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25 years after Berlin Wall fall, activists break open Israeli wall

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian activists affiliated with local popular resistance committees in the villages northwest of Jerusalem on Saturday broke open a hole in the separation wall to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“No matter how high walls are built, they will fall. Just as the Berlin Wall fell, the wall in Palestine will fall, along with the occupation,” the popular committees said in a statement.

The activists said that their aim in destroying the wall was also to stress that Jerusalem is an Arab and Palestinian city, and that neither the construction of the separation wall nor Israeli military reinforcement could prevent Palestinians from reaching Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

The activists also called upon Palestinians to unite and take part in the battle for Jerusalem, and to defend the al-Aqsa mosque and all Islamic and Christian holy sites.

They also called upon people to be ready to take part in the “intifada” of Jerusalem, which they said would be “the final, fateful intifada to liberate Palestine.”

The Berlin Wall officially fell on Nov. 9, 1989, after having divided the German capital for nearly 30 years.

The Israeli separation wall is in many places more than double as high and nearly six times as long, as it cuts across the West Bank to divide Palestinians from other Palestinians ostensibly in order to ensure Israeli “security.”

Israel began building the separation wall in 2002, and the route has been the target of regular demonstrations by border towns whose land is cut off by its path.

Israel has regularly confiscated large plots of Palestinian land in order to build the wall. When the barrier is complete, 85 percent of it will have been built inside the occupied West Bank.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled that the separation wall was illegal and “tantamount to annexation.”

Critics have called the wall part of a land grab designed to ensure Jewish-only settlements built on occupied territory housing around 550,000 Israelis will become part of Israel de facto despite the lack of a peace agreement, in effect legalizing land confiscation.

(Source / 08.11.2014)

New EU foreign chief calls for creation of Palestinian state in 5 years

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (Reuters/Francois Lenoir)

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini

The EU’s newly appointed foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini has called for the establishment of a Palestinian state in the next few years, saying that the European community should ‘move forward’ with its role in the Middle East.

I would be happy if by the end of my term, a Palestinian state existed,” the 41-year-old former Italian foreign minister said in her first newspaper interview as successor to Britain’s Catherine Ashton in the post of EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy.

While speaking to journalists from six European newspapers, Mogherini said the EU should be present in the Middle East “in order to make steps forward at this time of their history,” adding that the crisis has been unsolved for a long time, with “an entire generation growing up with the Palestinian issue.”

At this date I get the same messages from the Palestinian side, from the Israeli side, and from the key Arab countries, exactly in the same terms – we do need at this time the European Union to move forward,” Federica Mogherini said, as quoted by UK’s The Guardian.

A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: "EU recognize Palestine" sponsored by the non-governmental US organization Avaaz.org, flies on Septembre 12, 2011 in front of European Union headquarters during an EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels. (AFP Photo/John Thys)

A Palestinian flag, bearing the slogan: “EU recognize Palestine” sponsored by the non-governmental US organization Avaaz.org, flies on Septembre 12, 2011 in front of European Union headquarters during an EU General Affairs Council meeting in Brussels

To make sure she means business, the new EU foreign policy chief announced her first official trip to the region scheduled for the end of the week. During the two-day visit, the EU high representative plans to go to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Ramallah and Gaza, to meet with Israel’s ministers, including PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and senior Palestinian officials.

Mogherini pointed out that the problems in the region can only be solved with a “coordinated approach” from all the countries in the area, who “so far have not shared a common interest.”

It will, in fact, be difficult to guarantee the security for this country without a broader framework involving Arab countries. But an overall agreement of this kind would facilitate the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” France’s Le Monde quoted the EU minister.

The motorcade of European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrives at the Erez border crossing to cross into the Gaza Strip March 18, 2010. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

The motorcade of European Union’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrives at the Erez border crossing to cross into the Gaza Strip March 18, 2010

Earlier in October, the British House of Commons voted by a vast majority (274 to 12) to recommend that the UK recognizes Palestine as a state alongside Israel, with the latter having condemned the British MPs vote.

Last week, Sweden officially recognized the occupied state of Palestine, becoming the first Western-European state to make such a move.

Federica Mogherini said Sweden’s recognition did not represent a template for other EU members, as a new Palestinian state should be established, rather than recognized as it is at the moment.

It is essential that European countries adopt a common initiative and speak with one voice,” Mogherini told Le Monde.

(Source / 04.11.2014)


Sweden is first EU member to recognise Palestine as state

Swedish flag

Sweden’s newly elected center-left government has officially recognised Palestine as a state on Thursday, making it the first EU member to do so.

“Today the government takes the decision to recognise the state of Palestine,” Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom said in a statement published in the Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter.

By recognising Palestine as a state, Wallstrom said Sweden wanted to first give its support to “the moderates among the Palestinians.” She referred to those “who will govern the complex Palestinian policy and those who soon will again have to sit down at the negotiating table,” in the statement released Thursday.

On October 3, Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven had announced that his country would recognise Palestine as a state.

“The conflict between Israel and Palestine can only be solved with a two-state solution, negotiated in accordance with international law,” Lofven said. “A two-state solution requires mutual recognition and a will to peaceful coexistence. Sweden will therefore recognise the state of Palestine.”

The decision comes after the Social Democrats won the Swedish parliamentary elections, in alliance with the Greens and the Left Party on September 14.


Countries such as Hungary, Poland and Slovakia also recognise Palestine as a state; however they had done so before joining the European Union.

Although the U.N. General Assembly approved the de facto recognition of the sovereign state of Palestine in 2012, the European Union has not followed suit

On Thursday, the EU condemned Israeli plans to build 2,610 settlements in Givat Hamatos located in southeast Jerusalem.

”This represents a further highly detrimental step that undermines prospects for a two-state solution and calls into question Israel’s commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians,” the European Union External Action said in a statement released Thursday.

(Source / 30.10.2014)

Egypt postpones Gaza ceasefire talks

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Egyptian officials on Sunday notified Palestinian factions that the upcoming round of indirect talks regarding a ceasefire agreement between Gaza militants and Israel has been postponed.

The talks, set up to iron out details of an August truce that ended five weeks of deadly fighting in Gaza, were scheduled for Monday.

Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman of the Hamas movement, told Ma’an that Egypt informed Hamas officials that the talks had been postponed.

There were no details given regarding the reason for the postponement nor any information about when the negotiations would be held.

“It’s Egypt that will set a new date for indirect talks brokered by Egypt, and Hamas will be invited to that round of talks,” Barhoum said.

The announcement comes in the wake of a deadly attack in the northern Sinai Peninsula in which a militant drove a car rigged with explosives into a military checkpoint, killing 30 Egyptian officers in addition to himself.

Egypt responded by imposing a curfew on North Sinai, closing the Rafah crossing with the Gaza Strip, and bombing suspected militant targets in the peninsula.

The Israeli assault on Gaza this summer killed more than 2,140 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and 73 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

It ended on Aug. 26 with Israel pledging it would ease the crippling siege on Gaza, loosen restrictions on fishermen, and an agreement to hold future talks on other issues.

The siege on Gaza has been in place over the last seven years and has severely limited imports and exports, including building material.

(Source / 26.10.2014)

Palestinian fatwa bans the sale of land and real estate to Jews

In addition, Israeli forces have been promoting both a spatial and temporal division of Al-Aqsa mosque and its courtyards. The Fatwa council has asked to convene an urgent meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation

The Supreme Palestinian Fatwa Bureau, lead by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, issued an official fatwa forbidding the sale of land and real estate to the enemy.

This prohibition was implemented in the wake of Israeli forces and settlers seizing Palestinian properties in Silwan, East Jerusalem, a decision that directly affects the presence of Palestinians in Jerusalem and its environs. Thus, the fatwa council considered any individual who willingly sold his house or land to an Israeli as a traitor of Islam, God and to his nation. The fatwa called upon the Palestinian people to isolate and boycott these individuals and not to allow them entry into society and ban them from marrying into the community.

The Mufti called on any individual who wishes to sell any piece of land to research the buyer’s history carefully before agreeing to a sale.

The council also condemned the recent violations that have been committed against Muslim and Christian holy sites, including the burning of the Abu Bakr Mosque in the village of Aqraba, near Nablus, and the attack of the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

In addition, Israeli forces have been promoting both a spatial and temporal division of Al-Aqsa mosque and its courtyards. The Fatwa council has asked to convene an urgent meeting with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation in an effort to stop these aggressive practices.

(Source / 24.10.2014)

When culture and resistance meet in Bil’in

An art exhibition teaches Palestinians creative ideas for their struggle.

Marching through Bil’in towards the site of the parade celebrating culture and resistance

Bil’in – As the sun set and call to prayer rang out, a mixed group of Palestinian and international actors presented a scenario in which a family is forced to choose between paying $600 for their grandfather’s surgery or to release their daughter from an Israeli prison.

After it concluded, the audience was invited to discuss what interested them in the play, and what problems they had with the production, employing a style known as “Forum Theatre.”

“The play does not resolve the problem, it asks a question and presents a crisis,” Hector Aristizabal, director of Imaginaction, a non-profit theatre outreach company based in Los Angeles, told Al Jazeera. “It’s not about finding an answer which doesn’t exist, it’s about creating an aesthetic dialogue where people from the community try to deal with their own questions and conflicts.”

Aristizabal and others are in the West Bank village of Bil’in, famous for its weekly protests against the Israeli separation wall, for an artistic residency that runs from October 9-22.

Artists and activists from as near as neighbouring village Kufer Ni’meh and as far as South America are in attendance.

“This is the first time anyone has attempted this in Bil’in,” Fidaa Ataya, one of the event organisers, said in an interview. “It’s a huge responsibility, but we have an opportunity to help the villagers of Bil’in use creative ideas for their struggle,” she continued. 

RELATED: In Pictures: The bees of Bil’in

The projects include theatre, murals and puppet making, all with input and encouragement from locals. This week, the group marched through Bil’in towards the site of the weekly protests in a parade celebrating the positive aspects of culture and resistance, as well as the importance of the olive harvest occurring across the occupied West Bank.

Francisco Letelier, a Chilean muralist, who began his career as a young man during the presidency of Salvador Allende, oversees the painting of murals on the main road of Bil’in.

“What we’re trying to do is recapture a feeling of ownership of the physical environment and empowering people to know that they can affect their surroundings,” the muralist told Al Jazeera.

He went on to say that he was attempting to engage the villagers “in a process that asks ‘What’s important to you? Who are you?’ For many people, this was the first time that their ideas were being considered in a serious way. So it’s already a success.”

Participants were invited to draw their own designs for the walls lining the street. Hamza Badran, 21, was responsible for one such mural. A month earlier, Badran decided to switch from a jeweller apprenticeship to study at Ramallah’s International Academy of Art.

We tried in this gathering here in Bil’in to show them something different. I want to tell everyone to come and [visit] Palestine. Not in a hotel, but with the people.

Fidaa Ataya, event organiser

Now here I am, a month later, making my first mural,” Badran said while putting the finishing touches on his first exhibition.

Land is one of the most important driving forces behind Bil’in’s weekly protests, which entered their tenth year last March. The Israeli separation wall that lines much of the occupied West Bank threatened to separate the village from a huge portion of farmland on which the olive trees harvested this week sit.

After protests and legal action, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the wall be re-routed, which took place in 2011. Approximately 700,000 square metres were saved for the villagers.

That same year, “5 Broken Cameras“, a documentary about the village’s Friday protests, was released to international acclaim. Its director, Emad Burnat, would be the first Palestinian nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. After these victories, some suggest that the weekly protests are losing steam.

“When the wall moved, for sure, people thought ‘We won something, we’ve got back our land,'” Ataya said. According to her, people began to focus more on their personal lives. “This is logical, human beings also need to live.”

As one of the organisers, she stressed that these victories were not enough, and that people still had a hunger to protest for their rights.

Ken Sdrjak, the puppetista who guided the creation of cardboard olive trees and a “teargas monster” used in the parade, agreed with Ataya.

“After plugging away at their resistance for so many years, it’s exciting to know that they’re inspired for keeping up innovative tactics,” he said while searching Bil’in for plastic tubing to be used to create the teargas monster.

Participants were invited to draw their own designs for the walls lining the street

Sdrjak also helped create a sun and moon on which residents placed images of the village’s two martyrs: Bassem and Jawahar Abu Rahman. Bassem was shot in the chest with a high-velocity teargas canister at close range on April 17, 2009, and Jawahar died from tear gas inhalation on December 31, 2010. They were siblings.

On October 19, the group prepared for the protest. They dressed in olive tree costumes, hoisted the puppets, and marched towards Israeli forces already waiting for them.

In an improvised move, activists also placed the image of Bahaa Badr, a 13-year-old boy shot and killed by Israeli forces the night before the parade, alongside the members of the Abu Rahmah family.

The parade marched past two Israeli jeeps and through billowing tear gas to the separation wall. Aside from two protestors who were shot in the leg with tear gas canisters, there were no major injuries.

The following day, the group returned to their projects.

Reflecting on the decades old occupation, Aristizabal said thatwhatever is going to change this conflict is already here. We need to imagine what it is that will allow these two peoples to live in this land”.

Ataya was pleased with the imaginative efforts of the group. “Without creative ideas, without teaching the people to do something else, nothing new will happen.”

In the coming days, the artists will take their play to the villages of Nabi Saleh, Nil’in and Budrus. Ataya hopes that it will resonate with both the neighbouring communities and the world at large. “We tried in this gathering here in Bil’in to show them something different. I want to tell everyone to come and [visit] Palestine. Not in a hotel, but with the people.”

(Source / 23.10.2014)

Hamas blasts PA for failing to begin Gaza reconstruction

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The Hamas movement on Sunday urged the Palestinian Authority to facilitate the entry of construction material into the besieged Gaza Strip in order to speed up the reconstruction ahead of winter, as the first major rain of the fall season highlighted the challenges still facing tens of thousands of displaced Gazans.

“Reconstruction of Gaza is one of the most important tasks the PA should carry out according to the reconciliation agreement, but on the condition that there be no obstacles, physical or legal, to the entry of construction material,” senior Hamas official Moussa ABu Marzouq said in a statement.

The statement points to growing frustration with the PA’s failure to pressure Israel to open the border into Gaza, despite two different negotiation meetings with Israeli officials where it promised to do just that.

It also underlines tension between Hamas and the Fatah-dominated PA despite working together in a technocratic government of national reconciliation, as Hamas has in recent days accused PA security forces of cracking down on members and attacking rallies.

Abu Marzouq reiterated in the statement that Hamas had no problem with the PA coming into Gaza and carrying out reconstruction, expressing frustration that the unity government was failing to fulfill its duties.

“Hamas has questions about several issues which are the duties and responsibilities of the national consensus government,” he added, stressing that these responsibilities included the salaries of Gaza civil servants, security arrangements on the border, and managing the Gaza crossings, in addition to the reconstruction process.

PA officials have repeatedly promised that they would take over the crossings between Israel and Gaza — currently staffed by Hamas, the reason given by Israel for refusing to lift the economic blockade — but have yet to take meaningful steps.

Critics have suggested that Israeli and international pressure is part of the reason for the delay, as the US has looked askance at the unity government since its formation in June and Israel has repeatedly sought to undermine it, with a massive arrest campaign in the West Bank that netted more than 600 Hamas members as well as the summer offensive that killed more than 2,200 Gazans, the vast majority civilians.

Both the US and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization. But as a part of the unity agreement, Hamas said it would abide by previous PLO agreements — which include non-violence and recognition of Israel — and has insisted that it has no problem with the PA asserting its rule in the Gaza Strip.

Abu Marzouq on Sunday stressed these points in his statement, highlighting the tremendous amount of reconstruction work still needed for Gaza after the Israeli destroyed thousands of homes and left around 108,000 homeless.

He estimated in the statement that reconstruction would require more than two million tons of building material, “not to mention the material needed for rehabilitation of the infrastructure which the occupation has destroyed.”

The Israeli siege on Gaza in place over the last seven years has severely limited all imports and exports, including building material.

Abu Marzouq also pointed a finger at Egypt in the statement, stressing that Egypt’s role as a sponsor in the ceasefire agreement in August that ended Israel’s 50-day assault meant it needed t play a more positive role in lifting the siege.

“Why won’t Egypt finish what it has started and allow entry of construction material through its borders?” he asked in the statement.

Egypt has long enforced the Israeli siege on Gaza from its border as well. Despite a brief respite under democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi, the Egyptian military coup in summer 2013 led to a renewed crackdown on the Rafah crossing and a campaign to destroy the smuggling tunnels that had long provided a vital lifeline for Gaza’s 1.8 million people.

(Source / 19.10.2014)

Support for independent Palestine on rise: Press TV online debate

File photo shows supporters of Palestinian statehood outside UK parliament before the MPs’ historic vote on recognizing a Palestinian state.

File photo shows supporters of Palestinian statehood outside UK parliament before the MPs’ historic vote on recognizing a Palestinian state

The comments posted by Press TV followers on the channel’s Facebook page show that international support for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state is on the rise.

Followers from across the world participated in a debate posed by a Press TV question on the recognition of the Palestinian state and overwhelmingly said that Palestine should be recognized as a sovereign state and that the Israeli regime should immediately withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The comments also called for the release of Palestinian prisoners and an end to Israel’s breach of human rights, adding that the international community should pile up pressure on the Zionist regime to stop its construction of illegal settlements in the Palestinian lands.

“Scratch the illegal settlements and trail [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu for war crimes,” a respondent said.

There is a Genocide of Palestinians in progress in Gaza! Innocent…men, women and children are being killed and massacred by wicked, evil, criminal, terrorist, racist and Zionist Israel! World must wake up to this truth and reality! Sacred Palestine and Humanity need justice!” read another comment.

Another respondent posted the following comment, “Netanyahu is a criminal and perverted beast ruling viciously and venomously the racist, Zionist, terrorist and fascist…Israel. Iran is a land of Peace, governed by civilized beings. Israel has committed mass massacres of Palestinians with impunity and no checks or balances! Israel continues to commit GENOCIDE against poor…helpless…Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere. Israel must be taken to International Courts and severely punished for such crimes against Humanity!”

The comments came after the British parliament passed a non-binding motion to recognize Palestine with a majority of 274 to 12 on October, 13.

UK ambassador to Israel Matthew Gould recently said that the public sentiment in Britain and around the world has shifted against Israel following its recent 50-day onslaught on the Gaza Strip.

During his inauguration speech in parliament on October 3, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven also announced that his administration would formally recognize Palestine as a sovereign state.

Israel’s key ally, the United States, however, reacted to the announcement, terming Stockholm’s recognition as “premature.”

On November 29, 2012, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly voted to upgrade Palestine’s status to non-member observer state.

Palestinians are seeking to create an independent state on the territories of the West Bank, East al-Quds, and the Gaza Strip and are demanding that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

Tel Aviv, however, has refused to return to the 1967 borders and is unwilling to discuss the issue of al-Quds.

(Source / 19.10.2014)

The case for recognising Palestine as a state – Ireland should follow Sweden

The decision by Sweden’s new centre-left government to set in train the formal recognition of Palestine as a state, was followed on Monday by a non-binding vote in the Commons – 274-12 – to do likewise. The British government made clear it would not do so, yet. And France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said on Tuesday that Paris would only recognise a Palestinian state if doing so would help achieve peace. But if negotiations fail, “Paris would recognise the Palestinian state”.

But the mood music represents a significant racheting up of diplomatic pressure onIsrael, a sign of increasing exasperation in EU capitals at its perceived failure to engage in dialogue and particularly its continuing expansion of settlements – in recent weeks, the seizure of 1,000 acres of land near Bethlehem and plans to build 2,600 settler homes near Jerusalem.

That alienation was most strikingly expressed by Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Richard Ottaway, who said he had stood by Israel “through the good years and the bad … but such is my anger over Israel’s behaviour in recent months that I will not oppose the motion. I have to say to the government of Israel that if they are losing people like me, they will be losing a lot of people.”

Ireland, although among the EU states most supportive of the Palestinians, has traditionally been conservative about wielding the recognition card, whether to bestow or withdraw. In response to Dáil questions this week Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan echoed Fabius in linking recognition to assisting talks.

But perhaps the time has come to go further. The most recent US-mediated talks collapsed in April and Israel, whose diplomats are frantically lobbying against recognition, needs to be told that it can not hold the issue hostage while continuing to prevaricate on engaging in meaningful dialogue. Recognition would not do anything to copperfasten Palestinian sovereignty, but it would send an important message to Israel that there will be a diplomatic price to pay. Ireland should join Sweden in doing so.

(Source / 17.10.2014)

Palestinians still 2 votes short for UN resolution

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry leans into speak in the ear of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as he arrives at Andalus Villa in Cairo on the sidelines of the Gaza Donor Conference, October 12, 2014

RAMALLAH, West Bank: West Bank officials say that Palestinians don’t yet have a majority in the U.N. Security Council for a resolution that would set a November 2016 deadline for ending Israel’s occupation.

Taysir Khaled and Wasel Abu Yousef of the Palestine Liberation Organization said Thursday that they expect seven of 15 council members to back the resolution. They say France and Luxembourg are being courted to reach the needed nine votes.

The resolution sets a deadline for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands to make way for a Palestinian state. The Palestinians consider a majority at the Security Council as a diplomatic victory even though the U.S. is likely to veto such a resolution.

It is not clear if the Palestinians will present the resolution at the Security Council without a majority.

(Source / 16.10.2014)