Newly-appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh in the West Bank city of Ramallah on 10 March 2019
Palestinians will stay away from a US-led conference in Bahrain next month that the Trump administration has cast as an overture to its own plan for peace between them and Israel, a Palestinian cabinet minister said on Monday, reports Reuters.
Washington announced the conference on Sunday, describing it as an opportunity to drum up international investment for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians, who have boycotted the Trump administration since it recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017, have shown little interest in discussing a plan on which they had no input and that they anticipate will fall far short of their core demands.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said on Monday that his government had not been consulted on the June 25-26 gathering in Manama.
After the cabinet met, Ahmed Majdalani, the social development minister and a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation executive committee, said:
There will be no Palestinian participation in the Manama workshop. Any Palestinian who would take part would be nothing but a collaborator for the Americans and Israel.
Shtayyeh reiterated Palestinians’ aspirations for a two-state peace agreement with Israel entailing control of the occupied West Bank and Gaza – currently run by the Islamist group Hamas – as well as East Jerusalem as their future capital. Internationally-mediated talks to that end have been stalemated for years.
Israel calls Jerusalem its indivisible capital and has said it might declare sovereignty in its West Bank settlements, which are deemed illegal by the United Nations and most foreign governments.
US officials have predicted the Manama event will include representatives and business executives from Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as some finance ministers.
The economic component discussed will constitute an announcement on the first part of the Trump peace plan, US officials have said.
But Bashar Masri, a Palestinian businessman and the founder of Rawabi, the first Palestinian planned city in the West Bank, said he had turned down an invitation to speak at the conference.
“We will not engage in any event outside the Palestinian national consensus,” Masri wrote on social media. “The idea of an economic peace is an old one now being asked in a different way, and just as our people have rejected it in the past, we reject it now.”
Israel’s finance minister, Moshe Kahlon, said on Sunday he had yet to receive an invitation to the Bahrain meeting.
On Monday, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said Israel was open to attending.
Hotovely, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, said:
We have no problem sending representatives to Bahrain, but the problem, as always, is that the Palestinian side is not genuinely interested in economic benefits.
The Trump administration has said its still-secret peace plan would require compromise by both sides. Since being boycotted by the Palestinians, it has cut back on US aid for them, contributing to economic hardship in the West Bank and Gaza.
Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement, shunned in the West for its hostility to Israel and locked in a power struggle with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s secular Fatah party, also condemned the Bahrain conference.
Israeli workers conduct an excavation work the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, on 28 February 2018
Israel’s top court has ruled that details about archaeological digs in the occupied West Bank may remain secret, reported Haaretz, rejecting an appeal by two NGOs.
The Supreme Court’s decision upholds the state’s position, as well as a lower court ruling; the state had argued that “releasing the names of the archaeologists carrying out the digs would make them vulnerable to academic boycotts”, the paper explained.
The state also argued that
releasing the location of the digs could undermine Israel’s position in future diplomatic negotiations.
The two NGOs who took the state to court, Yesh Din and Emek Shaveh, are seeking to make public information about digs carried out under the auspices of the Israeli occupation authorities – the so-called Civil Administration – in the West Bank.
Details being sought include the location of digs, “the names of the archaeologists conducting them and details of any findings loaned to museums, research institutes or exhibits”.
As highlighted by Haaretz, “under the 1954 Hague Convention, an occupying power is forbidden to remove archaeological findings from occupied territory”.
In the court’s majority opinion, the justices “accepted the state’s position in full”.
“There’s a clear and genuine fear that publishing the names of the archaeologists…could cause concrete damage to their professional and financial interests, as well as those of the institutions with which they are affiliated,” Yosef Elron wrote.
“Publishing the archaeologists’ names exposes them to academic boycotts in a manner that could genuinely damage their research work and their academic futures.”
Elron additionally “stated that publishing their names could limit their ability to publish their research in international journals, give lectures, participate in academic conferences, cooperate with colleagues and volunteers from other countries, obtain stipends and research grants, and participate in programs at academic institutions overseas.”
Another argument of the state accepted by the court was that revealing the site of the digs would undermine Israel’s foreign relations in various ways, including “undermining its interests in the framework of future negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, and could even serve as a tool of attack for parties that seek to harm Israel in the international arena”.
Emek Shaveh said it had wanted the court to order the state “to apply the academic standards accepted in Israel and worldwide to the West Bank as well”.
“Ultimately, this decision says that under current circumstances, even basic academic standards are superfluous, and continued Israeli rule over the West Bank requires maintaining two different legal systems under the same government, even in academia.”
Maryam Saadi, a photographer and filmmaker, checks her camera at a photoshoot. Posted March 21, 2019.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — For Maryam Saadi, many of the women in Gaza are miracle workers, who manage to help others despite facing major hardships themselves, but no one knows about them. To bring them into the light, Saadi launched the Facebook page Lady in a Story to document and share the stories that newspapers don’t.
Saadi believes their stories need to be told, especially those who have chosen professions considered to be unorthodox for women in their society. Among those she has thus far documented are the Quran tutor Hajja Saadia, the psychologist Dina Nassar and the storyteller and thespian Khitam Abu Kwik.
With a diploma in technology and multimedia from the University College of Applied Sciences, a technical college, Saadi taught herself photography and filmmaking through online tutorials. She then decided to narrate women’s stories on Facebook through photography and short videos accompanied by short texts based on interviews with the women and her observations about their lives.
“I decided to create this page as I have always believed that women are the ones who can change the world,” Saadi told Al-Monitor. “Palestinian women in particular lead difficult lives, given the dire economic and political conditions plaguing Gaza.”
Developing portraits of the women begins with a long meeting, in which the women talk about daily life, which is often filled with exhausting undertakings, such as plowing the earth and farming under less-than-ideal conditions. It also gives them an opportunity to vent, to let off some of the steam generated by their hardships.
The first woman Saadi documented was Hajja Saadia from Rafah. Twice-widowed and never having had children, Saadia found herself alone in her suffering after being diagnosed with cancer.
“Cancer does not kill [the mind or the spirit],” said Saadia, who once worked as a nurse in a government-run clinic. She ultimately found relief in the company of the 35 students to whom she taught the Quran.
In contrast to the conservative and religious Hajja Saadia, Khitam Abu Kwik is a fiercely unorthodox woman. Abu Kwik, from Gaza City, decided in her late 40s that she belonged on the stage. Some 10 years on, she continues to perform, her stage presence representing a rarity. In Palestinian society, theater has long been considered a male domain.
Abu Kwik is also a famous “hakawaty,” a storyteller, who mostly relays traditional tales, legends and fables passed down for generations. Combining her stage experience and theater skills, Abu Kwik co-produced “Some Comfort,” a play decidedly feminist in tone about the lives of women in Gaza. It was staged last month at Theatre Day Productions, in Gaza City.
Among the younger women whose lives Saadi has documented is Dina Nassar, a psychologist who in her spare time volunteers at the children’s oncology center at the Rantisi Hospital in Gaza City. Nassar dresses as a colorful clown to lift the children’s spirits. Saadi made the short documentary “Dina the Clown” to highlight this aspect of Nassar’s life. It will be screened at the Chicago Palestine Film Festival, which runs April 20 through May 2.
Saadi told Al-Monitor that last December she began audiovisual training with Theatre Day Productions, established in 1994 in Gaza. In addition, she is doing an online course taught by Noe Mendelle, director of the Scottish Documentary Institute, focusing on documentary filmmaking using smart devices.
With Lady in a Story attracting increasing numbers of followers, Saadi aspires to reach even more people around the world who are interested in the stories of Palestinian women’s lives. Saadi has so far documented 24 women’s stories, 18 of which she published on Facebook. She said it only took her two weeks. Saadi has another seven narratives in the works.
Israeli soldiers and police officers invaded, Friday, a wedding dinner party in the al-‘Isawiya village, in occupied Jerusalem, and detained the groom and his uncle.
A video published by Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan (Silwanic) on its Facebook page showed many officers invading the area and detaining the groom and his uncle.
Silwanic stated that the soldiers invaded the party because of Palestinian flags that were raised there, and demanded their immediate removal.
The soldiers then detained the groom and his uncle, and took them to a police station to sign an affidavit that all Palestinian flags will be removed, and no flags will be raised, or face imprisonment and high fines.
Up to 200 Israelis under police protection raid Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound in East Jerusalem on 14 March, 2019
The so-called Temple Mount Groups, a body of extremist Jewish organisations, have called for massive raid of Al-Aqsa Mosque to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim tomorrow, the Shehab news agency reported yesterday.
According to Shehab, the groups announced their planned raid on Facebook and said that they would organise tours and other activities inside and around the different facilities of Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In addition to the extremist organisations, Israeli MKs and ministers are expected to take part in the planned raid.
Israeli occupation forces regularly provide protection for settlers who enter the Al-Aqsa Mosque and carry out religious rituals there. Many Palestinians, on the other hand, are banned from entry while settlers desecrate the Muslim holy site.
Israeli soldiers shot, on Sunday evening, three Palestinians east of Jabalia, in the northern part of the besieged and improvised Gaza Strip.
Media sources said the soldiers opened fire at several youngsters, on Palestinian lands close to the perimeter fence.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has reported that the three suffered moderate wounds, and were rushed to the Indonesian Hospital, in Beit Lahia.
In addition, Israeli daily Haaretz quoted the Israeli army claiming that fired a missile at a “Hamas outpost, after an explosive device was thrown over the border fence, in northern Gaza.”
On Saturday evening, Israeli drones fired two missiles into a site near the perimeter fence, in the eastern area of Central Gaza.
On Friday, the 49th week of Great March of Return and Breaking Siege on Gaza, the army injured 83 Palestinian civilians, including 23 children and one woman, in addition to three Paramedics, and one journalist.
According to ministry sources, a first batch of pilgrims will set out from Gaza to Saudi Arabia on March 3.
These include at least 800 pilgrims who have already obtained the necessary travel documentation from the Saudi authorities, the sources said.
“The offices of pilgrimage travel companies in Gaza have been inundated by those seeking to perform the sacred journey,” Awad Abu Mazkour, chairman of Gaza’s Hajj and UmrahCompany, told Anadolu Agency.
Since late 2014, Gazans have been unable to make the pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia due to Egypt’s continued closure of the Rafah border crossing.
In January, the Egyptian authorities eased travel restrictions through the crossing, which links Israeli-blockaded Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
Israeli forces can be seen demolishing a Palestinian building in the ‘Area C’, West Bank on 14 February 2019
A right-wing Israeli political party, opposed to Palestinian self-determination, has proposed plans to annex most of the West Bank and impose full Israeli sovereignty over the occupied territory. With less than six weeks till the Israeli elections, the move seems intended to sweep up votes from large sections of the country’s electorates who are hostile to a Palestinian state.
The plan proposed by the outfit headed by Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked knows as the New Right will seek to annex “Area C” which makes up 61 per cent of occupied West Bank. In what appears to be an attempt to curtail widespread fear amongst Israelis over “demographic threat” of having too many Palestinians, the right-wing group has estimated that only “80,000 Arabs” residing in the area will need to be awarded a citizenship.
A more accurate number of the Palestinian population in the area eyed for illegal annexation is said to be nearly four times higher; 297,000 according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the West Bank.
It’s a proposal that is likely to worry the international community and equally be a vote winner in the coming election. The proposal was set out as part of the platform released by the New Right party yesterday, whose leaders broke away from the Jewish Home party to form the new group. Established in December 2018, the party is said to include religious and secular groups.
Both Israel’s Justice Minister Ayelat Shaked and Education Minister Naftali Bennett have made no secret of their intention to annex most of the West Bank. In October Shaked said she was in favour of total annexation of “Area C” and that in doing so Israel would need to absorb some Palestinians into its territory.
Most of Israel’s illegal settlements are constructed in “Area C”, which under the Oslo Accords was placed under Israel’s administration control. The population of illegal Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank is just short of 600,000, according to B’Tselem, and while “Israel has refrained from formally annexing the West Bank […] In practice, however, it treats the settlements established throughout Area C as extensions of its sovereign territory and has virtually eliminated the distinction for Israeli citizens.”
Israeli forces injured protesters during the Great March of Return on 19 February 2019By Ray Hanania
Israeli soldiers hiding behind bunkers and using long-range sniper rifles have intentionally murdered 35 children, paramedics, journalists and disabled people during its ongoing assault against Palestinian civilian protestors along the Gaza border, a report released by the United Nations concluded this week. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) said that Israeli soldiers violated international human rights and humanitarian laws in killing 189 Palestinians and wounding more than 6,100 in weekly Friday protests since they began on 30 March, 2018. According to Palestinian sources in Gaza, those figures are very conservative.
In the 25-page report, UN officials said that the killings “may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity” and urged that the evidence should be submitted formally to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for prosecution.
Rather than addressing the contents of the report, Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responded in their usual way when confronted with overwhelming evidence of the mass murder of women, children and innocent civilians: they accused the UN of “anti-Semitism”, bias and hypocrisy. This is nothing new. The Israelis have been obfuscating and denying mass murder allegations since the ethnic cleansing and destruction of at least 400 Palestinian towns and villages during the “war of independence” between 1946 and 1949.
Israel’s history is built on terrorism and killing not just on the basis of race or ethnicity, but also on religion; what we might call “religicide”. Its murderous violence has continued throughout its seven decades of existence. The murder of Christians and Muslims by Israeli soldiers has always been justified by asserting that the Jewish soldiers were merely “retaliating” for attacks by Arabs. What’s more, news reports are censored and Israeli journalists are prohibited from reporting on the incidents.
Ironically, rather than being punished for their crimes, the perpetrators have been lionised by Israeli Jews. Men and women branded as “terrorists” in the 1940s have gone on to serve as Israeli Prime Ministers and senior officials.
On 9 April, 1948, Zionist terrorists massacred Arab civilians in the village of Deir Yassin on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Initial reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross put the total of those killed at 250 but Israel prevented an official investigation once the area came under its control a month later. The massacre site was later wiped off the map and, without a touch of irony, became a part of the Holocaust Memorial built there in 1953 which houses millions of documents on the Nazi genocide of European Jews. Hypocritically, Israel suppresses investigations into the killing of non-Jews, as it is seeking to do in its response to the UNHRC’s Gaza report. The Deir Yassin massacre was ordered by the head of the Irgun terrorist group, Menachem Begin, who was elected as Israel’s Prime Minister in 1977.
In October 1953, Israeli forces, angered by skirmishes along the Jordanian border, launched a “reprisal raid” targeting a small West Bank village called Qibya. Sixty-nine unarmed civilians were massacred, two-thirds of whom were women and children. Israeli forces destroyed 45 homes, a school and a mosque. They were commanded by Ariel Sharon, who became Israeli Prime Minister in 2001 and asserted in his memoirs that most of the victims were killed when the homes in which they were hiding were destroyed. Sharon went on to sanction the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Beirut in September 1982 by right-wing Lebanese militias. Infamously, former US President George W Bush described Sharon as a “man of peace”.
On 29 October, 1956, Israeli forces massacred 48 Arab civilians, including 23 children, in the Arab village of Kafr Qasim, which was located in Israel along the border with Jordan. Non-Jews in Israel were designated as “hostile populations” between 1948 and 1966 and subjected to military law. The Israeli military issued a shoot-to-kill order for any Arab found on the street after the curfew. Palestinian workers from the village were unaware of the curfew and were gunned down as they returned home. The army commander testified that this was part of Israel’s plan for the ethnic cleansing of Arabs from Israel, a confession that quite possibly prevented his election as Prime Minister.
These major massacres have helped to create a violent mindset in many Israelis, especially when serving in the military and the police; they are convinced that Arabs, whether within or beyond Israel, do not value human life. There have been dozens of incidents in which Israeli police have not only attacked and murdered Palestinians living in the occupied territories, but also Arab citizens of Israel itself.
On 30 March, 1976 for example, Israeli police shot and killed six unarmed Israeli Arab citizens and wounded 100 others who were protesting against government efforts to confiscate Palestinian–owned land. The massacre has since been commemorated annually by the Palestinians as “Land Day”. Last year, the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip started weekly protests on 30 March, calling them the “Great March of Return”, along their side of the nominal border. They continue to demand an end to the oppressive blockade of Gaza and the fulfilment of their legitimate right to return to their land inside Israel.
In little over ten years, Israel has launched three major offensives against civilians in Gaza: 1,400 Palestinians were killed in 2008-09; 177 were killed in 2012; and in 2014 more than 2,200 Palestinian men, women and children were killed by the Israelis.
While such killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli soldiers is not a new phenomenon, a strong stand by the UN against Israeli atrocities certainly is. Platitudes are the norm, but now the international organisation appears to be calling for justice.
Palestinians need to remind the world of Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, and counter the intense anti-Palestinian bias in the Israeli media and their Western counterparts. Such media bias allows Israel to brush aside its responsibilities, citing “self-defence” and “retaliation” against Palestinian infringements. Israel’s narrative that all legitimate Palestinian resistance to its occupation is “terrorism” has been swallowed wholesale by the Western media.
There is no “statute of limitation” on the murder of innocent civilians by any government, so there should be no barrier to the prosecution of the individuals responsible. The UNHRC report details the most outrageous conduct by a government engaged in entirely punitive acts and killing civilians in the process. Israeli officials have never killed Palestinians for the sake of justice or international law; they almost always do so purely for the sake of revenge or to quell their anger. This is not the behaviour of a law-abiding democratic state. Violence, it seems, is fundamental to Israel’s “democracy”, and always has been.
The Israeli occupation police at dawn Saturday kidnapped three Palestinian citizens from their homes in Occupied Jerusalem.
According to Quds Press, police forces stormed some homes in the Old City of Jerusalem and rounded up three Palestinians.
They were identified as Naser Qous, director of the Palestinian Prisoner Society in the holy city, Hosni al-Kilani and Sheikh Ali Ajjaj.
The detainees was transferred to police interrogation centers and will stand trial at the Israeli magistrate court on Saturday evening. The reason for their detention is still unknown.
Recently, the Israeli police kidnapped more than 40 Palestinians in Jerusalem and its environs and later released most of them on bail and on condition that they stay away either from the entire Old City or only the Aqsa Mosque.