Israel Balks At Palestinian Unity Deal

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here during a Cabinet meeting on May 1, says it will withhold the transfer of $90 million in tax funds and customs fees for the Palestinian Authority. The move comes after news of a reconciliation deal between two key rival Palestinian factions.
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, seen here during a Cabinet meeting on May 1, says it will withhold the transfer of $90 million in tax funds and customs fees for the Palestinian Authority. The move comes after news of a reconciliation deal between two key rival Palestinian factions.

Israel is taking a tough line against a reconciliation deal between two rival Palestinian factions.

A unity agreement is set to be signed Wednesday in Cairo by Fatah, which controls the Palestinian Authority, and Hamas, a hard-line Islamist group that rules the Gaza Strip. The agreement would help end a bitter four-year divide between the two groups. But Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization and is leveling punitive actions against the Palestinian government for agreeing to the deal.

The Israeli government wasted no time in denouncing the agreement when it was announced last week. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Palestinian government it would have to choose whether it wants peace with Israel or with Hamas.

Since then, Netanyahu’s government has been ratcheting up both its rhetoric and its actions to undermine the reconciliation agreement. On Sunday, Israel announced it would withhold the transfer of more than $90 million in tax funds and customs fees for the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas.

Surely no one could expect Israel to transfer money into the hands of a world-recognized terror organization such as Hamas, and it’s up to the Palestinian government to decide what they want to do.

– Yigal Palmor, Israel Foreign Ministry spokesman

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor says the Israeli government is worried the money will go to Hamas.

“Surely no one could expect Israel to transfer money into the hands of a world-recognized terror organization such as Hamas,” Palmor says. “And it’s up to the Palestinian government to decide what they want to do — whether they want to incorporate Hamas into government and then, of course, kiss goodbye all options for negotiations or try to choose the road of peace and negotiation, which is incompatible with Hamas.”

A ‘Very Irresponsible Approach’

The tax payments account for more than two-thirds of the Palestinian Authority’s budget. They have been collected and transferred by Israel since the 1990s as part of interim peace deals.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, says these sorts of moves by the Israeli government are ridiculous. Ashrawi says uniting Palestinians is the only way to bring stability to the region and push forward the peace process.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, says that uniting Palestinians is the only way to bring stability to the region and push forward the peace process. Here, she listens during a session of the Palestinian Parliament on March 27, 2006.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, says that uniting Palestinians is the only way to bring stability to the region and push forward the peace process. Here, she listens during a session of the Palestinian Parliament on March 27, 2006.
Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, says that uniting Palestinians is the only way to bring stability to the region and push forward the peace process. Here, she listens during a session of the Palestinian Parliament on March 27, 2006.

“If Netanyahu and the current Israeli leadership had any sense, which I doubt, then they would certainly have been encouraged by this development rather than attempting this very, very irresponsible, ignorant approach of divide and conquer and find excuses to avoid talking to the Palestinians,” Ashrawi says.

Mustafa Barghouti, a longtime political activist who helped negotiate the reconciliation agreement, says he’s also surprised by Israel’s reaction.

“Mr. Netanyahu has been blaming Mr. Abbas for many months that Mr. Abbas cannot represent all Palestinians. Now he can represent all Palestinians,” Barghouti says. “So why they are upset, I don’t understand.”

A Good Political Move For Israel?

Hillel Frisch, senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem, says the Palestinian reconciliation actually helps Netanyahu at a delicate diplomatic moment. There is growing support for a bid by the Palestinian government to win recognition of statehood at the United Nations General Assembly in September. Frisch says Abbas’ decision to reconcile with Hamas could change things.

If Netanyahu and the current Israeli leadership had any sense, which I doubt, then they would have been encouraged by this development rather than attempting this very, very irresponsible approach of divide and conquer.
– Hanan Ashrawi, member, Palestinian Legislative council

“The Israelis can turn to the international community and say, ‘There’s no partner. He’s not playing by the rules of the game,’ ” Frisch says. “Politically I would say that Israel has gained by this move.”

But Frisch says it’s a different story on the security front. Egypt, which brokered the reconciliation deal, has indicated it will soon reopen the Rafah border crossing it shares with the Gaza Strip — the area controlled by Hamas.

Israel says this will help Hamas build up its weapons stocks. Palmor, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, says Israel would like to preserve the common interests of security and border arrangements with Egypt.

“There are many security challenges and threats across the border, and we need to keep the same level of cooperation that we’ve had in the past, in the interest of both countries,” Palmor says.

Still, Palmor says Egypt is changing and Israel isn’t sure what its new policies are.

(www.npr.org / 03.05.2011)

Saudi Arabia: Rights Activist, Bloggers Arrested

The Saudi interior minister should immediately release Fadhil Makki al-Manasif, a human rights activist arrested on May 1, 2011, in ‘Awwamiyya in the Eastern Province for taking part in peaceful demonstrations, Human Rights Watch said today. Al-Manasif’s arrest follows amendments to the Press and Publications Law on April 29 that further restrict the right to free speech in Saudi Arabia, and days after the authorities arrested at least 20 peaceful protesters, including two bloggers. “The latest arrests of peaceful dissidents brings the climate for reform in Saudi Arabia to the freezing point,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The Saudi ruling family has shown no signs that it might ease its iron grip on the right to express political opinions.” Al-Manasif, 27, has documented and written about human rights violations, in particular against Shi’a Saudis, for the past two years. He has documented arrests since February of participants in peaceful demonstrations in towns across the Eastern Province, such as a peaceful candlelit march by women in Qatif on April 14. A colleague of al-Manasif told Human Rights Watch that on April 30, officers of the Ministry of Interior’s Criminal Investigation Department came to his family’s house to arrest al-Manasif and confiscated his father’s national identity card when they did not find him there. The next day al-Manasif presented himself at the police station and was immediately taken into custody for “participating in the demonstrations.” Saudi authorities arrested more than 20 participants in peaceful demonstrations in the Eastern Province over the previous week, including two bloggers, Reuters reported. The bloggers, Mustafa al-Badr Al Mubarak and Husain Kazhim al-Hashim, had participated in and written about the protests, local sources reported. Since February, peaceful demonstrations of between dozens and hundreds of Saudis have occurred regularly to call for the release of political prisoners, predominantly in the Eastern Province. Small protests for the release of political prisoners led by women have also taken place in Riyadh, the capital, in March. The latest arrests bring the number detained since February 2011 for peaceful expression or assembly to at least 145, a Saudi human rights activist told Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch has confirmed at least 120 arrests before the recent arrests of more than 20 people. The Sa‘ud family rules Saudi Arabia as an absolute monarchy. There are no elections to national institutions and no effective means of popular participation in decision making. In early March, the Interior Ministry headed by Prince Nayef bin Abd al-‘Aziz and the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, the highest law-interpreting body, reiterated a ban on all demonstrations.On April 29, King Abdullah bin Abd al-‘Aziz issued a decree amending the 2000 Press and Publications Law, further restricting the right to free expression. The decree prohibits publishing anything that “contradicts rulings of the Islamic Sharia [law] or regulations in force,” anything that “calls for disturbing the country’s security, or its public order, or services foreign interests that contradict national interests,” anything that “causes sectarianism or that spreads divisions between citizens,” and that “damages public affairs in the country.” New restrictions also include a prohibition on violating the “reputation, dignity, or the slander or libel” of the chief mufti, members of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars, or any other government official or government institution, and publishing without official consent proceedings from any investigations or court trials.

A January 2011 decree extended provisions of the Press and Publications Law to online expression. Two days before his arrest, al-Manasif sent Human Rights Watch a copy of these new regulations, which the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan also published.

“The king’s new media decree eviscerates any gains in freedom of expression under his reign,” said Wilcke. “The ongoing crackdown and the media decree effectively throw the kingdom back to a time when dissent of any sort resulted in arrest.”

(www.hrw.org / 03.05.2011)

Gaddafi forces bombard rebel-held Zintan – rebels

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi bombarded the rebel-held town of Zintan in the Western Mountains with over 40 Grad rockets late on Tuesday, a rebel spokesman said.

“They were fired in two salvoes,” the spokesman, named Abdulrahman, said by telephone. “The last salvo landed moments ago. We can hear NATO aircraft overhead now.”

A Libyan ambulance driver from Zintan who crossed into Tunisia on Tuesday told Reuters the town had come under intense shelling by pro-Gaddafi forces.

(www.trust.org / 03.05.2011)

Palestinian factions sign unity deal in Cairo 3MAy11

The Palestinian Information Center –   3 May 2011

Palestinian factions headed by Hamas and Fatah have signed an agreement ending the national split, sources in Cairo told the Palestinian Information Center on Tuesday.

Among those who gathered for the signing were Hamas’s political bureau chairman Khalid Mishaal as well as Azzam al-Ahmed and Samir al-Rafaa’i from Fatah, Ramadan Shalah from Islamic Jihad, Ahmed Jibril from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (General Command), Mahir al-Tahir from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and Mohammed Ibrahim from the Egyptian intelligence services.

A high-profile Egyptian official said that Egypt directed an invitation to attend a signing ceremony on Wednesday at Arab foreign ministers as well as those from China, Russia, Turkey, and European countries, Arab League secretary-general Amr Moussa and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, OIC secretary-general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and First Vice-President of the European Commission Cathy Ashton.

The official said arrangements were being made in full swing to cap off procedures relating to the signing and that the there was a very positive atmosphere. He said parties agreed that the upcoming stage would require increased efforts and “political will” to turn the deal into a reality.

It is scheduled after the signing to begin consultations for forming the new government. An Arab committee headed by Egypt will go to the Palestinian territories to see that the deal is implemented and that obstacles are removed ahead of carrying out the deal’s articles, especially those relating to security and the integration of West Bank and Gaza institutions.

Senior Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said in a press statement that Hamas signed two documents, one was the Egyptian paper as was, and the other was the inter-Palestinian understandings paper, a reference for disputed issues listed in the Egyptian paper.

“Talk about Hamas signing the Egyptian paper as is without the inter-Palestinian understandings paper is not accurate. That’s because we signed the Egyptian paper as is, but we added the inter-Palestinian understandings paper that contains Hamas’s observations and amendments required for the Egyptian paper,” Bardawil said.

“Whatever the case, we in Hamas are determined to move forward in achieving reconciliation and ending the split that only serves the Zionist enemy,” he went on to say.

(australiansforpalestine.com / 03.05.2011)

Reportage uitzetten asielzoekers: kinderen fouilleren voor vertrek

08/04/11, 08:25

Fouilleren voor het vertrek.

Woensdagnacht zijn 38 uitgeprocedeerde asielzoekers naar Irak uitgezet. Onder hen 17 kinderen. De Volkskrant volgde de terugtocht. ‘Fuck you allemaal, fuck Nederland.’

  • Een jongen wordt gefouilleerd voor het vertrek. © Joost van den Broek/ de Volkskrant
    Een jongen wordt gefouilleerd voor het vertrek.

De reis naar huis begint in de nacht van woensdag op donderdag in het uitzetcentrum, dat als een zwarte doos naast het vliegveld ligt. Ze gaan naar Irak. Maanden voorbereiding gingen aan de vlucht vooraf, en nu dan gaan de cellen open. 02.40 uur: ‘Goedemorgen meneer! Time to go to Bagdad.’

Kinderstemmen
Achter de celdeur klinken kinderstemmen. De jongens wrijven de slaap uit hun ogen, de meisjes hebben hun haar gekamd. Meisjes in roze, met vlechten en paardenstaarten.  Jongens met sneakers. De veters worden uit hun schoenen gehaald; dat is protocol. Altijd veters uit de schoenen halen, je weet nooit wat er onderweg gebeurt.

Vandaag worden ze uitgezet. Zes gezinnen, uitgeprocedeerd. Plus twaalf individuele deportees, zoals de vreemdelingen in het internationale verkeer heten. Het is niet de eerste keer dat Nederland een groep Irakezen uitzet met een overheidsvlucht, wel de eerste keer dat er kinderen meegaan. Het zijn er zeventien.

Overmacht aan marechaussees
Voor hun celdeuren staat een overmacht aan marechaussees. In de gang liggen bodycuffs klaar, handboeien van klittenband en textiel. Humane handboeien. Er is ook een humaan gezichtsmasker, als er iemand gaat spugen of bijten. De dag ervoor hebben de marechaussees nog geoefend met het fixeren van een persoon in maximale weerstand.

Maar er is geen weerstand; kalm komen de vaders, moeders, zonen en dochters uit hun cellen. Kalm en gespannen. Ook de marechaussees zijn gespannen. Het is niet leuk, zeggen ze, maar het moet gebeuren. Niemand is blij met de reis vandaag.
‘Heb respect voor deze mensen’, had de commandant van de marechaussees gezegd tijdens de briefing van zijn groep. ‘Deze mensen hebben lang gedacht een bestaan in Nederland op te kunnen bouwen.’

Hij zei ook: ‘Wees beducht voor scheermesjes, die ze weleens verstoppen in hun schoenzolen.’

Humaan en respect
Veelvuldig vallen de woorden ‘humaan’ en ‘respect’, tijdens de reis. Aan alles is gedacht. Naast de vliegtuigtrap liggen judomatten om opstandige vreemdelingen niet te verwonden, als ze tegen de grond worden gewerkt. Er is een arts, een tolk, een geestelijk verzorger. Er zijn ambtenaren die een nieuw asielverzoek kunnen beoordelen, er is een lid van de overheidscommissie die toezicht houdt op uitzettingen. Er is speelgoed: kleurboeken met kleurtjes,  vliegtuigjes van schuimkarton.

Aan alles is gedacht, en toch staan daar drie jongetjes met hun gezicht naar de muur, armen gespreid, als in een politiefilm. Ze worden gefouilleerd. Ze zijn niet crimineel, ze worden enkel uitgezet. Het is geen film, het is de uiterste consequentie van het vreemdelingenbeleid.

(www.volkskrant.nl / 03.05.2011)

Richard Silverstein: Israel prevents return of Gazan to Gaza

Haaretz [Hebrew] reports on the strange case of a mystery Gazan who the Shabak has prohibited from returning to his home there.  The man has a permit to visit Israel and normally travels back and forth from Gaza to Israel.  However, all of a sudden the secret police determined that it would endanger the man for him to return to Gaza.  They’re doing two things here: one, they’re substituting their own judgment about his safety for his own which is quite infantilizing; second, they’re implying that he’s an informer so he will definitely be killed if he returns.  So much for the kinder, gentler Shabak.

The fact that the man has brought a case to the Supreme Court demanding that he be allowed to return to Gaza is a clear repudiation of the stupidity of Shabak’s claim that he is in danger if he returns.
Another strange aspect to this case is that Israel, when it releases West Bank prisoners from detention often refuses to allow them to return there and instead dumps them in Gaza under the assumption that it is the terrorist dumping ground.  In this case, the detained individual seems to be the only Palestinian who wants to return to Gaza but can’t.
The man has been charged with no crime and isn’t even imprisoned.  For the life of me, I can’t understand under what basis can a country forcibly prevent someone who isn’t even a citizen or under arrest from returning to their own home?  It simply beggars belief.  And the fact that the Israeli Supreme Court approved this Shabak hocus pocus speaks very poorly for the Court’s upholding of democratic and human rights.  The ruling seems to imply that a non-citizen of Israel within its boundaries can be treated arbitrarily by the Shabak in almost any way it wishes.
Gisha, the human rights NGO representing the Gazan points out that the court decision was made under the British Mandate emergency laws now 60+ years old and not even originally established by the State.  In 2011, you’d think whatever emergency existed in 1946 would have long passed.  The point is that a state that is not fully democratic feels the need to rely on the same types of emergency laws which the Egyptian just overthrew and which the Syrians are attempting to overthrow.  What about Israel?  Isn’t it time?  Or does Israel feel the need to use the same types of laws beloved of dictators like Mubarak and Assad?

(networkedblogs.com / 03.05.2011)


Solidarity evening for the Askar Centre in Nablus

Tijd
vrijdag 13 mei · 18:00 – 21:00

Locatie
Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Triomflaan – Bvd Du Triomphe – – – Building R, Stoa
Brussels, Belgium

Gemaakt door:

Askar is a centre for invalid children, situated in Nablus, West Bank.
This event is a solidarity event, on which all profit goes to the centre.

Entrance : 7 EUR (included: food and two drinks!)

Program: – Buffet with typical Palestinian mezzeh’s and dishes (no extra payment)

– Documentary about the Palestinian cause

– Dabka preformance: tradition Palestinian dance, preformed by a professional group

– Preformance from the Palestinian singer, Doc Jazz (http://www.facebook.com/docjazz), one of his songs about the Freedom Flotilla: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuDdevj0iLc)

Have a great time enjoying yourselves by experiencing the Palestinian culture on a fun evening, while helping a good cause!

See you there!