Israeli warplanes bombard Gaza Strip

Israeli warplanes Tuesday carried out several airstrikes targeting northern Gaza Strip and a smuggling tunnel in Rafah city. No injuries were reported.

According to local sources, Israeli warplanes type “F16″bombarded a site in Beit Lahya town, northern Gaza Strip, and a smuggling tunnel in Rafah city inflicting great financial looses.

Israeli airstrikes caused a state of panic among civilians who were asleep on that time.

Meanwhile, Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishermen off Rafah shore forcing them to leave the sea.

Israeli army said that one Israeli woman was injured yesterday after Palestinian militants fired a rocket on the city of Ashkelon.

Palestine Telegraph

(gazatvnews.com / 02.08.2011)

Dozens of MKs to Netanyhu: Solve Israel housing crisis by building in West Bank

MKs, cabinet ministers call on Netanyahu to consider all possible options to solve housing crisis, including settling of ‘tens of thousands of citizens in Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem’.

Forty-two cabinet ministers and MKs, all members of the Eretz Yisrael Lobby, signed a petition addressed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday, calling on him to solve the housing crisis that has swept up the country by building in the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The ministers and MKs wrote in the petition that “in light of the housing crisis throughout the country, we, as members of Knesset and signatories, call on you [Netanyahu] and the government to consider all possible solutions, including the immediate housing of tens of thousands of citizens in Judea and Samaria, as well as Jerusalem.”

The signatories including Moshe Kahlon, Mickey Eitan, Yossi Peled and Yuli Edelstein from Likud, Habayit Hayehudi leader Daniel Hershkowitz, and the head of the lobby, MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) and Aryeh Eldad (National Unity). Five Kadima members, Yoel Hasson, Ronit Tirosh, Yulia Shmuelov-Berkowitz and Otniel Schneller, signed as well.

The letter was presented at a special gathering at the Knesset for the Eretz Yisrael Lobby in honor of both the end of the Knesset session as well as the release of the book, “The settlements; the real story”, which documents the lobby’s narrative about the settlements in the West Bank in both text and pictures.

(www.haaretz.com / 02.08.2011)

Syria’s ‘secret doctors’ risk their own lives

Damascus, Syria (CNN) — Hands twisting anxiously, the young doctor says: “I am always scared, everyone is scared.”

For his own safety we are not identifying him. He is terrified that the Syrian regime will detain, torture, or even kill him. Still he persists and says it’s worth the risk. Its even worth the risk of talking to CNN he insists, because he believes the world needs to know.

He is the founder of an underground illegal network of medics, who call themselves the “Damascus Doctors”. They established a Facebook page, their intent not only to save lives, but also the doctor says, to expose the regime’s crimes.

They set up secret, hidden clinics in neighborhoods where demonstrations take place, constantly changing the specific location. Even he, beforehand, doesn’t know where the clinic will be that day. They cannot afford to be compromised.

The network, the doctor says, is made up of around 60 medical professionals, with different roles. Some provide on-the-ground care, others help to provide instruments and medicines, some have private clinics that the wounded are at times taken to, when it’s deemed to be safe.

“People refuse to go to government hospitals because they will be arrested and if they die we cannot take their body.” He explains. Families, he claims can only collect the body of their loved ones after signing a document saying they were killed by armed gangs.

The Syrian government has consistently maintained that it does not target peaceful demonstrations, blaming the violence on armed gangs who infiltrated the demonstrators, with the intent to set up an Al Qaeda style Islamic caliphate in Syria.

At the Damascus general hospital we spoke with Dr. Adib Mahmoud, the director, who said that the demonstrators’ fears are unfounded.

“We accept all cases without regard as to how the injuries were sustained or where it happened” He said.

And he insisted that the claim that family members had to sign false documents was baseless.

At the hospital we met a man who said he was shot in the leg when he accidentally stumbled into an anti-government demonstration — he doesn’t know by who. He was initially treated at one of these secret clinics, but the wound didn’t heal.

“Yes, I was initially afraid to come to a government hospital because of what I had heard” He tells us. “But I have had no problems.”

Still many are unwilling to take the risk, pointing to other cases where they claim anti-government demonstrators were prevented from having treatment, kept cuffed to beds, beaten, detained, or simply disappeared.

And so they turn to the doctors’ clandestine network of medics for help and the field hospitals at various locations disseminated by word of mouth through the community.

We initially met the doctor at an anti-government demonstration after we broke away from our official escorts. He took us to the “field clinic” they set up that day, nothing more than a tiny room. Their supplies, rudimentary at best — a single oxygen tank, bandages, scalpels, needles and other basic equipment.

Many people have bled before his eyes he claims, including children. He was helpless to save them.

“We spend all of our life to help people, and it’s so hurtful to see people dying and we cannot do anything.”

I met up with the doctor again a few days later, in secret, after careful coordination and planning to avoid being tailed.

He wanted me to see some of the patients treated by his network frustrated and angered, he said, by the government’s statement that anti-government demonstrators would face no repercussions if they went to government hospitals.

I met a man shot in the thigh who said he would rather lose his leg than risk going to a government hospital, a teenager with angry and crude stitches across his back, the gash sustained he said when security forces dragged him over glass.

And I met a seventeen year old boy, a patient of the doctors.

“He was shot in the chest and it missed his spinal cord” the doctor explained. “He had blood in his lungs so we had to drain that.”

Initially the doctor didn’t think there was any nerve damage, but then he realized that the blood has collected next to the spinal cord, causing partial paralysis.

The boy is now in a wheelchair, tubes that allow him to urinate snake out of his waistband and into a plastic bag tucked next to him.

His father had sent him to run some errands one day and his son ended up accidentally in the middle of a demonstration and was shot.

His mother cries softly as we speak.

The doctor says he has witnessed a lot of blood, a lot of pain, but also a lot of hope.

“Even when I am making sutures to their (the anti government demonstrators) muscle tendon or their skin, they keep shouting for freedom, they say we want our freedom, we will keep fighting” He tells me. “I want the international community to know that we sill have hope to change this country’s future.”

Later he writes to me: “In the name of humanity, let people know that we are suffering for our freedom”.

(edition.cnn.com / 02.08.2011)

‘Alarming’ rise in attacks on Palestinian children

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) — The Palestinian Authority on Sunday warned that Israel’s attacks on Palestinian children were escalating at “an alarming rate” and urged the UN to step in.

Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed nine children so far in 2011, and almost 200 children have been injured by settler violence and the Israeli military, a statement by the Government Media Center said.

“Hundreds of children are being illegally rounded up monthly by Israeli forces and detained, abused, and imprisoned without due process of law and in direct violation of international, Israeli, and Palestinian laws,” the PA added.

The statement referred to a recent event caught on camera in which young Palestinians were kidnapped by masked, armed Israeli forces while playing football.

One of the children in a video, 13-year-old Islam Jaber, was taken to a graveyard and beaten up, the PA said, adding that he suffered severe anxiety attacks since the incident.

The PA said Israel attempted to bypass humanitarian law by applying “military orders” against Palestinians. The government urged the UN to implement resolution 1998 which protects the right of children in conflict.

The resolution notes that “certain parties persist in committing violations and abuses against children and expresses its readiness to adopt targeted and graduated measures against persistent perpetrators.”

The PA urged the UN and non-governmental organizations to take legal action and end Israel’s impunity, noting that Israel had been violating and abusing Palestinian children “for decades now.”

(www.maannews.net / 02.08.2011)

End blockade now, says UN group in rare Gaza visit

UNITED NATIONS (IPS) – When the United Nations General Assembly established a three member special committee to investigate Israeli human rights violations back in December 1968, Israel reacted with obvious anger.

And not surprisingly, the committee was barred from entering any of the territories occupied by Israel — forcing the three members to hold sittings in Cairo, Amman and Damascus where Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza were given a hearing twice a year.

But geopolitics in the region has changed the political climate — much to the chagrin of the Israelis.

For the first time in 43 years, members of the UN Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices in Occupied Territories gained entry into Gaza in July, through Egypt which ousted its Israeli-friendly president Hosni Mubarak following massive public protests earlier this year.

The Egyptian authorities facilitated the visit via the crossing at Rafah, bypassing the longstanding Israeli ban.

The visit further reinforced the continued criticism by the committee of the horrible living conditions in the West Bank and Gaza and the devastating impact of the Israeli economic blockade, as chronicled in several of the committee’s previous reports.

Oppressive restrictions

In a critical report, the committee expressed dismay at Israel’s “continuing disregard of its obligations under international law.”

“Unfortunately, what we found [in Gaza] was that the oppressive restrictions imposed on Gaza by Israel have the effect of collectively punishing the population,” it said.

With around 35 percent of Gaza’s land area excluded from agriculture due to Israel’s vague buffer zone along its boundary line with Gaza and its fishing areas limited to only three nautical miles from the coast, the people of Gaza could hardly feed themselves, much less revive a decimated economy through exports, the committee said.

“We were alarmed by allegations that Israel enforces these policies employing live fire, including in some instances against children and the elderly,” said the committee.

The committee — comprising Palitha TB Kohona, ambassador of Sri Lanka to the UN; Hussein Haniff, ambassador of Malaysia; and Fod Seck, ambassador of Senegal to the UN based in Geneva — is expected to submit a more comprehensive report to the 193-member General Assembly in September.

Kohona said the conditions in Gaza, “to say the least, are very unsatisfactory and the blockade is to be blamed for this.”

“The economic, educational, psychological, health and social conditions are affected by the blockade,” he asserted.

The lifting of the blockade will have an immediate and positive impact on the people of Gaza, both economically and psychologically, and will contribute to confidence building, he added.

Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza contravened the human rights of the people of Gaza and international humanitarian law and standards, said Kohona, a former chief of the UN Treaty Section.

“It is oppressive and diminishes the lives of the people of Gaza and must be ended now,” he declared.

Urgent need for water

In its report, the committee said it listened to victims, witnesses and UN officials who underlined the dire impact on human rights of the Israeli blockade.

Homes, schools and other infrastructure that were destroyed by Israeli attacks in December 2008 and January 2009 could not be rebuilt due to restrictions on importing building material.

The economy declined significantly and has been sustained by imports through tunnels.

“It would be the occupying power’s responsibility to assist with the reconstruction of Gaza,” noted the committee.

Beyond the homes, schools and businesses that were destroyed, there is an urgent need for water treatment facilities, roads, sewage treatment and the restoration of power, it said.

For many of Gaza’s children, life was difficult and the future hopeless, the committee pointed out, referring to testimony concerning worrying health, psychological and social problems, increasing school dropout rates, and an increasing incidence of child labor.

“We hope the government of Israel will seriously consider the potential consequences of a generation of Gazan children being raised in an environment of near-total deprivation and a lack of opportunities to lead a productive and hopeful life,” it said.

Children jailed at age seven

The practices of the government of Israel which violate the rights of Palestinian children was a constant theme throughout the hearings in Gaza.

Witnesses and officials reported that Palestinian children’s access to education is being impeded through, among other things, restrictions on freedom of movement, constraints on access due to Israel’s wall in the West Bank, a lack of schools especially in East Jerusalem and Gaza, and threats and actual violence by Israeli settlers.

The committee said its attention was drawn to the large number of children held in detention, and cited a range of practices of serious concern, including harsh interrogation techniques, torture and expulsion from their villages.

The committee also underlined its deep concern regarding reports that Israeli security forces were raiding Palestinian homes in the middle of the night to detain children, allegedly as young as seven years old.

The committee’s nine-day investigative visit to the region also included hearings in the Jordanian capital Amman, where it met victims, witnesses and officials working on human rights in the West Bank and the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.

(http://ht.ly/5Sq36 / 02.08.2011)

Geert Wilders doodzwijgen tot dat hij in debat gaat met feiten!!!

Vrijheid van meningsuiting bestaat bij gratie van het debat. Iedereen mag zeggen wat hij of zij wil, maar heeft ook de verantwoordelijkheid er vervolgens het gesprek over aan te gaan. Is er geen communicatie met de spreker mogelijk, dan is zijn mening zonder waarde. Of, zoals Evelyn Beatrice Hall het stelde (hoewel de uitspraak wordt toegeschreven aan Voltaire, die het er overigens mee eens was) ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’

Het basisprobleem rond de plannen van de heer Wilders zit hem in zijn weigering het debat aan te gaan. Hij zegt niet ‘Moslims het land uit’ om vervolgens het gesprek met ons aan te gaan, hij zegt ‘Moslims het land uit’ en rent hard weg. Zoals jongetjes besjes schieten en zich verstoppen, neemt Wilders geen verantwoordelijkheid voor zijn uitspraken.

Dat is onacceptabel. Je kunt niemand dwingen zijn verantwoordelijkheid te nemen, maar je kunt die verantwoordelijkheid zelf wel nemen. Als iemand het debat niet aangaat, waarom zou je dan over hem debatteren?

Bij deze zouden de hoofdredacties van Landelijke Dagbladen, actualiteitenprogramma’s en alle opiniebladen en andere mediaredacties willen oproepen geen woord meer over Wilders te schrijven.

Wij hopen op een gezamenlijke verklaring niets meer over Wilders te publiceren tot hij het debat aangaat. En geen seconde eerder. Waarom laten we een man die zwijgt alle voorpagina’s bepalen? Stop ermee!Als hij niet wil debatteren geef hem dan geen podium.To hold a pen is to be at war. Voltaire.

(Facebook /J. Jansen / 02.08.2011)

The Arab Spring

Today – the first day of Ramadan – we heard that Egyptian tanks rolling on Tahrir Square again, in Hama (Syria) also tanks and people murdered and injured, in Libye 30 rebels murdered and 130 injured.

This is not what we think when we are talking about the holy month of Ramadan or about Islam. Islam means peace, no murdering or fighting.

I ask the leaders of this countries, please don’t murdering your own brothers and sisters. The Qur’an has said if the people don’t trust you anymore, please step down.

Syrian tanks shell Hama, heaviest barrage of assault-witnesses

AMMAN Aug 1 (Reuters) – Syrian tanks shelled residential neighbourhoods all over Hama on Monday in the heaviest barrage of a two-day attack on the city to crush street demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad, witnesses said.

Intense shelling began after Ramadan evening prayers, concentrating on districts near the al-Bilal roundabout in the northwest of the city, the Jarajmeh district in the east and northern neighborhoods near the Omar bin al-Khattab mosque, they said.

“The shells are falling once every ten seconds,” one of the witnesses told Reuters by phone, and the thump of artillery and explosions could be heard in the background.

(af.reuters.com / 01.08.2011)

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Arab Awakening

The March 15 Youth Movement, whose name comes from demonstrations held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that day to demand unity between Fatah and Hamas, is the most direct Palestinian expression of the “Arab awakening” of 2010-2011. The next day, March 16, Fatah’s leader, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud ‘Abbas, announced his willingness to travel to Gaza to conduct unity talks with Hamas. A reconciliation agreement was signed in Cairo on May 4.

Implementation of the Hamas-Fatah accord has been stalled because ‘Abbas insists on retaining Salam Fayyad as prime minister of the PA. Hamas regards Fayyad as too subservient to Israel and the West. It particularly resents his cooperation with the United States in creating the new National Security Forces, popularly known as the “Dayton Brigades” after their first trainer, Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton of the US Army. A major task of these units has been to suppress Hamas in the West Bank, and it has done so to Israel’s satisfaction.

‘Abbas believes that Fayyad’s international credibility, derived from his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Texas, professional experience at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the International Monetary Fund, and success in constructing an IMF- and World Bank-approved economy in the West Bank since 2007 enhance the viability of his plan to request admission of Palestine as a UN member state in September. He has effectively embraced Fayyad’s strategy of establishing a de facto Palestinian state by building institutions that promote security, good governance and a free-market economy. While Fayyad himself is less enthusiastic than ‘Abbas about seeking UN membership, his strategy for state building is a logical precursor to it.

Exasperation

The state of Palestine that will seek UN membership does not exercise sovereignty over the territory it claims — East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — or control over this territory’s borders, the armistice lines (the Green Line) in force from 1949 until June 4, 1967. Nonetheless, it does fulfill many of the requirements of statehood as laid out in the 1933 Montevideo Convention. It has a permanent population; a defined territory within the Green Line; and a government in the form of the PA, although the PA is in most important respects subordinate to Israel. Seeking UN membership is an expression of ‘Abbas’ exasperation with the US-sponsored “peace process.” If the US had not lost all credibility as a peace broker and simultaneously discredited the very notion of a “peace process,” ‘Abbas would have felt no need to seek UN membership.

The “Palestine Papers” published by the pan-Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera in early January confirm that, under US pressure, PA negotiators offered concessions to the government of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert well beyond the Palestinian national consensus. Nonetheless, these offers were insufficient to reach an agreement. Thus, in addition to feeling Palestinian and regional Arab pressures, ‘Abbas sought reconciliation with Hamas because he could not achieve a negotiated peace deal with Israel on terms any Palestinian would accept.

The Arab awakening has made no difference whatsoever in the unrestrained support the US gives Israel, even when Israel’s positions do not agree with publicly declared US positions. President Barack Obama demonstrated a perplexing incapacity to induce Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to abide by the unambiguously declared US policy that Israel should freeze settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a means of restarting negotiations. In February 2011 the US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories written precisely to reflect US policy. This occasion was the fortieth since the June 1967 war on which the United States cast the sole negative vote on a Security Council resolution critical of Israel, thus protecting its ally from international censure.

By vetoing a resolution whose substance it claimed to agree with, the Obama administration revealed that, like its predecessors, it is far more interested in asserting its hegemony over the Israeli-Palestinian arena than achieving peace, a strategy invented by ex-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger following the 1973 Arab-Israeli war.

Whatever the outcome of a vote on Palestinian UN membership, it will not halt the escalating pace of Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem, especially in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan, and elsewhere in the West Bank. Nor will it halt the destruction of the Muslim cemetery in West Jerusalem where what is called a “Center for Human Dignity/Museum of Tolerance” is being constructed on top of graves, some of which date to the eleventh century. It will not protect Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills from the continuing rampages of violent settlers. It will not restore West Bank lands confiscated to construct the separation barrier/apartheid wall/security fence or the rest of the lands in the West Bank Israel has confiscated from Palestinians to construct illegal settlements or military bases. And it will not give Palestinians control of their underground water resources so that they might enjoy a minimally adequate daily water supply. It will have little or no impact on the lives of ordinary Palestinian people or on Israel’s continuing massive violations of their national and human rights.

Regional Balance of Forces

Despite the deadlock over its implementation, brokering a nominally successful Fatah-Hamas reconciliation agreement is one of several signs of Egypt’s modest, but significant, foreign policy reorientation since the ouster of the former president, Husni Mubarak. The Mubarak regime was the strongest Arab supporter of ‘Abbas and his Fatah party. As the “Palestine Papers” revealed, its former military intelligence commander and torturer-in-chief, ‘Umar Sulayman, was not, as he claimed, an honest broker in Fatah-Hamas talks. He collaborated with Israel in trying to weaken and isolate Hamas.

Under the Mubarak regime, Egypt also aided Israel and the West in enforcing a tight economic and diplomatic embargo on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, sealing shut the Rafah crossing from Gaza into Egypt since 2007. After the fall of Mubarak, Egypt has opened Rafah, though fitfully and with restrictions that will confine many Gazans to their open-air prison indefinitely.

In February, for the first time since 1979, two Iranian warships sailed through the Suez Canal. Israel’s angry reaction was consistent with its campaign to incite global anti-Iranian hysteria. In April Egypt announced its willingness to renew diplomatic relations with Iran. These symbolic measures subtly shift the regional balance of forces, deeply distressing Israel’s über-right wing government.

Al Jazeera’s role in publicizing the “Palestine Papers” highlights the Arab awakening’s reassertion of a pan-Arab dimension to Middle East politics. The new pan-Arabism is rooted in historical and contemporary cultural realities, the most important of which is the wider dissemination of a common standard Arabic language (fusha). The shared vocabulary allows Al Jazeera and its fellow pan-Arab satellite TV stations to bring news of widely hated Israeli and US policies in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan into tens of millions of Arab homes. Satellite TV also conveys the message of the “new preachers” of Sunni Islam, the most popular of whom is the largely apolitical Egyptian ‘Amr Khalid. It gives a regional platform to the charismatic leader of Lebanon’s Hizballah, Hasan Nasrallah. Hence, the new pan-Arabism is not politically unified, nor does it seek to be. It eschews the inflated rhetoric of the 1950s and 1960s.

Solidarity

The March 15 Youth Movement and several West Bank popular committees called for a march on the Qalandiya checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah on May 15, the anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel or, in Arab parlance, the nakba. As some 1,000 demonstrators neared the checkpoint, Israeli soldiers fired massive volleys of tear gas. About 100 were incapacitated by tear gas inhalation and or injured by rubber-coated metal bullets. Nakba Day demonstrations were also held in East Jerusalem, Hebron and al-Wallaja, a village on the southern fringe of Jerusalem whose lands (but not its people) are in the process of being annexed to Israel.

The Israeli army was surprised by Nakba Day demonstrations of Palestinians attempting to cross the border to “return” from the Gaza Strip, Syria and Lebanon. Its response was, therefore, disorganized and brutal. At least 15 people were shot dead. Egypt’s ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces prevented demonstrators from reaching the Rafah crossing, an indication that Egypt’s foreign policy reorientation will stop short of any direct confrontation with Israel.

Unarmed Palestinian demonstrations organized by village-based popular committees with the participation of many hundreds of mainly young Israelis are not a result of the Arab awakening, though they have been emboldened by it. Popular struggle involving Palestinian men and women of all ages, as opposed to armed struggle, has been the principal strategy of the campaign against the separation barrier Israel has built, 85 percent of it inside the Green Line, since June 2002. In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled, “The construction of the wall and its associated régime [land confiscations, settlements] are contrary to international law.” Israel has returned some of the land confiscated from Budrus, Bil‘in and several villages west of Jerusalem. But the barrier, though still unfinished, stands.

On July 15, 2,500 Israelis and Palestinians marched in Jerusalem to support the campaign for Palestinian UN membership. The spirited demonstration was the largest in Jerusalem in some time. Participants and organizers considered it a success.

The march was held entirely in East Jerusalem, proceeding from the Jaffa Gate of the Old City to the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah up the hill. The route and the organizers’ ban on Israeli flags, which the Zionist “peace camp” traditionally displays to emphasize their patriotic credentials, gave the occasion an Arab flavor. But 85-90 percent of the participants were Israeli Jews and internationals, while no more than 10-15 percent were Palestinians — residents of the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Silwan, ‘Isawiyya and Sheikh Jarrah, as well as Palestinian citizens of Israel from Jaffa, Ramla, Tayba and elsewhere. The march was jointly organized by Palestinian popular committees and Jerusalem neighborhood groups, as well as Solidarity, a relatively new organization that emerged from the struggle of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals to prevent Jewish settlers from evicting Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrah in 2009.

In cooperation with the Jordanian government and the UN, 28 Palestinian families gave up their refugee status in exchange for homes in Sheikh Jarrah. After Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967, Israeli courts sustained the claims of Jewish organizations that their nineteenth-century Ottoman deeds of questionable authenticity established their ownership of the houses. Israeli laws prevent Palestinians from asserting ownership of their former properties in Israel, even if they have valid deeds. Solidarity has grown beyond its initial focus on Sheikh Jarrah in Arab East Jerusalem and has developed close ties with neighborhood committees in Silwan, Abu Dis and ‘Isawiyya.

In addition to inspiring the emergence of the Palestinian March 15 movement, the Arab awakening buoyed the expansion of Solidarity’s work with Palestinian citizens of Israel. In June, Solidarity members spent 23 days in a round-the-clock vigil to protect the home of Jihan and Mahmoud al-‘Aju in Ramla. The District Court reversed its previous ruling and ordered that the eviction order be suspended as its implementation might cause irreversible damage to the family.

Solidarity members look forward to continuing joint popular Palestinian-Israeli action parallel to the PA’s request for UN membership. The road ahead is full of pitfalls, however. On July 20, Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian leader with the most legitimacy and popularity, called from Israeli jail for peaceful demonstrations to support the UN bid. One day later, the prison authorities placed him in solitary confinement. The Popular Committees Against the Wall and Settlements in Palestine, in which the highly successful popular committee of Bil‘in is the main force, have also supported seeking UN membership. But a rival organization of popular committees which held its first conference in Bayt ‘Ummar, Ni‘lin and Budrus on July 15-17 has, so far, not made a statement on this matter. Many Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and in the diaspora reject the plan to request UN membership because it limits Palestinian aspirations to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it does not address the question of Palestinian refugees and it excludes diaspora voices from Palestinian political decision-making. This legitimate Palestinian debate over strategy will make further collaboration between Solidarity and Palestinian forces around this issue a very delicate matter.

Commonalities of the Neoliberal Era

The 2011 Arab awakening has had a surprising, if indirect, impact on Israeli politics. On July 14 dozens of young Israelis set up tents along Rothschild Boulevard, the most trendy street in central Tel Aviv, to protest the high cost of housing. Prices are up more than 20 percent compared to the summer of 2010. Even a small flat in Tel Aviv is far beyond the reach of most young people.

The housing bubble, which has been years in the making, has inflated alongside sharp rises in the price of gasoline, cottage cheese and milk earlier in the year. The cost of living is exorbitant in most of greater Tel Aviv. Public transportation is inadequate, expensive and irregular, making living in distant suburbs, the European solution to this problem, unviable.

The tent city on Rothschild Boulevard fired the imaginations of young Israelis. Within days there were similar actions in over half a dozen cities from Kiryat Shimona in the north to Beersheva in the south. On July 23 tens of thousands participated in a highly militant torch-lit march in Tel Aviv. Some 150,000 people demonstrated throughout Israel on July 30.

This fair housing movement is the largest mobilization of social protest in Israel in many years. Its main slogans have been “decent housing, reasonable prices,” “power to the citizen,” “this generation demands housing” and “social justice,” this last demand a prominent call raised in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Many demonstrators have called on Prime Minister Netanyahu to resign, again, a demand similar to the one raised by Arab demonstrators throughout 2011. During the first week of the protest one Rothschild Boulevard demonstrator interviewed on Israeli radio’s Channel 2 told a reporter, “We have to do what they did in Egypt. Yalla, tahrir, jihad.” The fact that a middle-class Israeli suggested, even if it was only rhetorical excess, that this Israeli movement had anything to learn from an Arab political phenomenon is astonishing and unprecedented, to say nothing of the use of the hyper-provocative word jihad.

The great majority of the protesters have insistently avoided linking the lack of investment in affordable housing to the vast sums invested to construct government-subsidized housing in Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, build the infrastructure to support the settlements and sustain the military apparatus to defend them. A provocative article by Yediot Aharonot’s economics correspondent Gidion Eshet, published on July 28, suggested that the subsidized apartments the protesters are seeking are in the West Bank and that ending Israel’s settlement policy would free capital for construction of affordable housing in Israel.

Tahrir Square has been occupied since July 8 and Rothschild Boulevard since July 14. The demonstrators in both cities share something in common, though it is normally obscured by the Arab-Israeli conflict. In Egypt, as in Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan, the Arab awakening is in part a rebellion against the neoliberal development model, even if it is rarely named. The housing crisis in Israel is similarly a symptom of neoliberal policies, in particular the reduction of the interest rate from 4 percent in August 2008 to 0.5 percent in April-August 2009 in response to the economic recession brought on by the 2008 global financial crash. Eschewing regulation and slashing interest rates to encourage investment — typical neoliberal policies — produced a speculative bubble instead.

All Israeli governments since 1985, the Mubarak regime since 1991 and the Palestinian Authority since 2007 have adopted neoliberal economic policies promoted by the US government, the IMF and the World Bank. Egypt and Israel are considered success stories by neoliberal criteria. Their economies, as well as that of the West Bank, have expanded considerably since the mid-2000s.

But growth has not substantially diminished the poverty rates of 20 percent in Egypt and 25 percent in Palestine (18.3 percent in the West Bank and 38 percent in the Gaza Strip) or moderated the widening gap between the richest and the poorest. Poverty in Egypt and Palestine are not new stories. It is less well known that in Israel over one third of the labor force earns the minimum wage of 4,100 shekels (about $1,205) per month and that nearly one quarter of the population (mostly Arab citizens and ultra-Orthodox Jews) lives below the poverty line. Forty percent of the poor are employed.

As in the United States, the capital of neoliberalism, wealth is highly concentrated in a few hands in Egypt, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. One useful measure of wealth distribution is the Gini index using a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 representing absolute equality and 100 representing absolute inequality. According to the most recent CIA statistics, the Gini index is 45.2 in the US, 39.2 in Israel and 34.4 in Egypt. (By contrast, the social democracy in Sweden boasts a Gini coefficient of 23.) The ratio of the average income of the richest 10 percent to the poorest 10 percent was 15.9 in the US, 13.4 in Israel and 8 in Egypt. Statistics since the adoption of PA Prime Minister Fayyad’s 2009 neoliberal strategy for Palestinian statehood are not available. But Ramallah unabashedly displays a concentration of luxury capital investment unmatched anywhere else in the West Bank or Gaza Strip. Egypt is less unequal than the IMF’s other “stars” of the Arab world — Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. The US and Israel are among the most unequal developed capitalist economies.

The common sources of their economic plight will unfortunately not draw the peoples of Israel, Egypt and Palestine together. Most Egyptians reject the notion that they have anything in common with Israelis. The great majority of the Israelis demanding affordable housing, even if they may understand the connection, are reluctant to articulate that their economic distress is exacerbated by the cost of the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and Israel’s military budget for fear that this stance would discredit them politically. Consequently, it may take a long time before a significant number of Israelis are convinced or compelled to abandon their colonial settlement project and share the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea with Palestinians on the basis of equality. Palestinians, especially Arab citizens who comprise 20 percent of Israel’s population, are more likely to realize that their future is linked to that of Israeli Jews, whatever political form it may take.

On the Ground

For Mahmoud ‘Abbas at least, the bid for Palestinian UN membership is based in large measure on Prime Minister Fayyad’s successful management of a highly constrained and territorially circumscribed neoliberal economic revival. This project has some popular support, especially in the northern West Bank, because it has improved security and infrastructure and provided jobs, though disproportionately in the security forces. According to a public opinion poll conducted by telephone in April-May 2010, 82 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip believed that Fayyad’s policies “served the Palestinian interest” and 72 percent thought he “would be capable to be the next president.” Fifty-four percent, however, did not believe that his plan for statehood through economic development would succeed.

Israel’s relentless settlement expansion has always been and remains the main obstacle to Palestinian statehood. Today, it has all but destroyed the possibility of a two-state solution to the conflict, and there are no prospects for a more conciliatory Israeli government in the foreseeable future.

Al-Nabi Salih, a village about 18 miles northwest of Ramallah, is representative of the current phase of the settlement project. Every Friday since December 2009, the popular committee of al-Nabi Salih has organized demonstrations to resist the expansion, unauthorized even by Israeli authorities, of the Halamish settlement. The demonstrations began after settlers expropriated a natural spring on al-Nabi Salih land. Several weeks later, Halamish settlers burned down 150 of al-Nabi Salih’s olive trees near the spring.

The separation barrier does not pass near al-Nabi Salih, so it is not an immediate issue. The popular committee’s demonstrations thus directly target the occupation and the settlement project. Consequently, according to a retired Palestinian security officer living in the village who formerly coordinated regularly with his Israeli counterparts, Israeli military authorities consider them a serious problem that must be repressed. Every Friday the Israeli army besieges the village, turning it into a free-fire zone for tear gas canisters, stun grenades, skunk bombs and rubber-coated metal bullets. Over 120 villagers have been hospitalized with serious injuries since the demonstrations began.

Students at Birzeit University and youth from Ramallah, including supporters of the March 15 movement, often attend the demonstrations at al-Nabi Salih. At the July 22 demonstration, several asserted that the PA’s bid for UN membership had little significance, whether or not it succeeded. One Palestinian student at an excellent US college who was spending the summer break at home emphatically insisted, “It’s the last gasp of the illegitimate PA.” While acknowledging that the March 15 movement does not have an alternative strategy, she believes that Palestinians draw strength from the Arab awakening. “We feel that now we have a back,” she said.

(www.merip.org / 01.08.2011)

Rosenthal wil optreden tegen financiering van boycot Israel

15/05/2011
Volgens een artikel in de Jerusalem Post wil de Nederlandse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Uri Rosenthal ingrijpen bij organisaties wier beleid indruist tegen dat van de overheid.

Op aangeven van het CIDI dat een rapport van 15 pagina’s lang onderzoeksrapport heeft opgesteld over Nederlandse hulpgelden die gebruikt zouden worden om de boycotcampagne tegen Israel te financieren gaat Rosenthal in de aanval met “sweeping reforms”. Rosenthal bedankt CIDI directeur Naftaniël dat hij de Nederlandse overheid hierop heeft gewezen.

De Palestijnse vluchtelingenorganisatie Badil wordt in dit verband als ontvanger van hulpgelden aangewezen, evenals de cartoonist Ashraf Ahmed Gharib, de maker van onderstaande als anti-semitisch aangeduide cartoon.

Ook de Olijfboomcampagne, de NGO Monitor en Electronic Intifada moeten het ontgelden, omdat zij in feite de boycot van Israel zouden uitdragen.

(www.palestina-komitee.nl / 01.08.2011)