UNRWA says second half of building plan agreed

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — UNRWA announced Tuesday that Israel is going to allow them to carry out an agreement of the second phase of a Saudi and Japanese project to build housing for Palestinian refugees.

Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman for UNRWA, said the UN agency is happy to announce the agreement for those projects which will help solve the problem of thousands of Palestinian families especially in the south.

He added that the agreement came after intensive communications and he expected the construction to start immediately. Engineers have started planning and tenders will be announced soon.

Abu Hasna says the agreement is for 733 housing units, including 259 which were demolished by UNRWA several years ago. The agreement will also include construction for 10 schools, he added.

(www.maannews.net / 20.03.2012)

Jewish Settlers Plan Takeover of Palestinian Houses, says Peace Bloc

JERUSALEM, March 20, 2012– Jewish settlers are planning to take over more Palestinian homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Beit Hanina and Sheikh Jarrah, the Israeli peace bloc, Gush Shalom, said Tuesday.

It said the settlers’ plans were explicitly proclaimed by their leader Aryeh King in an interview with Hagai Segal – a past militant of the ‘Jewish Underground’ which intended to blow up al-Aqsa Mosque, and at present a columnist in the extreme-right paper Makor Rishon.

According to King, the settlers intend to take over ‘very soon’ four houses at Beit Hanina, and further take over two additional houses in Sheikh Jarrah ‘at the appropriate operational timing.”

In letters sent to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Public Security Aharonovitch Gush Shalom stated: ‘The settlers, by themselves, do not have the force needed to invade Palestinian homes in the night, throw the residents into the street, establish themselves in the house and turn it into an armed enclave, surrounded by barbed wire.”

It said, “The settlers can only carry out such an abomination if the Israeli police, with the approval of the political echelon, does the dirty work for them – sending hundreds of police officers to physically carry out the expulsions and afterwards stand guard day and night over the settlers in the seized houses.”

The letters said that “whoever gives the authorization shall be responsible for the consequences, which might be severe. The situation in the Occupied Territories is volatile, and any spark can cause a conflagration.”

(occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com / 20.03.2012)

New passports ready for Gaza applications

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — The passports office in the ministry of interior in the Gaza Strip is ready to begin distributing previously approved passports, officials said Tuesday.

Passports can be picked up at the ministry headquarters in Tel Islam. Applicants are asked to bring two passport photos and 220 shekels during the next week before receiving their documents.

(www.maannews.net / 20.03.2012)

Writing Palestine Out of History Books in Lebanon

Palestinians carry their national flag as they walk through the streets of Shatila camp in Beirut.

The Lebanese may not agree about their country’s history, but teachers and students in Palestinian refugee schools don’t see why they shouldn’t study their own.

It does not matter if the Lebanese disagree on how to teach their history. What matters to students at schools in refugee camps, who follow the same curriculum, is whether Palestine is present in the new history textbooks, should these books become part of their school programs.

One child at an UNRWA school wants to know what actually happened after the Balfour Declaration, and what brought him to a school run by a UN body that removed Palestine from history and geography lessons some time ago. Another wants to know if it is true that an Umm Kulthum concert was behind the “loss of Arab lands in 1965,” as he was informed.

The older ones, who completed high school last year when “Lebanese” history books were in use, share the outlook of their parents who were part of recent history.

“If the Palestinians are to be portrayed as barbarians who came to Lebanon to occupy it and establish an alternative homeland for themselves…then they should not mention us at all in the history textbook,” says Yahya, now a university student. He particularly resents references to the Palestinian martyrs who fell in the defense of Beirut as “aliens.”

A friend of Yahya’s remarks that while the Lebanese are entitled to write their history as they want, “we too have the right to write our history.” Another interjects to complain that they were “forced” to study “insignificant” matters in the Lebanese textbook, such as the history of the Phoenicians and Pharaohs.“Isn’t it always the victor who writes history?” asks student Khaled Muhammad, before quickly responding: “Certainly, but who won in Lebanon? It is a turning wheel. If we have to change history every time the government changes…we will never learn anything.”

The Lebanese, he points out, are still quarrelling over the same issues they previously fought over.

This prompts another to suggest sarcastically that Israel should write the history books, in its capacity as victor, before remarking: “You know what? The best thing would be for us to write history ourselves and teach it to our children at UNRWA schools. Leave the Lebanese to each other. Why does the history of Palestine have to remain forgotten? Our children should learn everything about Palestine, about Abu Ammar (Yasser Arafat) and Oslo. What does someone from the camp care if March 14 ousted or supported Hosni Mubarak or Gaddafi? We lost our identity when we began studying others’ history and forgot ours.”

But forgetting victors and the endless debates about the happy history of Lebanon, how do Palestinians want to be described in the books of the host country’s curriculum? If they had a chance to write the texts that deal with the Palestinian revolution, what would they want to say?

“Everything…We will not hide anything,” says a history teacher at an UNRWA school, who requests anonymity for fear, he says, of losing his job. “We taught the whole world lessons…we don’t need to wait for anybody to teach us about our history…UNRWA has erased Palestine from history and geography, but we still teach our children about their villages and towns.”

The teacher adds that it would be wrong to exclude the Palestinians from the recent history of Lebanon, given that they both influenced and were influenced by it. But he acknowledges that this needs to be done with care. “If we were allowed to give our opinion on the history textbook, we would at least ask that things are called by their names.”For example, if Lebanese combatants during the civil war can be described as “martyrs,” why should Palestinian freedom fighters be termed “militiamen.”

But surely the Palestinians participated in the war. South Lebanon was known as “Fatahland.” Isn’t it wrong to oversimplify things? “Of course,” the teacher answers, adding, “There were some mistakes and excesses, but that does not mean that history should focus only on those lapses. As I said, things should be called by their names. We are not ashamed of our history, it is part of Lebanon’s history and we are still paying the price to this day. The past still haunts us.”

He pauses and reconsiders: “I am not saying that the history of Palestinians in Lebanon is all errors. Of course, the relationship between the Palestinians and the Lebanese is much too complicated to be explained in a few pages. While they fought against some parties, Palestinians participated alongside other Lebanese in resistance against Israel. Even the ‘Fatahland’ you mentioned was established with the consent of the Lebanese. They facilitated the presence of Palestinians in the south in order to be in direct confrontation with the Israelis.”

But the teacher goes on to opine that arguing about history books is futile in the absence of political reconciliation. “It would be more useful to have a comprehensive and fair reconciliation before writing history. Later, if they want to change the history curriculum, we are ready to be the first to acknowledge our mistakes with an open heart.”

But, he wonders, “is the other side prepared to acknowledge its ‘mistakes’ too?” The experience of former Palestinian Ambassador Abbas Zaki was not encouraging in this regard. His “official” Palestinian apology received a frosty response from the Lebanese Forces (LF) following the holding of talks that closed the book on the issue of missing persons and the LF massacres of Palestinians in Lebanon, he says. The school bell signals an end to the conversation.The debate between the Lebanese about their history is endless, and may swamp the Palestinians if they opt to join in. The disagreements are over fundamentals and principles, and the very definition of homeland, citizens, revolutions, and martyrs.

Some want to portray Palestinians as monsters who came to destroy some Lebanese dream, or as occupiers and inciters of sedition. Some know the Palestinians’ first shots were fired against the enemy, whose identity the Lebanese are still incapable of agreeing on after many years of war.

The inclusion of an overview in the new Lebanese history textbook might be designed to answer a question that young Lebanese often hurl at their Palestinian counterparts: “Why don’t you go back to your own country if you don’t like it here?” The refugees often give sarcastic responses. They do not realize that the history curriculum taught at Lebanese schools stops at 1946 – three years after the end of the French mandate in Lebanon, and two years prior to the Palestinian Nakba.

(english.al-akhbar.com / 20.03.2012)

Audio: French Murders & The Walking Flotilla

A7 Radio’s “News & Call-In with Tamar Yonah” with Tamar Yonah

Listen Now!<a ‘tamar=”” yonah’s=”” blog’=”” href=”http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Blog.aspx/3″>

Inside Israel, outside Israel, the attacks continue!

Tamar presents a summary of the brutal murder attack that took place in Toulouse, France on Monday with INN news writer, Chana Ya’ar.

Adam Levick from CiFwatch.com explains the latest threat on Israel’s borders, a million-man march on Jerusalemcalled, the Global March to Jerusalem, sponsored by terrorists and their supporters.
Dan, the Guy Who Works with Leftists comes on the show and tells us that his co-workers seemed to care more about the buzz on the Defense Minister’s apartment sale, than the attack that took place in France, and Shifra Hoffman comes on for a special announcement begging Jews to come home and make aliyah.
Tamar Yonah is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.  Her father survived the Nazi brutalities and after liberation, made his way to the shores of the British Palestine Mandate, where again fighting for his survival, fought in Israel’s war of Independence. This made a great impression on her life and she too has been fighting for Israel by serving in the Israeli army & air force, and afterwards by becoming an activist for Israel and the Jewish nation. She has been a vocal beacon of light since beginning a prolific career in radio. She hosts The Tamar Yonah Show – Israel’s most popular English language radio talk show.  She also writes a biting and sometimes humorous, award winning blog that discusses current events, religion and politics. www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Blog.aspx/3#   You can email Tamar at: Tamar@IsraelNationalRadio.com
(www.israelnationalnews.com / 20.03.2012)

Athlete abused by Israeli soldier for carrying Palestine flag in Jerusalem marathon

Emily Lawrence

Poppy Hardee at the starting line.

Jerusalem came to a standstill on 16 March as thousands of runners gathered to participate in the city’s second annual marathon. But while the marathon was presented as a friendly and innocent international sporting event, in reality it contributed to normalizing Israel’s control over the city and its discriminatory policies towards Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Among the 15,000 runners was Poppy Hardee, a British woman living in Bethlehem, who decided to run the marathon in protest on behalf of her Palestinian friends who were not granted permission to access Jerusalem for the event. Hardee encountered abuse from Israeli soldiers in the race, with one of them snatching the Palestinian flag that she carried from her hands and spitting on it.

Excluded

Although the race was heavily promoted worldwide and open for international participants, Palestinians were effectively excluded from running. While there was no overt discriminatory policy against those with West Bank identity cards within the registration process, in reality most West Bank residents would not be granted permission by Israel to access Jerusalem for the event.

Hardee applied for the marathon and started training with a Palestinian friend, a resident of the West Bank, who also intended to run. They were dismayed to find out he would not be granted access to Jerusalem for the race for “security reasons.”

“He doesn’t ever get permits, because of security issues, so he can’t go,” Hardee told The Electronic Intifada. “And realistically for Palestinians wanting to run it, the majority aren’t going to get permission. …. So it’s like an effective ban. A lot of my friends from the West Bank wanted to come and support me on the day, but they couldn’t. It’s just not a normal race.”

The effective exclusion of Palestinians from the Jerusalem marathon highlights the irony that while foreigners are able to freely visit Jerusalem and its holy sites, many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have rarely, or even never, been able to visit the city.

Misleading presentation

Another issue with the marathon was its misleading presentation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “I am proud that Israel’s capital is part of the marathons held throughout the world,” read a letter from Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, in a booklet presented to runners. While Israel declared Jerusalem as its capital shortly after its “declaration of independence” in 1948, most governments in the world have never recognized it as such.

“Most of the world doesn’t recognize it as the capital of Israel,” said Hardee. “So the fact that that’s what its branding itself as, ‘come and run in the capital of Israel, run the Jerusalem marathon,’ it’s not really accurate.”

Furthermore, even the route of the marathon gave a one-sided view of the city. Marathon organizers described the event’s route as a “run through history,” though it presented an exclusively Israeli history. The route was deliberately designed to show runners the sites which Israel deemed important, while sidelining Palestinian history and presence in the city.

The marathon began at Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, and passed such sites as the Israel Museum, the Israeli high court, the residence of Israeli President Shimon Peres, the Jerusalem Municipality, and Hebrew University.

“It’s called the ‘Jerusalem marathon’ but it’s making it a wholly Jewish experience,” said Hardee, who recently also ran a half marathon organized by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza. “It goes to the old city walls but doesn’t go into the heart of where [Palestinians] would be living or their experience living in Jerusalem.”

Palestinians erased

While the Jerusalem marathon website made reference to East Jerusalem in its runners’ guide to the city, it failed to use the term “Palestinians” or recognize their presence in the city. “Eastern Jerusalem has a different atmosphere from the rest of the city,” said the guide. “Eastern Jerusalem, covering an area of about 70 square kilometers, is mostly the home of former Jordanian citizens.”

The marathon and its route were also used to promote Jerusalem internationally as a developed, fun, secure city. “The importance of the marathon … lies in the opportunity to present to the participants, visitors and the public alike, the beauty, development and uniformity of the city of Jerusalem,” said Elisah Peleg of Jerusalem Municipality in his letter to marathon runners.

The Palestinian experience of the city, however, is somewhat different to the shining picture presented by marathon organizers. Palestinian residents of Jerusalem are subject to an abundance of discriminatory laws and practices, particularly when it comes to gaining building permits.

While Peleg wrote of Jerusalem’s “development,” development is an almost exclusively Israeli right. In reality, Palestinians are almost never granted permission to build, and home demolitions are a frequent occurrence. According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization, approximately 392 Palestinian homes have been demolished in Jerusalem since 2004.

Other problems facing Palestinian Jerusalemites include land expropriation, settlement expansion and settler violence, as well as the constant threat of revocation of their Jerusalem residency rights.

The marathon even helps to fund these discriminatory policies. The runners’ registration fee of $60 went to the Jerusalem Municipality, the organization responsible for revoking residency and demolishing Palestinian homes.

“[The Jerusalem Municipality] is negative towards Palestinians as an organization, so they’re not really someone you’d want to be sponsoring with your money,” said Hardee, who hadn’t realized where her fee went when she signed up. “I wrote them a letter asking for my money back and they said it’s non-refundable. So I thought if I’ve already paid to do it, I would run it anyway but make it some kind of demonstration.

“Unfortunately all these runners’ money will be going to the Jerusalem marathon. I wasn’t aware and I was living and working in Palestine, so I don’t think most runners will be aware. I don’t think they will care … They won’t understand the implications.”

For most runners, the marathon was presented as an opportunity to visit Israel and tour the holy sites of Jerusalem. The marathon website offered reduced rates on flights and hotels in an attempt to encourage runners of the world to view the city through Israel’s eyes.

Protest

Because of the discriminatory nature of the marathon and its misleading representation of the city of Jerusalem, there was a general call to boycott Adidas, the sportswear manufacturers who sponsored the marathon, from the Palestinian-led movement forboycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

“There are many groups which boycott sports in occupation or apartheid, which happened with South Africa,” Hardee said. “I think a similar thing should happen with Israel. Sport is a positive thing which brings people together, and a marathon is a really exciting thing for a city to hold. But I don’t think Israel, in its current state, deserves to have the privilege of people coming from around the world to run in its city.”

While for many the best option would be to boycott the whole event, Hardee decided to run anyway as a form of protest for Palestine. On the day, she wore the Palestinian colors of red, green, white and black, a sash which said “Palestine,” and she carried a Palestinian flag.

“I think it’s a good idea to boycott it, but boycotting is not a visible thing,” said Hardee before she ran. “If you boycott products it’s more effective, because it will directly impact sales or the success of the company. But boycotting a marathon — you wouldn’t notice the ones who didn’t come. I think it’s better to highlight the disadvantages than not do it at all.”

On the day of the race, Israeli flags lined the streets, and the city was eerily still. Despite the rain, many came out to offer encouragement to the passing runners. Though Hardee found most of her spectators and fellow runners to be surprisingly encouraging about her outfit, others were not so supportive.

When running through the Old City, Poppy found herself running amid a group of Israeli soldiers running on behalf of the organization Standing Strong Against Terror, who harassed her and stole the Palestinian flag.

“One of the soldiers pushed me over, took my flag and spat on it, and swore at me,” she said. “Another woman pushed me and told me ‘This is Israel, Jewish land’ and told me to go back to Gaza.”

Hardee’s act of protest may have brought a visible reminder of Palestine to the marathon. But for most runners crossing the finish line, their lasting impression of Jerusalem may be one of a modern, clean and thoroughly Israeli city, with no glimpse into the oppression of Palestinians happening just streets away from the marathon’s carefully orchestrated route.

The home demolitions, the apartheid policies, the denial of access to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza — all were hidden away for the marathon behind a veneer of legitimacy, as the world ran idly by.

(electronicintifada.net / 20.03.2012)

Ten ways Israel loves Palestine

As reported by Mondoweiss and others, two Israeli artists have begun an “Israel loves Iran” social media campaign to show that not every Israeli supports his or her government’s hostile attempts at instigating war with Iran. But while we’re on the topic of love, let’s share some ways Israel loves Palestine.

 (smpalestine.com / 20.03.2012)