long-term success of democracy in Tunisia and the Arab Spring in general. But if Tunisia can solve these problems it will be a testament to a movement that believed that democracy is possible in the Islamic world.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

New report: Palestinian children in Israeli military detention experience violence, coerced confessions

Israeli soldiers try to detain a Palestinian child in Occupied Jerusalem

Israeli soldiers try to detain a Palestinian child in Occupied Jerusalem

A new report on Palestinian children in Israeli military detention claims that prisoners as young as 12-years-old are routinely subjected to violence, coerced confessions, and solitary confinement.

‘No Way to Treat a Child’, published today by Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP), is based on the testimonies of more than 400 Palestinian children detained by Israeli forces between January 2012 and December 2015.

According to DCIP, the affidavits are evidence of “the widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.” Three-quarters of the 429 Palestinian children detained in the West Bank during the period considered in the report “endured some form of physical violence following arrest.”

In 41.7 per cent of cases, the Israeli military arrested children from their homes in the middle of the night, while in 88.1 per cent of cases, Israeli forces arrested children without notifying parents of the reason for arrest or the location of detention. In 416 of 429 cases – 97 per cent – children had no parent present during the interrogation or access to legal counsel.

DCIP documented 66 children held in solitary confinement, for an average period of 13 days, during the reporting period. More than 90 percent of those held in solitary confinement produced a confession (a third of which were drafted in Hebrew).

According to the NGO, “many children maintain their innocence, but plead guilty as it is the fastest way to get out of the system.” Out of 295 cases that resulted in convictions, just over half of children (151) received a custodial sentence between three and 12 months.

An additional issue is the fact that Israeli authorities transfer nearly 60 per cent of Palestinian child detainees out of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to prisons inside Israel, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Marking the report’s publication, Khaled Quzmar, DCIP General Director, said that “recent amendments to Israeli military law have had little to no impact on the treatment of children during the first 24 to 48 hours after an arrest, when most of the abuse occurs at the hands of Israeli soldiers, police, and the security service.”

Quzmar added that, despite Israel’s obligations under international law, “year after year”, Palestinian children are “experiencing widespread, systematic, and institutionalized ill-treatment at the hands of Israeli forces.”

Israel operates two, separate legal systems in the OPT; a civilian legal framework for Israeli citizens living in illegal settlements, and military law for Palestinians. According to DCIP, Israel is the only country in the world that systematically prosecutes 500-700 children in military courts each year.

As of February 2016, there were 440 Palestinian children in Israeli detention for so-called ‘security’ offenses, the highest total since the Israel Prison Service (IPS) started providing figures in 2008. Almost one in four of these children (104) are aged 12-15. In addition, seven Palestinian children are held without charge or trial, based on Israeli military-issued administrative detention orders.

See MEMO’s infographic on the detention of Palestinian Minors.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

Palestinian prisoners in Nafha banned from Friday prayers

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The warden for Israel’s Nafha prison announced Thursday evening that prisoners will be banned from performing Friday noon prayers the following day, according to the Palestinian Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs.The committee said the warden informed prisoners of the decision and threatened that every cell of the prison will be raided if the decision is violated.The decision comes after dozens of Palestinian prisoners were injured on Wednesday when Israeli forces raided section 14 of the Nafha prison.Several prisoners were hospitalized for pepper spray burns and being beaten with batons by Israeli forces, with at least one sustaining critical injuries.Israeli Prison Services spokesperson Assaf Librati told Ma’an Thursday evening that Wednesday’s clashes began with prisoners in section 14 throwing rocks into the hallways and shouting, though it was unclear what they were protesting.Librati said that only the prisoners in section 14 are being banned from Friday prayers, which prisoners usually do together as a group in the yard. He said they are “welcome to pray inside their cells.”He added that prisoners in other sections of the prison — despite being allowed to pray outside as usual — “are not cooperating” with the warden and have locked themselves inside their cells in solidarity with prisoners in section 14.Prisoners in the Ramon and Ketziot prisons have also announced that they will take steps in solidarity with the Nafha prisoners, according to the committee.Israeli prisons routinely take punitive measures in response to protests staged by Palestinian prisoners. Many Palestinian prisoners face torture, denial of family visitation, and medical negligence.Earlier this month, Palestine Prisoners’ Center for Studies spokesman Riyad al-Ashqar said solitary confinement was being used by Israel against hunger-striking prisoners as a way to pressure them into ending their strike.On Thursday, Palestinian prisoner Shukri al-Khawaja suspended his hunger strike in protest of solitary confinement due to his deteriorating health condition.Palestinian prisoners affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) staged protests at the end of March in a number of Israeli prisons, including Nafha, to demand an end to solitary confinement, permission for prisoners to receive family visits, and a resolution to overcrowding issues.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

‘Two-state solution in danger,’ warns new report from UN office on Middle East peace process

This Palestinian-owned two-storey building in Silwan, East Jerusalem, was demolished by Israeli authorities.


14 April 2016 – The viability of a two-state solution, which envisages peaceful co-existence of both Israel and Palestine, is in danger due to the negative trends on the ground, including recent violence, ongoing settlement activity, demolitions, incitement, and the absence of Palestinian unity, a new United Nations report warned today.

The according report, issued by the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), highlights an increase in settlement activities by Israel and a further consolidation of Israeli control over the West Bank.

The report also underscores that the demolition of Palestinian homes and livelihood structures more than doubled in the reporting period as compared with the previous six months, noting that the total demolitions by mid-April already exceeded last year’s total. It also expresses concern over Palestinian access to land and natural resources in ‘Area C’ of the We3st Bank, among other development factors.

Regarding the Palestinian side, the report notes that despite continuing reconciliation discussions held in February and March between Fatah, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Qatar, no consensus has been reached on achieving genuine Palestinian unity.

“The formation of a national unity government and the holding of elections are vital to laying the foundations of a future Palestinian state,” the report notes.

Humanitarian crisis, degenerated human rights situation

Citing a protracted humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territory, the report says that “some 1.1 million people in the West Bank and some 1.3 million in Gaza, over 900,000 of them refugees, need some form of humanitarian assistance in 2016.”

The report stresses that the human rights situation degenerated with the dramatic rise in clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, increased instances of punitive measures against families of alleged perpetrators of attacks, and administrative detentions.

Gaza reconstruction

Turning to the Gaza Strip, the report notes that there has been steady progress on the enclave’s reconstruction, and that more than 90 per cent of health and education facilities damaged or destroyed during the conflict in 2014 have been repaired, but that structural barriers continue to impede recovery.

It adds that, although the temporary Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM) has enabled a significant increase in the entry of construction material to Gaza, only the lifting of the closures would allow the people in Gaza to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. It also cites energy and water shortages in Gaza as particularly urgent and chronic.

The report will be presented to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) at its bi-annual meeting in Brussels on 19 April. The Committee, chaired by Norway and co-sponsored by the European Union and the United States, serves as the principal policy-level coordination mechanism for development assistance to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

Zoabi: Assad’s Departure Is Key to Solution in Syria

Head of the opposition’s negotiating delegation Asa’ad al-Zoubi said that the opposition’s participation in the current round of Geneva talks is aimed at initiating political transition through the formation of a transitional governing body with full executive powers. Zoabi stressed that a political solution must ensure the departure of Assad and his inner circle at the start of the transitional period, adding that this is the key to a solution in Syria.

“We came to Geneva to prove we are serious about finding a political solution and end the war waged by the Assad regime against the Syrian people. The Assad regime, meanwhile, is evading engaging seriously in a political process and ignoring all international resolutions,” Zoabi said.

“More than 2,000 violations of the truce by the Assad regime have been recorded since the agreement was declared. The regime has also bombed Syrian civilians with more than 420 barrel bombs. Shortly before every round of talks, the Assad regime escalates violence to show it insists on a military solution.”

Zoabi pointed out that the opposition’s negotiating delegation discussed the regime’s violations of the truce with the UN envoy Staffan de Mistura. He added that they stressed the need to put pressure on the Assad regime in order to release detainees, especially children and women.

Zoabi went on to say that Iran and Russia are supplying Assad with tons of weapons and ammunition, adding that Iran has sent militias from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Basij forces and mercenaries to shore up the Assad regime. Zoabi stressed that this refutes claims by Iran and Russia that they are serious about reaching a political solution in Syria.

(Source: Syrian Coalition / 14.04.2016)

Israeli forces murder Palestinian in West Bank

This is number 210 of the Palestinians had been killed by the Israeli occupation since last October

Israeli occupation forces have just murdered Palestinian citizen near Al-Arroub Refugee Camp in the south of the occupied West Bank.

Before Ibrahim, the Israeli occupation forces have murdered 209 Palestinians since the start of the ongoing intifada in October last 2015. (Archive Image)

Days of Palestine, West Bank -Israeli occupation forces have just murdered Palestinian citizen near Al-Arroub Refugee Camp in the south of the occupied West Bank.

Al-Arroub is located in the north of the Palestinian city of Al-Khalil, near the illegal Israeli settlement of Gush Etzion.

Witnesses said that the Israeli occupation forces surprised a Palestinian farmer with his axe, opened fire at him and killed him.

Palestinian sources identified the Palestinian as Ibrahim Bardiyeh, but did not give more details about his work or age.

Israeli occupation army spokesperson justified surprising the Palestinian with fire, saying: “We knew about the attack, but we did not have enough information.”

Before Ibrahim, the Israeli occupation forces have murdered 209 Palestinians since the start of the ongoing intifada in October last 2015.

(Source / 14.04.2016)

PPS: 18 journalists in Israeli jails

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– 18 Palestinian journalists are being held in Israeli jails, and two of them have been imprisoned during the current month, according to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPS). In a press release on Wednesday, the PPS stated that Israeli soldiers kidnapped last Monday photojournalist Hazem Naser at a makeshift checkpoint near Nablus. The Israeli police, in turn, arrested journalist Samah Dweik, who works for al-Quds News Network, on April 10 in Occupied Jerusalem. Journalist Mahmoud Issa is one of those long-time prisoners who have been in detention before the signing of the Oslo accords. He is serving three life sentences in addition to 46 years in jail. Four of those journalists are also administratively detained, with no indictment.

(Source / 14.04.2016)