Settlements vote a ‘step forward’, say Palestinians

Palestinians believe the UN resolution to halt Israeli settlements is a step forward, but are sceptical about its implementation

Israeli soldiers take position in Nabii Saleh village, near Ramallah, after a demonstration against the expansion of Israeli settlements in April 2014

By Mariam Barghouti

On Friday evening, the UN Security Council voted in favor of a resolution which demanded a halt to all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

The resolution was sponsored by New Zealand, Senegal, Venezuela and Malaysia after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi withdrew from sponsoring it following a phone call with US President-elect Donald Trump.

While the Israeli ambassador to the US, Danny Danon, expected a US veto, the Obama administration notably abstained from the vote despite having vetoed a similar resolution in 2011.

Palestinian officials and diplomats from various Palestinian political factions were quick to show their appreciation of the UNSC vote for the resolution.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said in a press release that the Islamic movement “treasures” and “welcomes” the position of the states which voted in favor of a resolution that stands with the rights of the Palestinian people.

Although rivals in the internal political sphere, the Palestinian Liberation Organization – and ruling party of the Palestinian Authority – shared similar sentiments with Hamas.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN, Riyadh Mansour, addressed the Security Council in a statement saying the “resolution represents a necessary step for addressing one of the most critical aspects of the longest issue on the UN agenda”. Adding to that, Mansour reiterated that this decision was emblematic of the council saying “enough” to Israeli activity in the occupied Palestinian Territories.

Israeli settlements in the West Bank constitute a violation of international human rights and contravene the Fourth Geneva Convention. Human Rights Watch described Israel’s confiscation of land and other resources for settlements as a violation of the Hague Regulations of 1907. HRW further suggested that “business activities taking place in or in contract with Israeli settlements or settlement businesses” contribute to the violation of international human rights law and perpetuate human rights abuses.

A step forward

Sitting at her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, which overlooks the settlement of Halamish, human rights activist Manal Tamimi wearily explained that “while this [the resolution] is definitely a huge step forward, there is scepticism that it will truly be enforced on the ground”.

Nabi Saleh is known for its political activism against the expansion of Israeli settlements. For years, the village protested against the establishment of the Halamish settlement, which was built on privately owned Palestinian lands. The protesters often met with violence from Israeli forces, resulting in the deaths of activists such as Mustafa and Rushdie Tamimi, who were both shot by Israeli forces while demonstrating in the village.

Despite her apprehension, Tamimi reiterated that the move was a positive step forward.

“Still, this is the first time in years that the US does not veto a resolution in favor of Palestine. This is important for movements such as the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions [BDS], which are being attacked across the globe.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti, said that by “unanimously reiterating the illegality of Israeli colonies, the UNSC decision will undoubtedly blow strong wind in the sails of the BDS movement for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.

“Israel’s growing isolation is bringing its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid closer than ever to its South Africa moment.”

Egypt’s betrayal

Notwithstanding the fact that the resolution marks a new position in support of Palestinian rights, the bitterness of Egypt’s withdrawal resonated among many Palestinians.

“The betrayal of Arabs to the Palestinian cause is nothing new,” said Tamimi. “It is telling that the four countries which took the resolution forward are not even Arab.”

In a similar fashion, 54-year-old Ramallah shop owner Abu Muhammed shared Tamimi’s sense betrayal by Egypt.

“Egypt, mother of the world, your abandonment will stand as testament for your complacency in abuse,” Abu Muhammed told MEE.

Palestinian lawyer and analyst Diana Butto, however, commented: “I am not someone who believes that the Arab world has a greater obligation towards Palestinians than the rest of the world; the obligations are universal and transcend boundaries.”

What next?

Palestine Legislative Council member Khalida Jarrar chose to ignore question of Egypt’s position all together.

“Regardless of whether Egypt withdrew or not, the resolution was still put forward and Egypt voted in favor,” said Jarrar.

“What we must focus on now is that despite this fact there are states that support Palestinian rights, and this is where we begin building our networks and strategy without constantly focusing on superpowers like the US,” she said.

While many Palestinians viewed the US abstention as a victory, Jarrar regarded it as a deceptive impression of support for the Palestinian cause.

“The question to be asked is not whether the US abstaining is a victory or not, rather whether the US will create impediments for the implementation of this resolution or not,” asked Jarrar.

At the same time, Butto described the US position as “a sign of its cowardice and failure to lead”.

“The Obama administration idly sat by watching as Israel bombed Gaza, as it built more illegal settlements and demolished Palestinian homes,” Butto said.

Butto highlighted that an “abstention does not erase” the fact that “this [the Obama administration] is the most pro-Israel administration in history”.

Now that the resolution has passed, Palestinian discourse is dominated by fear that Israel will ignore the resolution and avoid its implementation. Many people asked if there will be any enforcement measures undertaken by the UNSC now that the resolution has passed.

“The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court [previously] defined settlements as war crimes,” said Butto. “I worry about the world feeling good about itself for passing this resolution and not following it up with action.”

(Source / 24.12.2016)

Is Abbas turning his back on Egypt?

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (L) and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attend a Gaza reconstruction conference in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 12, 2014

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Several developments over the past few months can explain the lukewarm bilateral relations between Palestine and Egypt. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas refused to defer to pressure from the Arab Quartet (Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia) to achieve an internal reconciliation in Fatah that would’ve allowed for the return of those dismissed from the movement, most notably Mohammed Dahlan.

President Abbas announced on several occasions his rejection of any interference in Palestinian affairs. In a speech at Fatah’s seventh congress on Nov. 30, Abbas said, “We confirm our categorical rejection of any interference in our internal affairs and preserve our national and independent decision,” thus reaffirming statements he had made in September that “no one can dictate positions or decisions to us.”

“We make and implement our own decisions, and no one can exercise any power over us,” he added.

Abbas’ statements were reportedly aimed at Egypt, given the latter’s close relationship with Dahlan. This prompted the Egyptian Youm7 newspaper to fiercely attack Abbas in September and even accuse him of “political dementia and dancing on the bodies of Palestinians.”

In light of the dispute between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egypt, Cairo seemed more open to Hamas and the Dahlan bloc, allowing Dahlan’s supporters to hold meetings on Egyptian territory. This support can also be seen in Egypt’s more frequent openings of the Rafah land crossing with Gaza, most recently on Dec. 17 for three days, a week after it was opened Dec. 10. Add to this Cairo’s declaration of humanitarian support to the Gaza Strip.

This may have prompted Fatah to swiftly call on Hamas to attend its general congress in Ramallah to show its desire to achieve reconciliation with the movement. Also, after he returned from an October visit to Turkey, Abbas met with head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, and his deputy, Ismail Haniyeh, in Qatar. They discussed internal Palestinian affairs, the need to resume the Qatar-hosted dialogue between Fatah and Hamas, and the need to achieve national reconciliation. Abbas thanked Qatar and Turkey in his speech at the November Fatah congress, raising the question as to whether Abbas has decided to turn his back on Egypt and reach out to Qatar and Turkey.

Mahmoud al-Habash, adviser to President Abbas, visited Cairo Nov. 8 and announced that the misunderstandings between Palestine and Egypt do not affect the strategies that bind the two countries. He told Al-Monitor that the PA’s “relations with Egypt are fine, and there are no problems or disputes between the two countries. Diverging views are solved in a friendly way, and there is nothing to disturb the bilateral relations.”

“There were different points of view between the two countries, but everything is now solved,” Habash added.

Despite Habash’s diplomatic response, a Palestinian source from Fatah confirmed to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity that the relationship between Egypt and Palestine is lukewarm as a result of the PA rejecting the pressures exerted by Egypt. The source added that the PA does not want this dispute to turn into a rift with Egypt due to Egypt’s stature in the region and its pivotal role in several Palestinian issues.

Since Egypt is sponsoring the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, it has cards it can play to place pressure on the PA. Egypt could strengthen Dahlan’s position or even open a new page with Hamas, Fatah’s political opponent, by opening the Rafah crossing and establishing a free-trade zone with the Gaza Strip. The PA is well aware of Egypt’s strong cards, which is why it does not want relations with Egypt to sour.

Ahmed al-Majdalani, a member of the PLO Executive Committee who is close to Abbas, told Al-Monitor, “We have gotten over the issue of the Arab pressure.”

“Our relationship with Arab countries is based on coordination and cooperation,” he said, “and we reject some Arab parties’ erroneous understanding of this cooperation and meddling in internal Palestinian affairs.”

“Politically speaking, the relationship with Egypt is good,” he said. “There is coordination and consultation between the two leaderships, and Egypt cannot risk to lose Palestine and its cause for one person [Dahlan]. This is out of the question.”

“This is not a matter of dispute with any Arab country,” he added.

Asaad Abdul Rahman, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, ruled out the possibility of the PA turning its back on Egypt and reaching out to Qatar and Turkey.

“When a certain country places pressure, it does not mean that we should reach out to another one in an opposite axis, because this could make things worse,” he told Al-Monitor.

Abdul Rahman said the PA usually deals with pressures by “explaining the Palestinian position rather than engaging in a game of Arab and regional axes, because Palestine must be at the same distance from all the Arab countries.”

Ahmad Jamil Azem, a professor of political science at Birzeit University, told Al-Monitor, “President Abbas cannot afford a tense relationship with Egypt and a special relationship with Qatar and Turkey. The president will not enter into an adventure of this kind.”

Azem added, “I do not think that Egypt would allow the relationship with the PA to degenerate, especially considering that the impression that Dahlan gave to Egypt and the Arab states, whereby he is of considerable stature in the Palestinian street, has faded during Fatah’s seventh congress, which was successfully completed without the Dahlan issue being tackled. The matter was deemed over.”

Finally, the PA’s blocked horizons in the reconciliation process and its internal divisions make it in dire need of support from Arab countries, especially Egypt, given its stature for Palestine and its sponsorship of several Palestinian issues. Abbas is incapable of turning his back on Egypt despite all the Egyptian pressure he is facing.

(Source / 24.12.2016)

Palestinian flag, Zouari’s photos raised during football match


Fans of Club Sportif Sfaxien (CSS) raised during a football match on Friday the Palestinian and Tunisian flags and photos of the Tunisian engineer Mohamed Zouari who was assassinated by Israeli Mossad, according to Hamas’s armed wing.

Thousands of fans had attended the match in Tayeb Al Muhairi stadium in Sfax to the south of Tunisia.

A minute’s silence was held before the start of the football match in memory of the martyr Zouari.

Mohamed Zouari, 49, was shot dead last week outside his home, a road from Menzel Chaker to Sfax-South, while he was in his car.

The Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas Movement, confirmed that Mohammed Zouari, “who was treacherously assassinated by Zionists in Tunisia”, was one of its commanders who supervised the Brigades’ Ababeel drones program.

Since then, large demonstrations have been organised in Tunisia to protest his assassination.

Tunisian Premier Youssef Chahed declared that his government will sue whoever is involved and anyone who fell short of his/her responsibilities.

(Source / 24.12.2016)

Turkish Islamists’ trial with sectarianism

Demonstrators shout slogans during a protest against Iran’s role in Aleppo, near the Iranian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, Dec. 16, 2016

When former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Turkey in 2008, he was warmly welcomed by Turkey’s Islamists, who were angry at the United States over the occupation of Iraq and at Israel over the suffering in Gaza. Ahmadinejad was embraced as a defiant hero against both.

Today, eight years later, the mood in Turkey is quite different. If the current Iranian president visited the Blue Mosque, he would probably see a wave of protests instead of welcoming crowds. The Islamist media is not full of praises for Iran as an anti-imperialist hero; rather, it strongly criticizes its eastern neighbor as an imperialist power. At the extreme, the distaste with Iran even extends to its dominant sect of Islam, Shiism, in websites or social media accounts that define Shiites as heretics who stab the real Muslims — Sunnis — in the back.

This dramatic change did not happen because Turkey’s Sunni Islamists suddenly became sectarian after a theological soul-searching. It happened because of a major political drama they witnessed: the Syrian civil war. From the beginning of the war in spring 2011, both the Turkish government led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan (then prime minister, and now president) and the Islamists in its base focused on the brutality of the Syrian regime over its people — especially the Sunni opposition. When Iran and proxies such as Hezbollah emerged as the biggest protectors of this regime, the anger at Bashar al-Assad and his “Shabiha” turned into anger against Iran and the broader “Shiite-Alevi axis” in the region.

Lately, Iraq added more to this picture. Turkey’s mainstream Islamists have never supported the Islamic State (IS), and rather saw it as extremist force that puts shame on Islam. Yet at times they “understood” it as a Sunni reaction to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad. The latter’s Shiite militia, especially the Popular Mobilization Units, became notorious in the Turkish Islamist media as a force as brutal as IS and a major threat to the Sunnis of Iraq.

In other words, while the Turkish Islamists’ Middle Eastern vision did not begin with a sectarian outlook — a nice motto Erdogan has reiterated goes, “I am neither Sunni nor Shiite, just Muslim” — the existing sectarian conflict has began to influence them.

This sectarian perception comes out in two forms. One is the milder one, which blames Iran not for Shiism but for “Persian imperialism.” Can Acun, a Middle East expert at the pro-government think tank SETA, makes this argument when he states in a pro-government daily, “Iran represents a neo-Persian ambition wearing a Shiite mask.” Accordingly, the Shiite identity is merely a tool that Iran as a nation-state is using to advance its imperialist goals.

Another Islamist voice in the pro-government media, columnist Yusuf Kaplan, takes a similar line in a piece titled “Iran must be stopped, but not by falling into Iranian sectarianism.” According to this argument, it is none other than Iran that is fueling sectarianism among Muslims, and Turkey must undo this scheme — but mainly by protecting the “Sunni spine of Islam.” Kaplan adds the conspiracy theory that — despite all its anti-Western rhetoric — Iran is in fact in a covert collaboration with the West, acting as the latter’s Trojan horse among Muslims.

The harder anti-Iranian line, which clearly takes an anti-Shiite form, is found less in the pro-government media but more in more marginal websites and social media accounts. One of those sites is (or, which presents this grim quote: “The Shiites are more dangerous than the People of the Book [Jews and Christians].” The site presents articles and graphics that unabashedly demonize the Shiites as “rafida,” a derogatory term that implies heresy. On social media, such bilge gets mixed with the enmity against the Alevi minority in Turkey, which harbors some pro-Assad views that also agitates Turkey’s Sunnis.

By looking at all this, it would be a gross exaggeration to think that Turkey is on the brink of a sectarian conflict. Yet still, the sectarian narrative is disturbing, and the sensible Islamic opinion leaders in Turkey must take a clearer stance against it.

One point they should see is that Shiite sectarianism, about which they rightfully complain, is not taking place in a vacuum. Since the Iraq War of 2003, a radical Salafi movement emerged in the Middle East with a fiercely anti-Shiite line. Shiite mosques and shrines were bombed by al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor of IS. This led to a sense of besiegement by Shiites, which led to radicalization among them. To break this vicious cycle, one should equally oppose Shiite and Sunni sectarians, who demonize each other within a similar mindset: ancient religious bigotry, seeing only the suffering on their side, and identical conspiracy theories that depict the other side as agents of America or Zionism.

The other point is that while criticism about Iran’s “imperialist ambitions” is not misplaced, it is not taking place in a vacuum either. When the world is seen from the eyes of Tehran, Saudi Arabia might look quite “imperialist” as well, with its military involvements in Bahrain and Yemen, all at the expense of Shiites. Turkey’s military presence in Syria and Iraq can also be perceived as such, especially when combined with the romantic rhetoric about “our historical rights” over Mosul.

In other words, sectarianism is a “fitna” (sedition) created not only by a single treacherous party, but rather by all parties involved. So it can be overcome only be moderate voices within all parties who will take a stance against fanatics within their camps. Turkey’s more sensible Islamists have the potential for that; they should not let it go by going with the tide.

(Source / 24.12.2016)

Israeli forces detain woman in Jerusalem for alleged knife possession


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces detained a Palestinian woman in occupied East Jerusalem Saturday afternoon, with Israeli police claiming the woman intended to carry out a knife attack.

According to Israeli police spokeswoman Luba al-Samri, a Palestinian woman was detained after Israeli forces noticed her walking towards them “in a suspicious manner,” with her hand in her hand bag to fetch a “suspicious” object.
She said the officers approached the woman carefully before they “controlled and neutralized her”and seized a knife they allegedly found in her bag.
No injuries were reported.
The woman was detained and taken to Qishla police station near the Old City.
The statement identified the woman as holder of a Jerusalem ID, age 35, from the Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of the Old City.
“She told interrogators that she was planning to carry out a terrorist stabbing attack,” al-Samri said.
Israeli forces have detained a number of Palestinians for allegedly being in possession of knives in recent months following a wave of unrest in which 34 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians since October 2015.
In the same time period, 246 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces and settlers. While Israel alleges many of those were attempting to attack Israelis when they were shot, Palestinians and rights groups have disputed Israel’s version of events in a number of cases.
(Source / 24.12.2016)

Gaddafi Loyalists Hijacked Airplane with Replica Weapons


One of the suspected hijackers is tackled while the other is pinned on the ground as the dramatic standoff comes to a close

Cairo- Libyans lived hours of fear before the hijacking of a Libyan plane ended peacefully. Two armed men had hijacked the airplane and obliged it to stand-off in Malta, 500 km north of the Libyan coast.

According to Libyan sources, the two hijackers are: Moussa Shaha and Ahmed Ali and they are not known for any political activity.

Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the weapons the hijackers were carrying appeared to be replicas, according to an initial forensic examination. He carried out a phone call with Prime Minister Faiz Al Siraj.

There were 111 passengers people, not to mention the crew members, on board — the hijacked Afriqiyah Airways Airbus A320 was on an internal flight from Sabha in south east Libya to the capital city of Tripoli.

The airplane was obliged to stand off in Malta while one of the hijackers claimed to be head of a party that backs Libya’s late leader Muammar Gaddafi. Libya’s Channel TV station said one hijacker, who gave his name as Moussa Shaha, said by phone he was the head of Al-Fateh Al-Jadid – this name was accorded by Gaddafi to September 1969 during the military coup.

Taher Siala, the foreign minister of Libya’s Al-Wefaq government, also said that hijackers have said they want to set up a pro-Gaddafi political party. Images circulating on social media showed one of the hijackers waving the green flag of Gaddafi just outside the door of the plane.

The airplane landed on Friday and remained around one hour at the runway before the first group of women and children began to get out. After minutes dozens of passengers started to exit the airplane following negotiations which were held by head of Armed Forces of Malta.

(Source / 24.12.2016)

Israel besieges Bethlehem villages in search of stabbing suspect


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces continued to crackdown on Palestinian villages in the southern occupied West Bank town of Bethlehem on Saturday, in search for a man who allegedly stabbed and lightly injured a settler in the illegal Israeli settlement of Efrat southwest of Bethlehem Friday night.

According to the Israeli army, a Palestinian infiltrated a settler home in Efrat, stabbed an Israeli man, and fled from the scene.
According to Israeli media outlet Ynet, the 50-year-old man sustained light injuries in his back and neck.
There was a heavy presence of Israeli soldiers in several areas across Bethlehem that continued into Saturday morning, with reports of clashes erupting between Palestinians and Israeli forces overnight Friday.
Locals in the village of Wadi Rahhal — located just a hundred meters east of the Efrat settlement and also known as Khirbet Abdullah Ibrahim — told Ma’an Friday that dozens of Israeli military vehicles stormed the village in the evening and conducted a house-to-house search, as Israeli helicopters hovered overhead.
An eyewitness told Ma’an via telephone on Saturday that while Israeli troops left Wadi Rahhal Saturday morning after searching the entire village, military checkpoints were installed at all roads connecting the village to Bethlehem and neighboring villages.
Some residents, he said, were forced to commute to work on foot by hiking through fields due to the Israeli road blocks.
Israeli news sites also mentioned that Israeli forces set up checkpoints outside of the town of Beit Fajjar and the al-Arrub refugee camp a few kilometers further south.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an they were looking into the case.
The occupied West Bank saw an increase in military road closures since October 2015 when a wave of unrest erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, leading to periodic closures of Palestinian villages, towns, checkpoints, and entire districts.
While the violence has largely been characterized by small-scale attacks by Palestinians against uniformed Israeli soldiers and police, a number of attackers have targeted Israeli settlers by infiltrating their homes.
Rights groups estimate the settler population in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, to be between 500,000 to 600,000, all of whom reside in 196 illegal Israeli settlements in direct violation of international law. The overwhelming majority of the United Nations Security Council affirmed the illegality of settlements in a new resolution passed Friday night.
Israel’s response to attacks and alleged attacks have been condemned by rights groups, who have said such measures amount to “collective punishment” and represent a clear violation of international law.
In July, the entire district of Hebron was was put under a military closure amid a massive manhunt for the suspect responsible for a shooting attack which left an Israeli man dead.
The manhunt was concluded when the gunman was killed after Israeli forces bombarded and destroyed a house while he was inside, by firing anti-tank missiles at the house and ultimately razing it to the ground with bulldozers.
Israeli forces also detained scores Palestinians residents in nightly raids amid the manhunt, restricted movement for tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians living in the Hebron area, and revoked Israeli travel permits for some 2,700 people.
The closures on Hebron saw the most widespread restrictions on movement in the occupied West Bank in two years.
Meanwhile, restrictions in Bethlehem came as Palestinians in the holy city marked the occasion of Christmas. On Friday Israeli forces suppressed Bethlehem’s “Santa Claus March,” shooting tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets at participants.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas released a statement Friday saying that “Despite the Israeli occupation, our presence in our homeland and the preservation of our cultural and national heritage are the most important form of resistance in the face of the darkness of a foreign colonialist occupying power.”
(Source / 24.12.2016)

Iranian Militias Carry out Summary Executions against Civilians in Aleppo

The Syrian Coalition condemned the war crimes the Iranian militias are committing against civilians in Aleppo, stressing that the international community bears responsibility for these crimes as it failed to prevent them.

Activists in Aleppo said that the Iranian militias summarily executed six young men in the neighborhood of Sakhour on Friday after those men returned to their homes in eastern Aleppo which completely fell to regime forces.

Member of the Syrian Coalition’s political committee Yasser Farhan said that the Free Syrian Army and forces of the Syrian revolution will continue to resist the Russian and Iranian invaders until they are ousted from of all Syrian territory.

Activists in rural Aleppo said that the Assad regime and Russian air forces, having finished the brutal bombing campaign on eastern Aleppo, carried out intense airstrikes on western Aleppo over the past two days. Six civilians from one family were killed in airstrikes on the town of Atareb west of Aleppo on Saturday.

Regime forces have also significantly escalated aerial and artillery bombardment on Wadi Barada valley northwest of Damascus, pounding the rebel-held enclave with tens of barrel bombs and airstrikes over the past two days.

Farhan stressed that the international community has a responsibility to stop such crimes, pointing out that Russia is still not able to control the situation in Syria or sponsor any peace process.

Farhan raised questions about the UN Security Council resolution passed earlier this week which called for the deployment of UN observers in Aleppo. He said that the latest resolution has not yet been implemented, just as earlier UNSC resolutions on Syria which called for stopping attacks on civilians; unhindered delivery of aid to besieged and hard-to-reach areas; and the release of detainees were not implemented.

Iran is seeking to consolidate its presence in Syria through the deployment of sectarian foreign militias in key areas across the country, Farhan warned.

(Source: Syrian Coalition’s Media Office / 24.12.2016)

Report: Neiman Marcus selling West Bank imports as products of Israel


Olive tree next to the Israel’s separation wall

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A major American department store chain has been selling products imported from Bethlehem as products of Israel, despite Bethlehem being located in the occupied Palestinian territory, according to a report from a public radio station in Texas, US.

KETR reported last week that Bethlehem mayor Vera Baboun was “astonished” after she discovered that Neiman Marcus, which is based in the Texas city of Dallas, was selling nativity scenes that were crafted from olive wood in the occupied West Bank town, but labelled as products of Israel.
“This is illegal,” Baboun told KETR. “It’s not Israel. Bethlehem is Palestine.”
“It’s unacceptable … From our side, from the olive wood store and from their side,” she added. “God knows how much we are working in order to keep this a traditional and a national Bethlehemite product. And this is very important.”
PLO official Xavier Abu Eid viewed the case as an attempt to “normalize” Israel’s illegal annexation of Palestinian territory.
“To say that Bethlehem is part of Israel is not only an attempt to normalize the annexation of occupied territory. But it’s also an attempt at fooling the consumers. The consumers have the right to know from where the product is coming. And this product in particular is coming from Bethlehem, Palestine,” KETR quoted Abu Eid as saying.
A Neiman Marcus spokesperson did not directly respond to KETR’s request for comment, and only informed the radio station that their import division was “in charge of making sure all of our imported products, fashion, fur, home goods, etc. are properly labeled in accordance with all applicable laws.”
However, Katrina Skinner, a spokeswoman for the US Customs and Border Protection, told KETR that origin labels bearing the name “Bethlehem, Israel” would not in fact be in compliance with federal regulations.
“With respect to the specific inquiry concerning the use of the marking ‘Made in Bethlehem, Israel,’ the language would be considered not legally marked in accordance with the policy stated in T.D. 97-16 because Bethlehem is within the West Bank,” she said.
According to KETR’s report, Neiman Marcus could face fines for not complying with the regulations, which increase “for egregious violations like undermining foreign sanctions, or for mislabeling products to indicate they were from areas subject to less taxes.”
US policy mandates that products made in in the occupied West Bank cannot bear the label “Made in Israel” — guidelines established mainly to prevent Israeli settlers from using the label, as the US views Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem to be illegitimate.
However, the guidelines also apply to products made in the West Bank by Palestinians.
Regulations distinguishing Israel from the Palestinian territories date back to the 1990s. The Clinton administration issued the rules in 1995 and 1997 requiring unique origin labels for imports manufactured in Israel, as opposed to those produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
According to the Palestinian Postal Services, demand from online shoppers for Palestinian products — specifically olive wood handicrafts — have noticeably increased over 2016.
Meanwhile, Palestinian policy network Al-Shabaka reported earlier this year that the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine has stifled Palestinian economic growth while producing billions of dollars in Israeli revenue.
(Source / 24.12.2016)

Zahhar denies fabricated statements published by Watan 24


Member of Hamas’s political bureau Mahmoud Zahhar denied Saturday the fabricated statements published by Watan 24 website.

Earlier Friday, Watan 24 website claimed that Zahhar declared intention to form a new political bloc within the Movement as a prelude to head Hamas’s political bureau.

Zahhar allegedly pointed to the Iranian and Syrian important role in the region, according to the website.

The website also claimed that Zahhar seeks to head the group’s political bureau and to replace Khaled Mishaal who, according to the fabricated statements, gave up Palestinian national constants.

Zahhar denied in a press statement issued Saturday the fabricated statements, considering it a failed attempt to distort Hamas Movement and its leaders.

Such fabricated statements would only serve the Israeli occupation, he added.

Zahhar declared that he will sue whoever responsible for the fabricated statements.

(Source / 24.12.2016)