Prisoner with special needs on hunger strike for 18 days

SALFIT, (PIC)– The Palestinian prisoner Mansour Muqada, from Salfit in the occupied West Bank, has been on hunger strike for 18 consecutive days. Muqada’s hunger strike came in protest against Israeli deliberate medical negligence policy, family sources said. Mansour Muqada, one of the most seriously ill Palestinian political prisoners, was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to life prison term. During his arrest, he was shot with three bullets, causing him partial paralysis. He has a “plastic stomach,” and uses colostomy bags for excretion as parts of his intestines have been removed. His family expressed hope that their son will be released in any new prisoner swap deal.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Israeli bulldozers level lands in eastern Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Israeli bulldozers leveled land east of al-Bureji refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip Wednesday morning after crossing through the border fence, witnesses said.Witnesses told Ma’an that four armored bulldozers escorted by Israeli military vehicles crossed the border fence between Israel and the besieged enclave before leveling land on the Palestinian side of the border, leaving shortly after. No gunfire or injuries were reported.An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into the reports.Israeli military incursions inside the besieged Gaza Strip and near the “buffer zone” which lies on both land and sea sides of the strip, have long been a near-daily occurrence.Palestinians who work near the “buffer zone” between the Palestinian enclave and Israel often come under fire from military forces, as the Israeli military has not made clear the precise area of the designated zone.The Israeli army regularly open fires on Palestinian fisherman and farmers along the border areas, despite a ceasefire agreement that ended the 2014 war.The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported last month at least 42 cases of Israeli forces opening fire on Palestinians in the buffer zone, on both land and sea sides

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Erdogan’s wrath against satire expands into Europe

A papier-mache caricature figure for a carnival float of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) is prepared for the Rose Monday carnival parade in Mainz, Germany, Feb. 2, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not known to be humorous or sympathetic toward those who lampoon him. His anger toward the most innocuous of caricatures surfaced shortly after he became prime minister in 2003. In one of his first acts, which set the tone of his relationship with the press, Erdogan took the daily Cumhuriyet to court for depicting him as a cat entangled in yarn in a cartoon.

Erdogan lost that case, but his wrath toward critics in and out of the media never diminished. The Turkish president has opened 2,000 cases against journalists, artists and ordinary citizens he accuses of insulting him or members of his family.

The matter took on a Kafkaesque turn recently when a man in Istanbul accused of severely beating his fiancee defended himself in court by saying he had beaten her because she insulted Erdogan.

Erdogan’s wrath for those satirizing him has reached new heights and gone international. Using an obscure law, Erdogan recently brought charges in Germany against comedian Jan Boehmermann for insulting him in a poem.

Boehmermann’s poem, which is rife with references to sodomy and zoophilia, is offensive by any count, and Chancellor Angela Merkel has said so. But because of Erdogan’s poor record on freedom of the press and free speech in Turkey, most Europeans interested in this topic are focused more on Erdogan’s actions than Boehmermann’s words.

International interest in the case also increased after Merkel gave the go-ahead for Boehmermann to be tried under the all but forgotten Article 103 of the German penal code, which proposes prison for anyone who insults a foreign dignitary.

Aware of the uproar she caused in Germany, where she is accused of being Erdogan’s stooge, Merkel has admitted her regret in expressing an opinion on Boehmermann’s poem. She said calling the poem “intentionally offensive” gave the impression that she does not value free speech.

Berlin was already bristling over its ambassador having been called to the Foreign Ministry in Ankara over a video clip satirizing Erdogan as an authoritarian leader with dictatorial tendencies.

Ankara demanded that the video — “Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan” — be dropped by the public broadcaster ZDF. Berlin rejected the demarche, saying freedom of expression is guaranteed in Germany. Ankara’s move backfired and prompted Boehmermann to air his offensive poem to anger Erdogan further.

Analysts expect the Boehmermann case will also backfire on Erdogan. That appears to be happening already. In Britain, The Spectator magazine’s John Murray announced “The President Erdogan Offensive Poetry Competition” last week.

He added that a generous reader was offering a 1,000 pound award ($1,460) for the rudest and crudest limerick. Murray submitted his own limerick, which lives up to his bill, and in a subsequent article he said that the magazine had been flooded with entries, expressing surprise at the high number of submissions in Arabic.

Oblivious to the blowback, Ankara is now taking steps that are likely to further aggravate the situation to Erdogan’s disadvantage. For example, a circular by the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam that calls on Turks to report compatriots who insult Erdogan has caused an uproar in the Netherlands.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was asked about this development during a press conference with Merkel. “It’s not clear what the Turkish government aims to achieve with this action,” Rutte said, indicating that the Dutch ambassador in Ankara had been instructed to demand an explanation.

The Netherlands apparently has a “lèse-majesté” law similar to the one in Germany, and it is clear that Erdogan intends to take full advantage of it through the large Turkish community in that country, many of whose members are his supporters and are eligible to vote in Turkish elections.

A spokesman for the Turkish Consulate in Rotterdam tried to downplay the circular, which also caused anger among liberal Turks in the Netherlands. He suggested that a junior-ranking official had used “an unfortunate combination of words” in writing it, and claimed that such circulars are not unusual.

Whoever wrote the circular, it is clear that the announcement could not have been issued without some kind of instruction from Ankara. This suggests that other Turkish consulates also received similar orders, but they are being more discreet about it.

Al-Monitor asked Osman Koruturk, a former Turkish ambassador to Berlin (2000-2003) and member of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, whether such a circular was normal. “It is not normal. It is also scandalous. I never heard of or saw such a practice,” an indignant Koruturk said.

“If one of my officers had done this when I was ambassador, I would have requested an inquiry because this amounts to using official instruments in an irregular manner.” Koruturk added, however, with more than a tinge of cynicism in his voice, “The times appear to have changed since I was ambassador.”

Meanwhile, Erdogan is pushing for the Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen to be tried for insulting him in a comic sketch. This will also anger the Dutch, whose annoyance already increased after Ebru Umar, a Dutch journalist whose mother is Turkish, was arrested in Turkey this week for insulting Erdogan.

Erdogan has in fact created a bandwagon across Europe where people and papers are lining up to insult him in the name of free speech. Following Umar’s arrest, for example, the Dutch daily De Telegraaf depicted him on its front page as an ape trying to crush free speech in Europe.

Koruturk said he could not predict the outcome of the case against Boehmermann, but added that whatever the court decides, the matter will continue to reverberate in Germany and the rest of Europe.

A Western diplomat in Ankara, who wished to remain anonymous due to his sensitive position, agreed. “The matter has been too politicized in Europe for it not to have ramifications,” he told Al-Monitor.

The diplomat also pointed to an “ironic effect” that Erdogan’s legal move will have in Germany and the Netherlands. “Thanks to Erdogan, both countries are now ready to abolish the law he is using to open these cases. This way, he will be contributing to enhancing free speech in Europe while he is trying to curb it in Turkey.”

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Israelis raise fears over anticipated surge in attacks

NAZARETH, (PIC)– Israeli army officers expressed fears over an expected surge in the pace of Palestinian anti-occupation activism, saying the current state of stillness is “the calm before the storm.” Speaking in an interview with the Israeli Yedioth Aharonot newspaper, six senior Israeli officers in the occupied West Bank said the shrinkage in the number of anti-occupation attacks carried out by Palestinians over recent weeks is not a sign that the popular uprising has reached its closing stages but is rather “the calm before the storm.” The newspaper quoted the Israeli officers as expressing concern that the anti-occupation uprising would reach unabated stages as even 13-year-old Palestinians were holding knives and carrying out resistance attacks. According to the same officers, the Jerusalem anti-occupation bus bombing is a reminder of the second Intifada, which started in September 2000. Observers said the statement released by the Israeli army officers amount to first-time confessions on Israel’s failure to snuff out the flames of the anti-occupation Intifada waged by the Palestinians.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

A child, young woman among 6 detainees in O.J

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli policemen arrested six youths including a young woman and a child in occupied Jerusalem. Local activist Amjed Abu Assab affirmed that Bassel Abu Diab was arrested from his home and taken to Maskoubiya detention center. A 9-year-old child was also arrested while playing outside his family house in Silwan town for allegedly being involved in stone-throwing attack. Two unidentified detainees including a young woman were rounded up in al-Tur neighborhood east of the occupied city. Two more Palestinians from within the Green Line were detained in al-Aqsa Mosque. All the detainees were taken to Israeli detention centers for investigation.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Has the countdown to next Hamas-Israel war begun?

Palestinian Hamas militants guard an anti-Israel rally organized by the Hamas movement in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Feb. 26, 2016

Israel and Hamas have been escalating their war of words, which observers on both sides fear could turn into violence.

Gaza has yet to recover from the destruction of the last war with Israel in the summer of 2014, when more than 178,000 houses were destroyed or damaged, which makes any upcoming war between Israel and the Palestinians seem too early and premature.

After a flurry of contentious statements in February, the situation calmed in March as both Hamas and Israel stopped talking about a possible fourth Israeli-Gaza war, and both showed a desire to quiet their people and reassure them that no confrontation would break out anytime soon.

But on April 14, an anonymous senior Israeli officer made an unprecedented statement about Israel Defense Forces (IDF) plans for the next potential military confrontation with Hamas in Gaza. Israeli media reported that the official was a prominent source from the IDF leadership in the southern area.

The Israeli plan for a potential war against Hamas in Gaza received wide media coverage in the Palestinian and Israeli press. It calls for each Israeli battalion to kill as many Hamas members as possible and thwart the movement’s moves and goals. The IDF has developed a strong defense and attack system capable of protecting the Gaza envelope and minimizing the threat of mortar shells, while the Israeli air force would launch an extraordinary and efficient offensive.

Abu Mujahid, a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, told Al-Monitor, “The resistance in Gaza is preparing itself for the worst in its upcoming confrontation with the Israeli army. We take the IDF threats to launch a new war against Gaza very seriously. We have growing speculations that the Israeli enemy has begun the countdown for a new aggression against Gaza, and the resistance is getting prepared around the clock in order not to give the Israeli army a chance to launch a sudden attack.”

Israel announced April 18 that it had discovered a new tunnel east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, noting that the tunnel is 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) long, 30 meters (almost 100 feet) deep and extends inside Israel.

On the same day, Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing, issued a statement saying Israel’s supposed “discovery” was designed to distract the public’s attention away from criticism targeting Israeli leaders for stalling the process of eliminating the Gaza tunnels and as a way to reassure the Israeli settlers in the Gaza envelope.

Then Hamas noted that it has more in store for Israel than a tunnel. On the same day as well, al-Qassam Brigades revealed for the first time its “R 160” missile, which has a range of 160 kilometers (100 miles), meaning it could reach Haifa.

Yousef Rizqa, former Hamas minister of information and a political adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al-Monitor, “Israel’s announcement of discovering the tunnel aims at reassuring the Israeli population that the government is making great efforts to maintain the security of the settlers, confront Hamas and gain international support for Israel, by illustrating the offensive cross-border tunnels as a threat posed by Hamas.

“The more Israel increases its calls to seek out support, the more the expectations for a future war against Gaza increase. Although the resistance in Gaza does not call for a new war and does not want to carry out attacks to break the truce, it has the right to prepare itself on the field, despite the lack of military balance between the resistance and Israel.”

In conjunction with all these security developments, both sides carried out field maneuvers.

On April 18, the Israeli army launched large-scale military maneuvers in the Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley that included field forces and aircraft. Even before that, on April 10, the Israeli army had its largest military training since the 2014 war in Gaza, with the participation of thousands of soldiers, near the Gaza border to simulate the incursion of Hamas inside Israeli settlements and the detention of Israeli hostages.

On April 19, the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza ended the fifth maneuver of its security services, which it had started in Gaza during recent weeks. The maneuver included evacuating all headquarters and increasing security apparatuses, while explosions and weapons firing were heard. Ambulances, civil defense vehicles and the police practiced their movements in a drill that resembled the outbreak of a new war with Israel.

Meanwhile, retired Palestinian Maj. Gen. Wassef Erekat told Al-Monitor, “Decision-makers within the resistance leadership in Gaza must be alert of the possibility of Israel launching a [surprise] attack, as it did in the three previous wars in 2008, 2012 and 2014, since the Israeli government is known for being extreme and risk-taking. Perhaps [the Israeli army] is being pressured by the Israeli public to carry out a bloody military operation against Gaza, despite the misleading statements about not wanting this war.”

Remarkably enough, Israeli Housing Minister Yoav Galant called April 18 for the Israeli army to prepare for a wide-scale confrontation with Hamas in Gaza by the beginning of summer. Perhaps this call seems dangerous because Galant is a former IDF commander and military general who led the war on Gaza in 2014 and is also a member of Israel’s political-security Cabinet.

A Palestinian security official in Gaza told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity, “Hamas’ and Israel’s declaration of their unwillingness to go into a military confrontation anytime soon might face three factors that may eventually lead to an outbreak of this confrontation. The first is the misunderstanding from both parties due to their field efforts on the Gaza-Israel borders; the second is the increased escalation in the West Bank, most recently the operation in Jerusalem on April 18, which wounded 20 Israelis; and the third is the resistance in Gaza feeling that the blockade is tightening with no alleviation initiatives in sight.”

Meanwhile on April 23, Hamas warned about the continued tightening of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and called regional and international parties to shoulder their responsibilities in the deteriorating situation.

Despite the growing mutual warnings between Hamas and Israel about an imminent confrontation, a number of factors might prevent its outbreak, at least for now. The Israeli army is preoccupied with the growing unrest in the West Bank that began in October. Also, Israelis seem to doubt how much the IDF could actually achieve in Gaza — in terms of completely eliminating the Palestinian factions’ missiles and toppling Hamas — except for killing and wounding thousands of Palestinians. The Israelis must wonder whether it is worth getting pulled back into the Gaza quagmire.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Gazan women call for ending internal division

GAZA, (PIC)– Dozens of Palestinian women in Gaza City participated in a sit-in organized by the General Union of Palestinian Women along with other women institutions and centers in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council on Tuesday. The sit-in called for ending the internal division and achieving national reconciliation.  The participants waved the Palestinian flag along with banners demanding national unity.  In a press conference held during the sit-in, the representative of the union Amal Hmaid pointed out that the event was launched in 2012 but postponed after the declaration of the reconciliation agreement and the formation of the unity government.  In separate interviews with the PIC reporter, the female participants said that they demanded putting an end to the current tough conditions in the besieged enclave due to division, saying that they will keep participating in the upcoming events calling for ending the internal split.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Obama Offers Record Large ‘Aid’ Package To Israel

The aid package would give Israel more money per year than any nation in US history.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddle during a joint news conference in Jerusalem, Israel.

President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddle during a joint news conference in Jerusalem, Israel

Responding to yesterday’s letter in which 83 US Senators demanded Obama give Israel a new military deal worth more than the $3 billion a year they currently receive, the White House has confirmed they’re ready to do so, immediately.

White House officials were reported in the Israeli press today saying they are willing to immediately sign a memorandum of understanding on a record-large military aid package that would give Israel more money per year than any nation in US history.

Exactly how much larger the aid package is going to have to be to get Israel to accept it is unclear, as Obama had offered Israel a 10-year $40 billion dealjust last week, and Netanyahu was said to be opposed to accepting that amount.

Back in November, it was suggested Netanyahu wanted in the range of $4.5 billion annually, though since then he has been seen as increasingly reluctant to make any deal with Obama, and coming up with a large enough money to throw at Netanyahu that he’ll grudgingly take it seems to be no small task.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Apologists for Israel, touted in The New York Times

The Times has ignored a number of excellent books by Jewish American and Jewish Israeli writers who are critical of Israel

The writer is wondering why The New York Times features books of pro-Israeli authors while, at the same time, it ignores many worthy others wrote about Israel.

The writer is wondering why The New York Times features books of pro-Israeli authors while, at the same time, it ignores many worthy others wrote about Israel.

By Barbara Erickson

TimesWrap -The writer is wondering why The New York Times features books of pro-Israeli authors while, at the same time, it ignores many worthy others wrote about Israel.

The New York Times this week touts Israeli-Canadian writer Matti Friedman‘s book, a war memoir and military analysis based partly on the author’s experience in southern Lebanon in 1998. The reviewer, Jennifer Senior, finds it all without blemish, calling the work “top-notch,” “persuasive” and “elegantly written.”

We learn that Friedman was stationed in a military outpost during the 22-year-old Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon, that it was a dangerous place for Israeli soldiers, that Hezbollah was gaining in strength and that Israeli troops struggled to avoid the mistakes commonly made in the fog of war.

There is much to question in the way Senior puts forth the context of the conflict—the conflation of Hezbollah with ISIS, for instance, and the emphasis on Israeli losses over the far more numerous Lebanese casualties—but a more fundamental issue here is the fact that the Times has chosen to highlight this particular author.

Friedman is an apologist for Israel and has made some extreme statements. At the end of the 2014 war on Gaza, for instance, he wrote that criticism of Israel revealed “a hostile obsession with Jews” and added: “Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality.”

Two months later Friedman wrote in The Atlantic that a number of journalists had the Gaza war story wrong because many were cozy with humanitarian aid workers who had bought into the Palestinian narrative over the Israeli one. The reporters had been “co-opted by Hamas,” he wrote, and they were prone to “a belief that to some extent the Jews of Israel are a symbol of the world’s ills.”

In her review, Senior mentions these two articles, saying that they generated “a small tempest of controversy,” which was mitigated by Friedman’s “temperate and careful” voice. It is difficult to understand how his comments can be taken as temperate or careful, however. They seem strangely deluded. Hamas, for instance, has received almost universally bad press in the mainstream media.

With Friedman’s tendency to find virulent anti-Semitism lurking in every critique of Israel, it is also odd that Senior takes his claims that Lebanese “loathe Jews” at face value. She fails to question this conclusion even though he reports that Lebanese everywhere extended him a warm welcome.

Most egregious of all is the fact that the Times has ignored a number of excellent books by Jewish American and Jewish Israeli writers who are critical of Israel, while it has promoted Friedman’s book and others with a similar pro-Israel view, such as Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. The aim, it seems, is to provide the facade of a united Jewish front in favour of Israel.

Here are a few of the many worthy Jewish authors writing about Israel and Palestine who have been snubbed by the Times:

  • Max Blumenthal, the author of Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel (2013), which received the 2014 Lannan Foundation Cultural Freedom Notable Book Award. It chronicles the Israel lurch to the far right and its crackdown on dissent. He also wrote The 51-Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza (2015), a devastating and heartbreaking account of the 2014 attacks on the enclave.
  • Miko Peled, author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine. The book reveals how he liberated himself from his racist upbringing and discovered the brutal reality of the Israeli occupation.
  • Nurit Peled Elhanan, the sister of Miko and a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her book, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education (2011), exposes the profound racism in Israeli school curricula.
  • Anna Baltzer, author of Witness in Palestine: A Jewish-American Woman in the Occupied Territories (2007, updated in 2014). Anna discovered that her past views of Israel were wrong during a visit to Palestine and became a committed activist on behalf of ending the occupation.
  • Jeff Halper, author of An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel (2008) and War Against the People: Israel, Palestine and Global Pacification (2015). Halper has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work against Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes.
  • Ilan Pappe, historian author of numerous books on Israel and Palestine, most notably The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), which describes events during the 1947-48 war that left some 750,000 Palestinians exiled from their homes. Pappe was forced to leave Israel after frequent death threats and now teaches at Exeter University in England.

And then there is Michael Chabon, the author of numerous books on Jewish life and the recipient of as many honours. He recently announced that he is contributing a chapter to an anthology of 24 essays by leading authors writing on the occupation of Palestine. After visiting the West Bank, Chabon stated in an interview with the Jewish newspaper Forward that the situation in occupied Hebron (AL-Khalil) was “the most grievous injustice that I have ever seen in my life.”

The New York Times listed Chabon’s novel Telegraph Avenue as a Notable Book of 2012, and his name has appeared often in its pages. It will be worth noting what kind of attention (if any) the coming book and its authors receive in the newspaper. It is not impossible that Chabon will soon join those Jewish writers meticulously ostracised from the pages of the Times for betraying the accepted boundaries of commentary on Israel.

(Source / 27.04.2016)

Israeli settlers beat Al-Aqsa guards, threaten to slaughter them

Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock ariel view.

File photo of Al-Aqsa mosque and Dome of the Rock ariel view

Under the protection of Israeli police, a group of extremist Israeli settlers yesterday beat the guards at Al-Aqsa Mosque and threatened to slaughter them, AlKhaleejOnline reported.

Spokesman of the Public Relations Department in the Jerusalem Islamic Awqaf Firas Al-Dibs said: “Israeli settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque this morning under the protection of the Israeli police. They beat the guards and threatened to slaughter them.”

“The settlers said: ‘We will slaughter you during our festivals instead of goats.’ They also beat the guards.” He warned against the continuous Israeli invasions of Al-Aqsa Mosque and called for it to be protected.

(Source / 27.04.2016)