Israeli research centre: Sisi very important to US and us

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi

A leading Israeli research centre has urged for the formation of a joint American-Israeli strategy that would guarantee the survival of the governments in Egypt and Jordan.

In a study published today on the centre’s website, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) considered the stability of Al-Sisi’s government of high interest for Israel and the US.

“A confidence building measure could consist of US-Israeli aid to the government in Egypt so as to establish effective rule, fight the Islamic State branch in Sinai, and halt the smuggling of weapons from Libya and Sudan into Egypt, and from there into Sinai and the Gaza Strip,” the study said.

With regards to Jordan, the study stressed: “Israel and the United States have a common interest in the survival and stability of the Hashemite kingdom. The importance of Jordan’s survival lies in its special role as an anchor of regional stability and a loyal ally of the United States and Israel.”

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Saudi provides PA $60m

Saudi flag

Saudi Arabia has transferred $60 million to the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Ambassador in Cairo Ahmed Qattan announced yesterday.”The Saudi Fund for Development has transferred the equivalent of $60 million to the account of Palestinian Finance Ministry,” Qattan was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the Saudi embassy yesterday.

The amount includes Riyadh’s $20 million monthly contribution to support the Palestinian National Authority’s budget for the first three months of the current year (January-March), Qattan explained.

The Palestinian cabinet approved the draft general budget for 2016, with a value of $4.25 billion and $386 million deficit, which would force it to take austerity measures.

The Palestinian government relies heavily on Arab and foreign donors to provide the necessary funds to cover its budget deficit.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Israeli army raids neighbourhood of Kafr ‘Aqab and opens fire

Israeli occupation forces.

File photo of Israeli occupation forces

The Israeli army used live ammunition during a raid on the neighbourhood of Kafr ‘Aqab this morning, resulting in a number of casualties, according to eye-witnesses and medical sources.

Eyewitnesses told Anadolu news agency that Israeli forces raided the neighbourhood, located between the cities of Ramallah and Jerusalem, and carried out searches. This led to the outbreak of clashes between the soldiers and youth.

They added that the army fired live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas in order to disperse the youth, who threw stones at the soldiers.

The Palestinian Red Crescent Association said in a statement, a copy of which was obtained byAnadolu, that its staff transported a young man shot in the chest with live ammunition to a hospital in Jerusalem, noting that the injury was serious.

The Red Crescent also added that its staff later transported another young man shot with live ammunition in the foot to a Ramallah hospital. They also treated a number of citizens in the field for the effects of tear gas.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

IOA imposes hermetic closure on the West Bank, Gaza Strip

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation authorities (IOA) imposed a hermetic closure on the West Bank and Gaza Strip on the occasion of Israel’s celebration of its establishment in what the Palestinians call Nakba (catastrophe). The closure, from Tuesday night till dawn Friday, coincides with Israel’s 68th establishment anniversary on the land of Palestine and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the process. The Israeli TV 2 Channel said that all West Bank crossings will be closed in that period along with the Karm Abu Salem and Erez crossings with Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Palestinians in 1948 occupied Palestine, Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the diaspora commemorate the same occasion on May 15 under the name of Nakba to assert their right to their homeland and the right of refugees to return to their villages and cities from which they were driven out by force.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Israel to close Karm Abu Salem crossing until Saturday

GAZA, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces will close Karm Abu Salem crossing on Wednesday and Thursday under the pretext of Jewish holidays, manager of the crossing Munir al-Ghalban revealed. In a statement to the PIC, Ghalban said on Tuesday that the closure of the crossing will last until Saturday evening and will be opened again on Sunday morning.  Karm Abu Salem crossing is the only pathway of entering goods and humanitarian aid into the besieged Gaza Strip in light of the Israeli closure of all other crossings except for Erez crossing which is allocated for the travel of passengers.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Q&A: Bibi gave ‘death kiss’ to two-state solution, says ex-Knesset speaker

Avraham Burg talks to Middle East Eye about the state of Israel on 68th anniversary of its establishment in 1948

Avraham Burg said Israel has become ‘ugly’ and denounced settlers as ‘criminals’

JERUSALEM – On Wednesday evening, 12 torches were lit on Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, marking the beginning of Israeli celebrations for the 68th anniversary of their country’s establishment in 1948.

The lead-up to the event, which for Palestinians marks their expulsion and mass atrocities, has seen the country awash in Israeli flags. Nearly every car, lamppost and building was adorned with at least one blue-and-white striped Star of David in Jerusalem this morning.

At 11am, sirens rang out across the country, bringing it to a standstill. Drivers stopped their cars and got out to stand in the streets, in memory of Israeli soldiers and civilians who have died in their conflict with the Palestinians.

Shortly after the silence, Middle East Eye sat down with Avraham Burg in the pristine white building of the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, where academics study philosophy, society, culture and education.

While Burg may feel at home writing books and articles at the institute, for most of his life he has been a stalwart of the Israeli establishment, serving as a Labour Party MP in four different Knessets over 30 years.

During his high-profile political career, he was the speaker of the Knesset, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and even acted as Israel’s president for 20 days in 2000 after the resignation of Ezer Weizman.

His father, Dr Yosef Burg, was a German-born Holocaust survivor who founded the National Religious Party, while his mother, Rivka, survived the 1929 massacre in Hebron.

But for all his establishment credentials, after retiring from politics in 2004, Burg has been on a political journey that saw him join the communist Israeli-Palestinian Hadash Party last January.

The author of four books, including the acclaimed The Holocaust is Over, We Must Rise From its Ashes, Burg is now, among many things, chairman of Molad, a think-tank that aims to renew Israel’s democracy.

He spoke to MEE about the state of Israel’s politics and set out the policies he would support in what he described as a “one-state reality”, while taking time to comment on the British Labour Party and its recent crisis around anti-Semitism:

MEE: In 2003, you wrote in the Guardian that if Israel didn’t change direction, it would end up being “strange and ugly”. On the 68th anniversary of Israel’s establishment have we reached this point?

AB: Yes – but not completely. The Israel of 1948 was a secular state. Its economy was socialist/social democratic. And it had more of a democratic understanding of itself.

The Israel of 2016 is not secular at all. Its economy is hard neo-con capitalist. And its concept of democracy is the rule of the majority, rather than the more sophisticated, developed mature democracies of our time, which is that of being sensitive and containing other voices, especially of minorities.

Israel today is in a lower place than it was 15 years ago or 50 years ago. But it’s not alone because the West is ugly as well. Israel’s family name of being a Western democracy is not in a nice place. When I see all the nationalists with all their phobias – xenophobia, homophobia, Judeophobia, Islamophobia, you name it – the world is in a bad place. The world of 2016 is uglier than the world of the 1990s.

MEE: You have said you want all settlements in the occupied West Bank to be dismantled. What would you say to the West Bank settler who argues that you, living in Jerusalem, and that the whole of Israel, is one big settlement?

AB: For me, history is clear. In 1948-49, Israel got its international legitimacy. Israel was not established because of the Bible or because of prayers. Israel was established by the international mechanisms that establish states – UN resolutions and so on. And there is a legitimate, legal Israel, of which the borders are the ones prior to the 1967 war. It is legal. It is not based on anything which is biblical, eschatological, or redemptive.

Within this Israel, Israel has committed some unbelievable, not-to-be-done deeds – like erasing all the previous memories of the Palestinians. Israel must deal with the Palestinian component within it – with equal histories and equal fairness. And it does not do it, but it will do it one day.

Beyond the 1967 borders, the land is not part of the legal Israel. It is not part of the international norm. It does not belong to us. That’s a fact of life. Therefore the settlers are criminals against peace. The settlers are criminals against the Palestinians. And the governments who sent them there are collaborators, including Labour, which started the whole process.

MEE: You used to be a big supporter of the two-state solution, but now your desired position is a confederation of two states in one. Why the change?

AB: The two-state solution died the day Bibi Netanyahu adopted it. Up until then, it had a chance. The minute he gave the Bar Ilan speech, it was a death kiss to the two-state solution. It’s not a product on the supermarket shelf that has no expiration date – it expired.

I could love something that is dead, but that would ignore the one state that exists, which has two regimes: one full of privileges for Jews and one full of discrimination for the Palestinians. I have chosen to compete with this one-state reality with an alternative one-state formula. This is where my support for a confederation comes from.

MEE: Right-wing nationalism in Israel has risen in step with increasing levels of poverty. Where are the Israeli leaders offering a different vision for society? Where is your Bernie Sanders?

AB: Our Bernie Sanders is in America. It is correct to say that the forces of Western liberalism and progressivism have not succeeded in undoing the bond between poverty and nationalism.

Poverty in Israel is not a five-hour drive from home – it is around the corner, it is your relative, your friend, someone you know who is struggling to get by. And it is in the interest of the leadership to allow all the tiny groups [in poverty] to fight each other. And the more they fight each other, and the more they are angry with each other, the less the government is responsible for the issue.

But in Israel, there never was a left. The classical concept of the left is that it says all humans are equal, the state is secular, public resources should be fairly distributed, and it is blind to differences of gender and so on. In Israel, being left is one thing only: whether you say yes or no to a settlement with the Palestinians. This has created an artificial division of the political forces.

For instance, take [Zionist Union leader] Isaac Herzog, who is a personal friend of mine, but who I recently took to task in Haaretz. He is supposed to be the flagship of the progressive movement in Israel. But what did we find (when he distanced himself from “loving Arabs”)? A bigoted politician.

We have a fragmented political system. The prime minister’s party only won 30 seats [out of 120 in the 2015 election], which was only achieved after a huge effort. We only have medium to small parties which create ad-hoc coalitions – this means the political system is very unstable.

MEE: You have said you want to end the law of return, which allows Jews from around the world to immediately have the right to citizenship in Israel. Why?

AB: In 1948, when Israel was established, the majority of Jews were either post-trauma [from the Holocaust] or lived in dangerous places where their physical existence was threatened. There was a need for the rescue citizenship plan. But we are now living in 2016. Seventy-eight percent of Jews are living between Israel and the United States. Do we still need a collective fast-track law of return? My answer is no.

I would like to amend the law of return for it to say whomever would like to seek citizenship in Israel should get in the queue. However, if one individual, or community, should be persecuted because of their Jewishness, I would have a safety net for this kind of situation. This is how I want to change the law of return to make the naturalisation process in Israel more natural, rather than ethnical privilege and discriminatory.

MEE: If you were to change the law of return, would you implement a law of return for Palestinian refugees so they can resettle in what they see as their own country?

AB: One of the reasons I was so in favour of a two-state solution was because I felt issues overwhelmingly affecting Palestine (including the right of return) could be sorted out by the Palestinians and issues affecting Israelis could be sorted out by Israel. But since the settlers do not want to leave, the one-state reality means [we must have] equal rights for all – it means if there is a right of return for the Jews, there should be a right of return for the Palestinians.

You cannot run away from this problem. Well, you can run away, but you cannot run away if you want to resolve it.

MEE: You believe strongly that it is down to Israelis and Palestinians to sort out the conflict, but what is your opinion on campaigns such as Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS)?

AB: It is in my nature, both philosophically and ethically speaking, to be a dialogist. I believe in conversation, so no boycott is a measure that I would be willing to adopt. But if you ask me is it (BDS) kosher? Of course it is kosher.

What are we saying to the Palestinians? First, let’s kick you out of the state. Then, let’s occupy you for a few decades. Then, let’s negate every right you have because we have a monopoly over resources and power. Then, we say we don’t want you to do [BDS] because it is not nice and it makes us feel uncomfortable. Come on. BDS is a legitimate act of civil disobedience. Are there some anti-Semite voices in it? Yes, but so what? Instead of fighting the mosquitoes, we have to look where the swamp is.

MEE: In 2003, as well as saying Israel risked becoming ugly, you set out the case for the end of Zionism. What is Zionism now, and does Israel still have a need for it?

AB: There is no one definition of Zionism by which all Zionists define themselves. There are those who come from a territorial point of view; there are those who are nationalistic; there are those who are being pushed away by the anti-Semites. There is no one school of thought, but there is no doubt that this ambiguous unclear definition is being transformed.

Israel has redefined the notion of the Jewish national, making it a fusion of four components: territory, religion, power, and sovereignty. This does not necessarily represent all Jews – be it a liberal or conservative Jew in Golders Green or in Washington, DC. But from an Israeli point of view, being an Israeli Zionist – whatever it is – is being very ethnical, driven by religion, very power thirsty, and very possessive over territory.

Zionism in a historical sense was a necessary movement to transform the Jewish people from an exilic governance structure to a sovereign one. I define Zionism as the scaffolding which enabled the Jewish people to restructure themselves. What happened in 1948 was the completion of the restructuring. We, finally, after millenniums of waiting, we had the structure in place (a state). Now it’s about time to remove the scaffolding (Zionism). But people are reluctant because they are addicted to the secondary benefits of getting sympathy from everybody and so on. Zionism is still the support system of Israel even though it is not needed at all.

MEE: If you take away Zionism would this mean that the Jewishness of Israel is potentially lost?

AB: First, there is a total misunderstanding about the nature of the place. If you walk in France, which is a secular place, do you know it’s France? Yes, immediately you know. If you walk in Germany, which is a secular place, do you know it’s Germany? Yes, immediately. How do we do it? I don’t know, but you just do.

My argument is that the culture of the place is not decided by the state structure, but it is the common cultural behaviour of the people in it. When you rely on the state structure to impose identity, this takes us to places where we will not like the definition of the state. But the people here [in Israel] do not invest much time in political philosophy.

They want the state to be Jewish, the street to be Jewish, the man to be Jewish, the enemy to be Jewish – everything should be Jewish.

We even want the Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state. Who are they to recognise us? Why do we have to give them the power to define us?

MEE: In Britain, there has been a big debate about what constitutes anti-Semitism, because of stories alleging anti-Jewish prejudice in the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Have you been watching this unfold? What is the view from Israel on this?

AB: For issues like this to erupt in the Labour Party, it is an expression of weakness in leadership. The leader is responsible for keeping an equilibrium of views in the party. Where are you, Mr Corbyn? OK, you’ve opened this investigation into anti-Semitism, fine, but I’ve been in parties all my life – I know how parties wish-wash everything. Take a position. Go to the parliament. Come to Israel. He should stand up and shout “stop it”.

MEE: I think he has done that to some extent…

AB: He has said “Stop it, please.”

Let’s open it up a little bit. Up until around a century ago in the West, hating Jews was the main channel of hatred in society. The Jew was the main Other. This culminated in the Second World War. But the reality of the world today is that hatred of Jews is not number one on the list of who is hated. There is so much hatred in society – be it Islamophobia, xenophobia, Judeophobia, homophobia, you name it. But if you allow one segment of hatred to raise its ugly head again, by the end of the day, you’ll find yourself legitimising all the other kinds of hate. This is the problem. There should be a coalition led by the left against any hatred in society.

What drives me crazy is that I look at Jews here, including the government, and they are saying “let’s get together with the Islamophobic elements in Europe” because all of a sudden, those people said they are Jew lovers in order to hate Muslims. It’s stupid. The same criticism I have for my own people I have for Mr Corbyn – and with him I also have a problem with the fact he thinks Hezbollah is fine. To ally with these kind of groups who are fuelled by hatred is a kind of politics that doesn’t and shouldn’t work.

MEE: You were once a stalwart of the Israeli establishment. Now you’re an outlier, someone who has travelled left, when most of Israel has travelled right. Are voices like yours relevant anymore in Israel?

AB: Listen, an Israeli poet once wrote that only dead fish swim with the stream. If there is something very Jewish about my identity, it’s not my universalism or my compassion for my fellow human beings. It is the way I believe Judaism sanctified the opinion of the minority in the way that the voice of today’s minority should form the basis of tomorrow’s majority strategy. I swim against it and I’m very much alive.

The year I left politics, I published my first book and I ran my first marathon. They were both very slow and long-term processes. I have a lot of patience to wait for the pendulum to come back.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Palestinians prepare to mark nearly 70 years of dispossession

Next week, one of the world’s most important historical anniversaries will be commemorated around the world.

On 15 May, people will remember the violent dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948.

These events, which took place during the creation of the state of Israel, are known to Palestinians as ‘the catastrophe’ or, in Arabic, the ‘Nakba ’.

They are the events which have led directly to today’s situation, with Palestinians dispossessed, stateless and living under occupation in the West Bank, under occupation and siege in Gaza, or in exile around the world, including millions in refugee camps to this day.

And the Nakba  is not over for Palestinians, as the Israeli Government continues to steal their land in the West Bank through illegal settlement building and the construction of the separation wall.

As the 68th anniversary of the Nakba  approaches, Palestinians around the world consider what it means for them and what it has meant for their families.

Kamel Hawwash, Vice Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, says: “The Nakba  for me has been the dispersal of members of my extended family to all corners of the Earth.

“In particular I have relatives in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon that long to return home, to Palestine, in my case to Jerusalem.

“This painful injustice has gone on for too long but it could end easily if Israel finally came to its senses, ended the occupation and discrimination and allowed the refugees to return home.”

He adds: “When my mother can return to Jerusalem, peace will have come to the Holy land.”

Sara Apps, interim Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and into exile. A further 13,000 were killed, some of them in massacres of villages at the hands of militias. One of the most heart-breaking aspects of the Nakba  is that the refugees have never been allowed to return.

“We ask that they are not forgotten and that the dispossession of the Palestinian people is remembered around the world. This is particularly important as the Nakba  – the catastrophe – continues for the Palestinians to this day as Israel continues to occupy and colonise their land illegally. We need these injustices to be addressed – using the framework of international law – to help deliver peace which is what Palestinians and Israelis want to see.”

Nakba Week of Action

Palestine Solidarity Campaign is marking the Nakba  with a series of events around the country, including speaker tours, public stalls and commemorative readings.

Events that will take place during Nakba  Week of Action are listed here: http://www.palestinecampaign.org/Nakba week/

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Iranian officials blame Aleppo cease-fire violations for military casualties

A general view shows a damaged street with sandbags used as barriers in Aleppo’s Saif al-Dawla district, March 6, 2015

On May 6, Iranian social media accounts that monitor the Syrian civil war began to share pictures of Iranian soldiers who were killed and captured at the hands of an anti-government Islamist alliance in Khan Tuman, in southwest Aleppo. The attack and heavy losses — one of the largest single-day losses for Iran — startled even social media users who support Iran’s involvement in the war. While some accounts blamed a “Russia-imposed cease-fire” for allowing its soldiers to be caught off guard, other accounts immediately began sharing dated pictures of Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani, implying he had been sent to the area for reinforcement.

Iranian media and officials immediately went on the offensive to explain the strategic importance of Khan Tuman, giving subsequent reports of heavy opposition losses in the attack — which included al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra fighters — and reassurances of Iran’s commitment to the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Ismail Kowsari, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, decried the “psychological war” in the media about the heavy death toll numbers. According to Kowsari, of the “Iranian defenders of the shrine, 13 were martyred, 18 were wounded and five to six were taken captive.” There were reportedly dozens of fighters from Lebanese Hezbollah and Afghan Shiite groups also killed in the attack.

The Khan Tuman attack took place one day after the United States and Russia announced a cease-fire in Aleppo province. Kowsari denounced the cease-fire as simply being another method for the United States to achieve its goals in Syria, and he accused the United States of working with opposition groups to violate the cease-fires.

According to Entekhab website, quoting Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper, during a May 7 meeting between Assad and Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian officials had reportedly conveyed their concern about Russia’s proposals for a political solution at a time when armed opposition groups are increasing their forces traveling through Turkey. The Iranians reportedly believe that the political solutions would limit Russia’s military involvement before having established dominance over the armed fighters and this would cause a change in the battles.

Former commander of the Iran-Iraq War Mohsen Rezaei also blamed the cease-fire for the heavy losses. In a May 9 statement, Rezaei, who is secretary of the Expediency Council, wrote, “Some months ago Khan Tuman in south Aleppo was freed, but a few days ago, takfiris, taking advantage of a cease-fire at a time neither a plane nor artillery was active, surprise attacked Syrian forces and Iranian advisers.” Rezaei accused Saudi Arabia and Turkey of backing the attack, though he did not offer details.

Despite the denouncements of the cease-fires, Iranian officials have been careful to not distance themselves from Russia in public statements. At a May 10 press conference Velayati denied a reporter’s question that Russia’s position on Assad has softened. “Up until now I have met with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin five times and at no time have I sensed any wavering on his support for Syria’s legal government,” Velayati said. He added that Assad was elected two years ago for a seven-year term and that Iran’s “red line” is that Assad would finish his term.

Hosseinali Rezaei, a public relations official for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, said May 10 that most of the wounded have returned to Iran but the bodies of 12 soldiers killed in the attack are in the hands of “takfiris,” a term Iran uses to label violent Sunni extremist groups who excommunicate other Muslims. He added that fighting is ongoing in Khan Tuman.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Israel to indict female Palestinian journalist

Palestinian journalist Samah Dweik

Palestinian journalist Samah Dweik

Israel will officially press charges against female Palestinian journalist Samah Dweik next week,Quds Press reported her family saying yesterday.

Israa, Samah’s sister, told Quds Press that the lawyer informed the family that Samah’s hearing would be held on 16 May.

Israeli occupation forces stormed Samah’s home in the occupied East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Silwan on 10 April, arresting her and a number of her family members. She is currently being held in the Israeli prison of Hasharon.

(Source / 11.05.2016)

Professor Barghouthi sentenced to 2 months in administrative detention

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– The Israeli Ofer court sentenced Tuesday the imprisoned Palestinian astrophysicist and professor Imad Barghouthi, 54, to two months under administrative detention for “incitement” in a facebook post. The Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) declared intention to appeal against the court’s order. During the hearing, a petition was submitted to the Israeli judge signed by academics from all over the world calling for professor Barghouthi’s release. Professor Barghouthi was arrested on April 24. Since then, he was investigated three times over a post he published in his Facebook page. Professor Barghouthi was previously arrested in 2014 and released in 2015 under the same charge. Almost 700 Palestinians are currently held in administrative detention in Israeli jails without charge or trial.

(Source / 11.05.2016)