Tunisian parliament passes draft bill allowing security personnel participate in local elections

Tunisian security forces [file photo]

The Tunisian parliament passed on Tuesday a draft bill allowing the armed forces and police to vote in municipal elections scheduled for later this year.

The clause on security personnel voting was passed as part of a draft bill on municipal elections by 144 deputies. Eleven deputies rejected the clause and three abstained.

The draft bill was introduced in May 2016 but deliberations were suspended after the parliament failed to vote on it.

However, last week the Tunisian parliament decided to resume the discussions to speed up the local elections no later than the end of this year.

Tunisian Minister of Local Affairs and the Environment, Riadh Mouakher said earlier that the government intends to hold municipal elections in 2017.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Israeli forces detain Palestinian during raid in East Jerusalem hospital


JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Israeli forces Wednesday raided the Makassed hospital in occupied East Jerusalem, and detained a youth from the Jenin district of the occupied West Bank.

Locals told Ma’an that Israeli forces raided the hospital and conducted searches in all of its sections before raiding the obstetrics and gynecology departments and detaining a Palestinian youth there.
The youth had arrived in an ambulance earlier in the day in order to escort his mother to the hospital.
The reasons behind the raid remained unknown, and the identity of the Palestinian youth has not yet been released.
Israeli police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an he was not aware of the incident.
The hospital was raided several times in 2015 when a wave of violence erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.
During one such incident, Israeli police had threatened to open an investigation against doctors who did not report the names of those treated after being injured in clashes with Israeli forces.
Police reportedly told doctors that it was mandated by law that the hospital notify Israeli authorities when Palestinians involved in clashes were treated at the hospital.
Other hospitals across the West Bank have also been subject to raids by Israeli forces.
In one high profile case back in 2015 undercover Israeli forces shot and killed Abdullah Azzam Shalaldah, 28, several times after they raided the surgery unit of al-Ahli hospital in Hebron in order to detain his cousin who was being treated after being shot by an Israeli settler.
(Source / 01.02.2017)

The checkpoint regime: Israel and the fragmentation of Palestinian society


There are 17 permanent checkpoints in the H2 area under full Israeli military control in occupied al-Khalil (Hebron), manned by Israeli forces and impeding Palestinian freedom of movement. The official rhetoric of the Israeli government is that these checkpoints serve ‘security purposes’.

In total contrast to this ‘security rationale’, Israeli forces within al-Khalil have often illustrated how the checkpoints rather serve the purpose of humiliating the civilian Palestinian population and dictating their movement. Whereas most of the checkpoints are theoretically in operation 24hrs a day, a checkpoint near Ibrahimi Mosque is closed every evening around 9 – effectively imposing a nightly curfew on the Palestinian population in this area; in order to circumvent the checkpoint, Palestinians would have to take a half-hour long, extremely hilly detour.

Over the last few weeks, soldiers at Shuhada checkpoint have been observed twice sleeping inside the checkpoint. On 12th January 2017 Israeli forces were fast asleep in the checkpoint, thus effectively shutting down any kind of movement for Palestinians, who were stuck outside the turnstile as they waited for the soldiers to wake up and manually open it for every single person. On January 30th, one of the two soldiers supposedly ‘working’ in the checkpoint was asleep again. Both of the soldiers were sitting behind the bullet proof glass, with one of them obviously asleep, in plain sight of anyone crossing the checkpoint. When asked in surprise, if the soldier is sleeping, the soldier that was awake just shrugged his shoulders.

The official rationale of ‘security reasons’ for the implementation of this checkpoint-regime seems pointless. If soldiers are asleep at checkpoints, unaware of their surroundings, how are they really maintaining security? Instead, the checkpoints serve the purpose of fragmentation and humiliation. They lead to the fragmentation of Palestinian civilian neighborhoods: dividing neighborhoods in the same city from each other by fenced off checkpoints, separating families from work, schools, medical care, basic necessities such as cooking gas or a pack of rice. Additionally, the checkpoints perpetuate the all to common humiliation of Palestinian civilians by the Israeli forces; they force Palestinian men to take off their belts ‘for security reasons’ when they pass through the metal detector at the checkpoint – the soldiers clearly  know that the belt is setting of the metal detector and even say so – but force everyone to take it off anyways, merely to humiliate innocent people. The long lines in the rain, where Palestinians are forced by the Israeli forces to ‘wait’ to be allowed to pass the checkpoint without reason destroys their sense of worth and dignity. They often have to stand in the pouring rain with no shelter indefinitely. In this system of humiliation, even a less than a month old baby is a ‘security threat’ and treated as such, without any regard for humanity.

In the end, the checkpoint-regime is solely implemented for this kind of humiliation and fragmentation: aiming to create a coercive environment that will facilitate forcible displacement of the Palestinian population. The checkpoints  facilitate the expansion of existing illegal settlements. It allows Israel to eventually grab enough land to connect a consistent stretch of illegal settlements that are free of the indigenous population, the Palestinians.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem sentenced to life in prison for 2015 attack


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A Palestinian resident of occupied East Jerusalem was sentenced to life in prison by an Israeli court on Monday for killing an Israeli and injuring another in a car-ramming attack in April 2015, according to Israeli news website Haaretz.Khalid Kutina, a resident of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of occupied East Jerusalem was convicted of murder for the death of Shalom Yohai Cherki, 26, and ordered to pay monetary damages to Cherki’s family.According to Haaretz, Israeli prosecutor Jonathan Avni said in response to the sentencing that “the sentence reflects the determined fight by law enforcement authorities against terrorists signaling that anyone seeking to take a life for nationalistic reason will be punished to the full extent and sent beyond bars for many years.”At the time of the attack carried out by Kutina, tensions had been running high in East Jerusalem since the summer of 2014 when Jewish extremists kidnapped and burned alive 16-year-old Palestinian Muhammad Abu Khdeir.Several attacks were carried out by Palestinians on Israeli civilians in the months since Abu Khdeir’s death.In October 2015, a wave of violence erupted across Israel, the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, with many Palestinians carrying out similar, small-scale attacks mostly on armed Israeli forces.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Hamas rejects elections before end of internal split

Image of the Palestinian parliament in session [Apaimages]

Image of the Palestinian parliament in session

The Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement – Hamas – has rejected the proposal to hold local elections before reconciliation has been achieved to end the internal political split, Al-Risalah reported on Tuesday. The movement claimed that setting a date for the elections actually serves the interests of its main rival, Fatah.

“The decision to hold the elections was made to meet the interests of the Ramallah-based government run by Fatah at the expense of Palestinian interests and the unity of the Palestinian institutions,” explained Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. He stressed that the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah “serves” the agenda of Fatah and not the interests of all Palestinians.

“This decision has been made on the ruins of the election process,” said Barhoum, “which was destroyed by Fatah when it cancelled the due elections and backed-off from what was agreed upon between the Palestinian factions.”

The Hamas official said that any future elections must be part of a Palestinian reconciliation, otherwise they will be “useless”. He reiterated that the position adopted by Hamas is based on “bitter” previous experience with the government in Ramallah and the leadership of Fatah.

Early on Tuesday, the Palestinian government in the occupied West Bank announced that municipal elections will be held across the occupied territories on 13 May.

Hamas agreed to a similar announcement last year, but a couple of days before the elections, the government cancelled them, citing what critics called “illogical” reasons. The Islamic movement feels that it does not have any guarantees that this will not happen again.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Algeria introduces censorship of imported books

Algerian Parliament [Wikipedia]

Algerian Parliament

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal has signed an executive order placing government censorship on imported books, especially those concerning the country’s liberation revolution (1954-1962) against French colonialism, Anadolu news agency has reported.

According to the decree, which was published in the Official Gazette on Tuesday, book importers should submit a list of books – both printed and electronic publications – to the ministry of culture for approval before they can be distributed. The law applies to books printed abroad and destined for sale, public reading or donation in Algeria. Two copies of each book must be submitted to the ministry prior to distribution; officials will then decide whether to allow them to be in Algeria or ban them.

Books dealing with Algerian history, especially those imported from France, often cause a lot of controversy.

The decree comes a few days after the issue of another executive order placing conditions on the import of religious books and imprints of the Qur’an, which require importers to obtain prior permission from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Arabs form committee to help owners of homes demolished in Israel

Image of Israeli bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes in the West Bank [file photo]

Image of Israeli bulldozers destroying Palestinian homes in the West Bank [file photo]

The High Follow-Up Committee for the Arab Residents in Israel has announced the formation of a Cooperation Committee to continue helping the owners of those houses which have been demolished by the Israeli authorities recently, Arabs48.com reported on Monday.

In a statement, the High Follow-Up Committee said that the new body was formed after discussions with the different Arab groups and the field movement on the ground in Israel, noting that the new committee included members from all regions. “In the wake of the meeting in Rahat, which was held two weeks ago,” it explained, “and after the announcements of some local initiatives related to helping the people of Umm Al-Hiran, a task force was formed from all regions in order to carry out a donation campaign and support the families whose houses were demolished.”

The Israeli occupation authorities have demolished homes in the Palestinian village of Umm Al-Hiran and a number of other buildings in Qulansweh and the Negev Desert. A Palestinian teacher, identified as Yaccob Abul-Qi’an, 47, was killed by police and others were injured during the demolition of the houses in Umm Al-Hiran.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Palestinian minor given 18 month jail term

16-year-old Palestinian Amal Jamal Qabha was jailed for 18 months

16-year-old Palestinian Amal Jamal Qabha was jailed for 18 months

An Israeli military court today sentenced a 16-year-old Palestinian girl to a year and a half in prison for allegedly attempting to stab an Israeli soldier last year at a checkpoint in the northern occupied West Bank.

Amal Jamal Qabha, from the village of Tura in the West Bank district of Jenin, was also fined $5,300, according to Palestinian news agency WAFA.

WAFA also reported that Qabha’s parents confirmed that she was being held in Israel’s HaSharon prison.

According to prisoners’ rights group Addameer, some 10,000 Palestinian women and girls have been detained by Israeli forces over the past 45 years. In 2015 alone, Israeli forces detained 106 Palestinian women and girls, which according to the group represented a 70 per cent increase compared to detention numbers in 2013.

In October, Addameer reported that Israel was holding 64 female Palestinian prisoners and some 400 Palestinian minors. Since a wave of political unrest spread across the occupied Palestinian territory in October 2015, leading to Israeli forces carrying out mass detention campaigns, the number of Palestinian women and girls detained by Israeli forces has risen sharply.

According to Addameer, among those detained between October 2015 and August 2016 were 13 underage girls, some of whom were wounded when Israeli forces detained them.

16-year-old Palestinian Amal Jamal Qabha was jailed for 18 months

16-year-old Palestinian Amal Jamal Qabha was jailed for 18 months

(Source / 01.02.2017)

The murder of Palestinians has been normalised by Israel

Settlers look on as Israeli forces evacuate the body of Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif, killed by Israeli army medic Elor Azaria in Hebron , Israel on March 24 2016 [file photo]

Settlers look on as Israeli forces evacuate the body of Abdel Fattah Al-Sharif, killed by Israeli army medic Elor Azaria in Hebron , Israel on March 24 2016 [file photo]

By Asa Winstanley

Last spring, an Israeli killer was caught on camera carefully and deliberately conversing with a colleague, preparing his weapon and then shooting dead a seriously inured prone Palestinian youth; Abd Al-Fattah Yusri Al-Sharif, 21, was shot in the head. The murderer was Elor Azaria, an Israeli army “medic”.

Israel soon claimed that Al-Sharif had tried to attack its occupation soldiers, and so was a “terrorist” deserving of extra-judicial, instantly-executed, capital punishment. However, the killing happened in Hebron, and international law says that Hebron is occupied territory and that Israeli soldiers are part of an illegal occupation army. The right to use armed force to resist occupation is enshrined in international law. Resistance to Israel’s occupation, therefore, is not “terrorism”.

In any case, the Israeli army frequently lies about attacks against its soldiers and tampers with evidence in an attempt to justify its murder of Palestinian civilians, often including children. In this case, a video shows, in graphic detail, the very deliberate and calculated nature of the murder.

Al-Sharif, lying prone on the ground was no danger to anyone. He had clearly been seriously wounded, and was barely moving. Azaria discussed something with one of the group of soldiers standing around calmly, while a soldier who appears to have been scratched on his back got into an ambulance. Azaria and his colleague stared at the injured Palestinian, then seem to have reached a conclusion. The “medic” then walked purposely towards Al-Sharif and shot him directly in the head, killing him.

Contrary to the media propaganda that came later, this murder appeared very much to have been carried out on the orders of a superior.

Azaria’s cold-blooded murder of Al-Sharif was nothing unusual for the Israeli army. The murder of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers and settlers is routine in the occupied West Bank, where Israel’s military dictatorship holds sway. The only unusual thing on this occasion was that a Palestinian working for the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem happened to capture the precise moment of the murder on camera.

A correspondent with the Tel Aviv newspaper Ha’aretz put it well: “Without the images that went viral in the country and around the world, Azaria’s story may have very well played out differently, and nobody would have known his name.” No different, indeed, to the many other Israeli soldiers who murder Palestinian civilians and get away with it.

The video made headlines in Israel and around the world. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu felt forced to appear to be doing something, and so made Azaria into the scapegoat. He was charged, and eventually (last month) convicted over the killing. This, though, was never really just about one “bad apple”; it is really about the whole corrupt system of Israel’s brutal occupation.

In Israel, Azaria’s murder of an injured Palestinian was extremely popular. So much so, in fact, that he was never charged with murder, only with “manslaughter”. Allison Kaplan Sommer, the same Ha’aretz writer, put it like this: “While he may not have begun this ordeal as a celebrity, Elor Azaria is famous now. More importantly, he possesses something even more powerful: a nation full of citizens who identify with his plight.”

The fact that the killer was charged only with “manslaughter” tells you all you need to know about how cheap Palestinian lives are considered by and in racist Israel.

Furthermore, the killer may even escape this much lesser sentence; Netanyahu is calling for him to be pardoned. Azaria’s crime has became a cause célèbre in Israel, and not only among the neo-fascists who picketed the trial, shouting racist abuse at Palestinians and gathering in pro-Azaria rallies at which popular slogans included “Death to the Arabs”, “Kill them all” and “A Jew is a soul/An Arab is a son of a whore”. Support for the murderer extended across the Israeli political spectrum, with 67 per cent of Israelis backing a pardon for the army sergeant.

Shelly Yacimovitch, the former leader of the Israeli Labour Party also called for Netanyahu to pardon Azaria, fretting that the murderer’s “narrow shoulders will not be able to withstand the weight” of his sentence. The current leader of the Labour Party (which has a UK affiliate in the form of the Jewish Labour Movement, whose director is a former Israeli embassy officer) Isaac Herzog, said that the murderer was “the victim of a situation.”

Arguably the most telling thing about the whole affair was the evidence of one particular witness in the trial. Former settler security chief Eliyahu Liebman spoke in court in Azaria’s defence; he clarified that what Azaria had done was very much routine for the Israeli army.

This testimony was supposed to put Azaria in a good light; maybe it did in Israel. But what it also did was to demonstrate, albeit inadvertently, just how normalised and institutionalised the Israeli murder of Palestinians really is. Azaria is just the symptom of the wider disease that is Israel’s military occupation.

(Source / 01.02.2017)

Israeli gov’t approves 3,000 new settlement units

This announcement brings the number of illegal settlement units announced in a singe week to 5,500

Defying international community, Israeli occupation government announced on Tuesday night that it had approved 3,000 new settlement units in occupied West Bank.

Since the inauguration of the new American President Donald Trump, who has previously donated for illegal settlements, the Israeli government felt its rein related to settlement was released

Defying international community, Israeli occupation government announced on Tuesday night that it had approved 3,000 new settlement units in occupied West Bank.

IsraeliPrime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced the approval within minutes of the announcement that the illegal Amona settlement would be evacuated early Wednesday morning.

Some “2,000 units are ready for immediate marketing and the remaining are in different stages in which [plans] will be deposited and or validated,” the Israeli defence ministry notice said.

“We are in a new era where life in Judea and Samaria [occupied West Bank] is returning to its normal course,” Lieberman said.

The announcement follows last week’s approval of building 2,500 new settlement units in the illegal Israeli Jewish settlement across the occupied West Bank.

The back-to-back announcement of 5,500 new settlement units within a single week is almost unprecedented and it is unusual for the Israeli government to openly declare such activity given because this undermines the creation of a two-state solution with the Palestinians.

Since the inauguration of the new American President Donald Trump, who has previously donated for illegal settlements, the Israeli government felt its rein related to settlement was released.

(Source / 01.02.2017)