More than one million displaced Iraqis continue to languish without government aid.



Haifa Abdul Majid, one of more than one million Internally Displaced Iraqis, has been living in extreme poverty for more than five years without any assistance from the Iraqi government 

Baghdad – The first thing Haifa Abdul Majid did after being told I wanted to speak with her about her experience as a refugee in her own country was to, incredibly, express her gratitude for the fact that she has food.

“First I thank God because we are finding some food and can eat, unlike many other countries where people cannot even find food,” the 55-year-old grandmother said while holding her arms to the sky in thanks.

But the reality of her situation was quickly evidenced by her inability to offer the usual large repertoire of sweets, cookies, and other welcoming treats for guests, as is the usual custom in Iraq.

Instead of the aforementioned, she offered a glass of water.

Haifa has been living as a refugee in a corner of the Adhamiyah district of Baghdad, a stone’s throw from the Tigris River, since 2007 when she fled increasing sectarian violence in her native Nahrawan town.

And according to current figures from Iraq’s Ministry of Migration and Displacement (MoMD), she is only one of 1.1 million other Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Iraq today.

Persistent problem

UNHCR estimates provided to Al Jazeera by Jessica Hyba, the Public Information and External Relations Officer in Iraq show that the greatest number of IDP’s to be in the Baghdad governorate, and puts the number at 200,000 Iraqis.

Dahfer Hamid, an unemployed construction worker who is married with three young children, lives in an abandoned lot in Baghdad where he has constructed a make-shift home from bricks, pieces of wood, and metal that he has collected.

The smell of raw sewage wafts in from outside into his dwelling. Piles of garbage swarming with flies surround where he lives, along with rusting car frames, old refrigerators, and scrawny chickens scavenging for food.

Like Haifa, Dahfer fled his town during the horrendous sectarian violence of 2007 that wracked Iraq, and came to Baghdad.

“We lived in a mixed area of both Sunni and Shia, but the Mehdi Army [Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia] started killed Sunnis in our area,” he explained to Al Jazeera. “My neighbours were killed, and after they knocked on my door to ask if I was Sunni or Shia, I told them I was from the area and they left.”

Hundreds of families, like those of Dahfer Hamid’s, are living in areas of Baghdad that most would consider unliveable, due to having fled sectarian violence in 2006-2007

Fearing for his life, Dahfer fled the same day, after watching militiamen kill a local Imam.

Iraq’s Ministry of Manufacturing owns the land where he now lives, and periodically sends someone to tell them to leave.

But Dahfer, along with hundreds of other families in the area, have no place else to go.

“I feel bad, I don’t know what to do,” he explained. “I’m Sunni and can’t live outside of a Sunni area of Baghdad. I can’t rent, I don’t have enough money, only this house, where four families are living now.”

Haifa and Dahfer are residual refugees within their own country, a product of the massive sectarian violence from 2006-2007, a period that saw as many as 100,000 Iraqis fleeing to Syria and Jordan each month.

US military operations that destroyed large areas of cities and towns where they took place also generated high numbers of refugees.

By the middle of 2007, UNHCR estimated that more than 4.2 million Iraqis were displaced, 2 million within Iraq and more than 2.2 million in neighbouring countries.

Current UNHCR figures given to Al Jazeera place the number of Iraqis registered and remaining in Syria at 63,000, with another 25,000 in Jordan.

This writer knows of several Iraqis who had fled to Syria during the height of Iraq’s sectarian violence, who then had to flee Damascus when violence began in that country, and seek refuge in Lebanon.

Currently, there are no official figures on how many Iraqis have had to do this for their safety.

While many Iraqis who fled the country have returned, IDP’s in Iraq are not getting much support from the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and life for many of them remains a matter of daily survival.

Who cares?

Dahfer, like so many IDP’s Al Jazeera interviewed, believes if he returned to his hometown he would be killed.

“Some of the people living here returned home and were killed,” he said, before adding that his uncle and two of his other friends returned and all of them were killed.

When asked what the Iraqi government was doing to assist them and other refugees, Dahfer was blunt.

“All of Iraq is destroyed, and Maliki doesn’t care,” he said while holding up his arms, “So why would he care about us?”

IDPs live in makeshift houses that offer little protection from the often extreme temperatures of Baghdad  

Marwa Ali, a 20-year-old mother of two, is another refugee in Baghdad. She, her husband, and their two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son live in a makeshift dwelling surrounded by piles of garbage almost as high as their tin roof.

Marwa told Al Jazeera stories of what life was like for them living in such conditions.

“In the winter the rain comes down through the ceiling,” she said while pointing up to rusted pieces of tin set upon old boards over our heads. “And of course there is no heat to keep us warm in the winter.”

Tens of thousands of Iraqi children are being born into areas where they begin a life of homelessness, poverty, and insecurity 

It had been three days since they had had any clean water, and in the summer, their tin ceiling acts like a heater.

“Flies and mosquitos are always with us, along with scorpions,” she explained wearily.

When asked what she hoped would happen with her family, Marwa looked down at the ground for several moments before answering.

“We have no future, and neither does Iraq have a future. My children have no future. We are only living day by day.”

Haifa, when asked about what she hoped would happen with her country, shook her head before answering.

“We know we are in this bad situation because of the US occupation, and our problems with this government are the result of that time,” she replied, before talking about the future of her grandson.

“I ask God to take me away before he grows up, because I don’t want to see what it will be like by then, since it only grows worse for us day by day now.”

She paused, looked off into the distance, then looked at the ground before adding, “I’m an old woman and I don’t care if I die, but what about these young children?”

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Growing numbers of Druze refuse to serve in Israel’s army

Samer al-Sakleh is a Palestinian Druze who has refused to serve in the Israeli army.

The number of refuseniks is growing within the Druze religious minority in Israel, according to Samer al-Sakleh, a 20-year-old who has refused to serve in the Israeli army.

“Around 70 percent of the Druze men in my village go to the army,” said al-Sakleh, who hails from Meghar, a village in the Galilee. Yet he is hoping that his protest and that of other Druze will encourage more young people to become conscientious objectors.

Meghar is also home to Omar Saad, a Druze musician who received international attention last year for his decision not to undertake military service.

Like Saad, al-Sakleh grew up in a household that rejected the notion of unshakeable Druze loyalty to a state that systematically discriminates against Palestinians. “I come from a communist family. My father studied in the Soviet Union, and we were raised in a leftist environment that rejects militarism like Israel’s,” al-Sakleh told The Electronic Intifada. His father spent four months in an Israeli jail for refusing to serve in the army.

“I consider myself Palestinian. I am Palestinian, of course, and I am part of Palestinian culture, society and civilization, and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are part of my people. I will not serve in a military that continuously kills them.”

“We identify as Palestinians”

Unlike many young Druze conscientious objectors, al-Sakleh was not imprisoned. Rather, he purposely failed a mandatory recruitment test and the state afforded him an exemption on the assumption that he was mentally unfit for military service. “I pretended that I was crazy, in other words, but I did it for moral and political reasons,” he explained.

Mandatory military service for Druze men is the result of a 1956 agreement in which the community’s leaders sought to improve conditions for the tiny minority and the Israeli government sought to control Palestinians by manufacturing strife within different sections of the Palestinian minority in present-day Israel. There have always been objectors, however, who have seen it as a one-sided deal that costs more than it pays.

“For the most part, we face all the same economic and political barriers as the rest of the Palestinian minority in Israel,” al-Sakleh said. “We are mostly poor, and our villages, often shared with Christian and Muslim Palestinians, lack sufficient infrastructure” as a result of the government’s unwillingness to invest in non-Jewish areas.

The state has subjected Druze refuseniks to harsh punishment. Nonetheless, “a growing number of us understand that we identify as Palestinians — more than five or ten years ago, for sure,” said al-Sakleh.

This perception is shared by Samer Swaid from the Druze Initiative Committee. Established in 1978, that committee became “a home for youngsters who regretted the historical pact made with the Jewish state and in particular the obligation to join the compulsory service in the military,” the historian Ilan Pappe wrote in his book The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel (165).

Jail sentences

Swaid referred to a 2010 study conducted by Haifa University, which found that more than two-thirds of the Druze minority would not serve in the military if it wasn’t compulsory. “Druze refusers have been given prison terms double and more than those of other refusers,” he said.

Despite the marked increase in abstainers, many choose not to define themselves as refuseniks or to publicize their case, fearing repercussions.

“At any given moment, there are between three and five Druze refusers in prison … the vast majority [of Druze who do not serve] do not want to define themselves as refusers and don’t want to be part of public campaigns,” Swaid said. “This is due to the fact that they are a minority group, and most people think it will hurt their family and they’ll be targeted by the establishment and punished. Right now we know of at least four guys in prison.”

In Buqeia, a northern Galilee village with a 70 percent Druze majority, “the young men … spent a total of 540 years in military prison over the years,” said Swaid.

In June 2012, Omro Nafa (son of a Druze former member of Israel’s parliament Said Nafa) was imprisoned for a third time for not serving in the military (“For the third time, son of Arab MK imprisoned for refusing military service,” International Middle East Media Center, 14 June 2012).

A recent poll conducted by Mada al-Carmel Arab Center for Applied Social Research found that 71.5 percent of Palestinian citizens of Israel between 16 and 22 years of age reject national service “because it is a way to legitimize discrimination and inequality,” (“71.5 % of young Israeli Arabs oppose national service,” Haaretz, 12 February).

Few opportunities

Sahar Vardi from New Profile, an Israeli group opposed to militarization, said that the Druze and other Palestinians in Israel face “discrimination in all aspects of life: housing, budgets, land confiscations, and so on. That’s why less of the youth join the army now, and those who do simply do it as a career opportunity because there is nothing like employment equality outside [the army].”

In recent years, more organizations have sprung up to support conscientious objectors.Baladna, an organization that works on behalf of the Palestinian minority in Israel, has formed a Druze youth wing that works on military service as well as other issues.

February’s Knesset elections in Israel preserved a belligerent administration led byBenjamin Netanyahu, now backed by an even greater number of zealous politicians who regularly spout racist rhetoric and promote policies of forced population control to preserve a Jewish majority. In this political climate, more and more Druze Palestinians will question their role in a state that cynically considers them partial citizens at best.

As al-Sakleh said, “I am against the idea of an ethnic or religious state that comes at the expense of others — whether it be exclusively Jewish, Christian, Islamic or Druze.”

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Obama Comes to Bless Israel’s Government of Settlers


Obama during a 2008 visit to Sderot, north of the Israel-Gaza border.
Obama during a 2008 visit to Sderot, north of the Israel-Gaza border.

Those who hoped that Barack Obama would be arriving in Israel to bang Israeli and Palestinian heads together, after four years of impasse in the peace process, will be sorely disappointed.

The US president’s trip beginning today may be historic – the first of his presidency to Israel and the Palestinian territories – but he has been doing everything possible beforehand to lower expectations.

At the weekend, Arab-American leaders revealed that Obama had made it clear he would not present a peace plan, because Israel has indicated it is not interested in an agreement with the Palestinians.

Any lingering doubts about Israel’s intentions were removed by the announcement of a new cabinet, hurriedly sworn in before the president’s visit. This government makes Benjamin Netanyahu’s last one, itself widely considered the most hardline in Israel’s history, look almost moderate.

Ynet, Israel’s popular news website, reported that settler leaders hailed this as their “wet dream” cabinet.

Zahava Gal-On, leader of the opposition Meretz party, concurred, observing that it would “do a lot for the settlers and not much at all for the rest of Israeli society”.

The settlers’ dedicated party, Jewish Home, has been awarded three key ministries – trade and industry, Jerusalem, and housing – as well as control of the parliamentary finance committee, that will ensure that the settlements flourish during this government’s term.

There is no chance Jewish Home will agree to a settlement freeze similar to the one Obama insisted on in his first term. Rather, the party will accelerate both house-building and industrial development over the Green Line, to make the settlements even more attractive places to live.

Uzi Landau, of Avigdor Lieberman’s far-right Yisraeli Beiteinu party, has the tourism portfolio and can be relied on to direct funds to the West Bank’s many Biblical sites, to encourage Israelis and tourists to visit.

The new defence minister, who oversees the occupation and is the only official in a practical position to obstruct this settler free-for-all, is Likud’s Moshe Yaalon, a former military chief of staff known for his ardent support of the settlements.

True, Yair Lapid’s large centrist party Yesh Atid is represented too. But its influence on diplomacy will be muted, because its five ministers will handle chiefly domestic issues such as welfare, health and science.

The one exception, Shai Piron, the new education minister, is a settler rabbi who can be expected to expand the existing programme of school trips to the settlements, continuing the settlers’ successful efforts to integrate themselves into the mainstream.
Far from preparing to make concessions to the US president, Netanyahu has all but declared his backing for Jewish Home’s plan to annex large parts of the West Bank.

The only minister with any professed interest in diplomatic talks, and that mostly driven by her self-serving efforts to stay popular with the White House, is Tzipi Livni. She is well aware that opportunities for negotiations are extremely limited: the peace process received just one perfunctory mention in the coalition agreement.

Obama, apparently only too aware he is facing an Israeli government even more intransigent than the last one, has chosen to avoid addressing the Knesset. Instead he will direct his speech to a more receptive audience of Israeli students, in what US officials have termed a “charm offensive”.

We can expect grand words, a few meagre promises and total inaction on the occupation.

In a sign of quite how loath the White House is to tackle the settlements issue again, its representatives at the United Nations refused on Monday to take part in a Human Rights Council debate that described the settlements as a form of “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Obama’s hands-off approach will satisfy his constituency at home. A poll for ABC-TV showed this week that most Americans support Israel over the Palestinians – 55 per cent to 9 per cent. An even larger majority, 70 per cent, think the US should leave the two sides to settle their future for themselves.

Ordinary Israelis, the US president’s target audience, are none too keen on his getting involved either. Recent survey data show that 53 per cent think Obama will fail to protect Israel’s interests, and 80 per cent believe he will not bring progress with the Palestinians over the next four years. The mood is one of indifference rather than anticipation.

These are all good reasons why neither Obama nor Netanyahu will be much focused on the Palestinian issue over the three-day visit. As analyst Daniel Levy observed: “Obama is coming first and foremost to make a statement about the US-Israel bond, not the illegal occupation.”

That is also how it looks to most Palestinians, who have grown increasingly exasperated by US obstructionism. US officials who went to Bethlehem in preparation for Obama’s visit on Friday found themselves caught up in anti-Obama demonstrations. More are expected today in Ramallah.

Other Palestinians protested his visit by establishing today a new tent community on occupied Palestinian land next to Jerusalem. Several previous such encampments have been hastily demolished by Israeli soldiers.

The organisers hope to highlight US hypocrisy in backing Israel’s occupation: Jewish settlers are allowed to build with official state backing on Palestinian land in violation of international law, while Palestinians are barred from developing their own territory in what is now considered by most of the world as the Palestinian state.

The unspoken message of Obama’s visit is that the Netanyahu government is free to pursue its hardline agenda with little danger of anything more than symbolic protest from Washington.

The new Israeli cabinet lost no time setting out its legislative priorities. The first bill announced is a “basic law” to change the state’s official definition, so that its “Jewish” aspects trump the “democratic” elements, a move the Haaretz newspaper termed “insane”.

Among the main provisions is one to restrict state funding to new Jewish communities only. This points to a cynical solution Netanyahu may adopt to placate the simmering social protest movement in Tel Aviv, which has been demanding above all more affordable housing.

By freeing up even more cheap land in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he can expand the settlements, further eat away at Palestinian territory, silence the protests, and wrong-foot the opposition. All he needs is Obama’s blessing.

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Gaza women face problems after leaving Israeli jails

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Despite the warm reception and celebrations female prisoners receive in Gaza after being released from Israeli jails, many face social and familial difficulties upon returning to normal life.

In many cases, ex-female prisoners either get divorced or remain single into old age if unmarried.

Wafaa al-Bis, an ex-prisoner from Gaza, was detained in 2005 and sentenced to 12 years for allegedly planning an operation against Israel.

She was released after seven years and told Ma’an she suffers from marginalization, exclusion and degrading treatment.

“Our society views freed female prisoners as women who were raped. My question is whether they think female prisoners were raped willingly or raped while their hands were cuffed” she told Ma’an.

Wafaa has third degree burns from a past accident and complains that it is hard for her to get medical treatment which ex-prisoners are entitled to.

“I can’t obtain the very basic rights of getting appropriate treatment as a freed prisoner,” she said. She has contacted several Palestinian officials, but to no avail.

‘You are a terrorist’

When Fatima al-Ziq began taking part in resistance activities she was married and had eight children.

She was arrested while pregnant, and gave birth in jail. Upon her release, she said all doors were closed on her and she had to beg for her rights.

“We do not seek anybody’s gratitude and praise even though we spent the prime of our youth in jail defending our homeland. However, we hope doors will not be shut to us as strugglers who fought on the front-lines.”

Zahiyya Nofal was imprisoned for three years on charges of possessing weapons and helping resistance fighters. She was arrested when she was only 16, and upon being released her parents arranged for her to marry a Bedouin man.

Despite giving birth to two children, when her husband learned that she had been in jail he began to assault her on a daily basis and called her a “terrorist.”

He filed for divorce and denied her access to her children, she said.

Given the attitude by many towards ex-female prisoners, Ruab Rajoubi decided to abstain from marriage. She was jailed for three years on charges of assisting fighters in 1996.

She said many families are “embarrassed” that their female relatives were in jail.

Dala Abu Qamar agrees that life is difficult after leaving jail. She agreed to be a second wife after she was freed in 1982. She was affiliated to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

“Nobody will propose to a freed prisoner, due to the degrading view. I paid a heavy toll for the sacrifices I made toward my homeland. I was divorced after I gave birth to two children.”

Over the last 45 years, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian women have been detained under Israeli military orders, Addameer says.

As of Sept. 1, 2012, 7 Palestinian women were incarcerated in Israel’s detention centers and prisons.

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Syria appeal highlights BBC hypocrisy on Gaza

Tomorrow, the BBC will broadcast a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal to raise money for the Syrians whose lives have been so dreadfully affected by the two-year conflict in their country.

The broadcast will be seen by many as evidence of the UK state broadcaster’s blatant hostility and hypocrisy towards the people of Palestine, since it refused to air a similar appeal for them in January 2009.

Then, as Israel was coming towards the end of its three-week air, land and seabombardment of the besieged Gaza Strip, which saw more than 1,400 Palestinians massacred, including 352 children, the BBC was asked to air a DEC appeal to raise money to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza. It refused.

The decision left the 13 aid agencies for whom the DEC is an umbrella organisation, with a shortfall of millions of pounds in donations. The money would have been used to help provide shelter, food and medical aid for the Palestinians in Gaza whose homes and infrastructure had just been destroyed by the Israeli attacks.

After initial confusion caused by the BBC’s decision, all the other UK terrestrial television channels screened the appeal. This is traditional when DEC makes a request for such a screening in order to raise aid for major humanitarian disasters. Contemporary appeals had raised £10 million ($15 million) for Congo and £18 million ($27 million) for Burma.

The public outcry that accompanied the BBC’s unilateral decision included 40,000 complaints from members of the public to the BBC Executive, a motion put forward in Parliament and signed by 120 MPs calling on the BBC to screen the appeal, and widespread criticism from public figures including the Archbishops of Canterbury and York.

Fundamental reasons

The BBC ignored it all. Mark Thompson, then BBC Director General, took to the “Editors’ Blog” on the broadcaster’s website to make his excuses. Reading them now, Thompson’s excuses could apply equally to the current situation in Syria — a situation which the BBC feels is deserving of help.

Thompson wrote in 2009 that the “fundamental reason” for not screening a humanitarian appeal for Gaza was because “Gaza remains a major ongoing news story, in which humanitarian issues – the suffering and distress of civilians and combatants on both sides of the conflict, the debate about who is responsible for causing it and what should be done about it – are both at the heart of the story and contentious.”

Again, using an excuse which could apply equally to the current civil war in Syria, Thompson added: “Inevitably an appeal would use pictures which are the same or similar to those we would be using in our news programmes but would do so with the objective of encouraging public donations. The danger for the BBC is that this could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story.”

One wonders what pictures of the Syrian conflict the BBC will use in tomorrow’s DEC appeal. How will it find pictures that aren’t the same or similar to those being used in news programmes? Is the BBC not worried that using such pictures “could be interpreted as taking a political stance on an ongoing story”? Or does the BBC only apply such concerns to fundraising efforts for Palestinians? Thompson said in his 2009 blog that the BBC has a “very strong track record in supporting DEC appeals.” Just not when those appeals want to raise money for Palestinians.

In a supremely arrogant and inaccurate statement, Thompson ended the blog by saying: “However, BBC News and the BBC as a whole takes its responsibility to report the human consequences of situations like Gaza very seriously and I believe our record in doing it with compassion as well as objectivity is unrivalled.”

BBC objectivity

The dictionary meaning of the word “objectivity” may not be known in BBC newsrooms. On 22 November 2012, a ceasefire was signed between Israel and Gaza, ending an eight-day Israeli assault on Gaza which killed more than 170 Palestinians. In the next three months, until 22 February 2013, Israeli forces killed ten Palestinians (six in the West Bank and four in Gaza) and injured 91 people in Gaza and more than 600 in the West Bank. Taking into account more than 100 Israeli military incursions into Gaza during this period and attacks on Gazan fishing boats, there was, on average, at least one breach of the ceasefire every day by Israel.

None of this made it onto the BBC’s mainstream television and radio news bulletins or programmes. The restraint of the Palestinians in not retaliating with a single rocket during this period also went unremarked on by the BBC’s journalists.

On 26 February 2013, a single rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel in response to the death in Israeli custody of Palestinian prisoner, Arafat Jaradat. The rocket caused some damage to a road in Ashkelon. Needless to say, this was news for the “objective” BBC, being reported on headline news bulletins during the day on BBC Radio 4 and making thelead story in the Middle East section of the website. In its radio broadcasts, BBC reporters made no mentions of the unarmed Palestinian civilians killed by Israel in the previous three months as they recorded the damage to an Israeli road.

This, then, is the BBC’s much-trumpeted “objectivity.” Today, the BBC’s website is running a story about the humanitarian situation in Syria as it announces tomorrow’s DEC appeal. The fact that the Syrian civil war is “an ongoing news story” seems not to matter in this case, even though it was so important in the case of Gaza four years ago.

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Syria to be accountable for any use of chemical arms: Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (unseen) in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

US President Barack Obama warned Wednesday that if Syria let the “genie out of the bottle” by using chemical weapons in its civil war, it would unleash a serious international response.

Obama said in Israel that he was investigating reports that chemical weapons had been used in the vicious conflict in recent days – following claims by each side that the other had fired off the deadly munitions.

But he said in his most expansive comments on the issue yet, that he was “deeply skeptical” that opposition forces had used such arms, saying it was well known that the government had control over chemical weapons stocks.

The president said at a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he did not yet have the facts on the alleged use of the weapons.

“Once, we establish the facts, I have made clear that the use of chemical weapons is a game-changer,” Obama said, warning that the use of such arms by Bashar al-Assad’s forces would be a “grave and tragic” mistake.

“I won’t make an announcement today about next steps because I think we have to gather the facts.”

“But I do think that when you start seeing weapons that can cause potential devastation and mass casualties, and you let that genie out of the bottle, then you are looking potentially at even more horrific scenes than we’ve already seen in Syria.”

“And the international community has to act on that additional information.”

Obama has been reluctant to get the United States militarily involved in the Syrian conflict, and has blocked the dispatch of US lethal weapons and ammunition to rebels, despite fierce political pressure at home.

But Obama Wednesday denied Washington had done nothing, saying the United States had sent hundreds of millions of dollars in aid, and had worked with international partners to try and foster a political transition.

“This is not easy. When you start seeing a civil war that has sectarian elements to it, and you’ve got a repressive government that is intent on maintaining power… you end up seeing some of the devastation that you’ve been seeing.”

Earlier, as Obama arrived in Israel on his first visit since moving into the White House in 2009, Israeli President Shimon Peres also warned of the danger posed by Syria’s chemical weapons.

“Fortunately the Syrian nuclear capacity was destroyed but unfortunately the arsenal of chemical weapons remain. We cannot allow those weapons to fall into terrorists’ hands — it could lead to an epic tragedy,” Peres said.

Syrian forces said that chemical weapons were used Tuesday in Khan al-Assal near Aleppo and the opposition has accused government forces of using chemical weapons.

Washington has said there is so far no evidence that rebels had fired chemical weapons, but said it would consult its allies on claims that the regime had used them.

Israel has consistently raised the alarm over Damascus’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, raising fears they could fall into the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia or other radical militant groups operating in Syria.

(Source / 20.03.2013)

BDS Roundup: Israel boycott motion passed in Scotland county

In this latest roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement:

  • Scottish county council passes resolution to “resist … action that gives political or economic support” to Israel
  • University of Dundee students vote to cut ties with British-Danish security firm G4S
  • Students walk out of event sponsored by StandWithUS featuring Israeli soldiers, leaving auditorium nearly empty
  • Stanford University students “hail significant milestone in push for divestment” even as vote fails
  • South African boycott activists disrupt Israeli Embassy-sponsored concert during Israeli Apartheid Week
  • Boston activist groups contfront Sodastream CEO
  • Dutch government announces new retail guidelines to label settlement products
  • Activists to Ben & Jerry’s: Peace, love and occupation?
  • Appeals to musicians to respect cultural boycott call
  • Palestinians to commemorate Land Day on 30 March

Scottish county council passes resolution to “resist … action that gives political or economic support” to Israel

– Clackmannashire county, Scotland: A motion was passed on 14 March by the county council condemning Israel’s occupation and resolving to “to resist, insofar as legislative considerations permit, any action that gives political or economic support to the State of Israel.”

The Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign posted on its website that the motion “was passed nem con by a meeting of the full Council, with only three abstentions (one Labour, one SNP, and the lone Tory).”

The full motion reads:

Clackmannanshire Council condemns the Government of Israel for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank and for its continuing illegal blockade of Gaza.

Clackmannanshire Council welcomes the decision of the United Nations on 29 November 2012 to grant “non member observer State” to Palestine.

However, for the people of Palestine, the suffering of the last 64 years continues as the Government of Israel continues to ignore and breach international law. Just as individual sanctions against apartheid in South Africa led ultimately to its demise there, so individual and collective sanctions against the state of Israel will end apartheid and suffering in Palestine.

Clackmannanshire Council therefore resolves to resist, insofar as legislative considerations permit, any action that gives political or economic support to the State of Israel.

In December 2010, the city council of Stirling, Scotland, voted for a comprehensive boycott campaign.

University of Dundee students vote to cut ties with British-Danish security firm G4S

Dundee, Scotland: In other news from Scotland, the Dundee University Students Association (DUSA) voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion to sever ties with G4S, the British-Danish private security firm which contracts with Israeli prisons, checkpoints andsettlements.

The motion, which was passed on 26 February, states, in part:

DUSA believes:

  • That fundamental human rights and international law should be acknowledged and adhered to by states and corporations.
  • That our university students association should not, therefore, have any links – commercial or otherwise – to G4S given its complicity in human rights violations.

DUSA resolves:

  • To allow any currently existing contract or commercial link to G4S to expire and to outsource from a different service provider.
  • To include information on its website – accessible to all students – explaining the nature of its relationship to G4S until, at the earlier, DUSA ends its contracts with the company.
  • Not to take out any contract with G4S in the future.
  • To call upon the University as a whole to divest from any holdings it may have in G4S.

The Action Palestine Society at the University of Dundee stated in a post:

This move comes as students are increasing pressure across Europe to have their universities recognize G4S as a key corporate beneficiary in the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and to cease doing business with the company. In December 2012, the University of Oslo decided to terminate its contract with G4S after a campaign by students of the university’s Palestine Committee.

More recently, in February this year, Queen Mary Students’ Union in London voted overwhelmingly to allow the university’s G4S contract to expire, on the grounds of the company’s profiteering from Israeli war crimes. The vote in DUSA [Dundee University Students Association] is the latest in the growing campaign to boycott G4S.

Students walk out of event sponsored by StandWithUS featuring Israeli soldiers, leaving auditorium nearly empty

This image from the walkout at the University of New Orleans went viral on Facebook.

– New Orleans, Louisiana: Students at the University of New Orleans (UNO) staged a silent walkout protest during an event featuring two Israeli soldiers and reportedly organized by Israel lobby groupStandWithUs and the local campus organization Allies of Israel.

On 28 February, approximately 50 students sat down in the lecture hall as the event started at 12:30pm, intending to stage the silent walkout 15 minutes after the event began.

Reem Rimawi, a second-year business administration major at UNO, told The Electronic Intifada that she had seen a video of a similar protest at the University of Michigan in 2010, in which students walked out of an event with two Israeli soldiers organized by StandWithUS.

“We thought this would be an opportunity,” said Rimawi, adding that the walkout wasn’t organized by any particular activism or Palestine solidarity group on campus. “We all walked in with red t-shirts, and the names of dead Palestinian children on pieces of paper [attached to the shirts], with our sweaters zipped up. I stood up first, and unzipped my sweater, and then everyone did the same. Then we were silent, and at 12:45 we got up and walked out.”

Audience Walks Out of Israeli Army Propaganda Speech

As the above video shows, only about ten persons remained in the lecture hall after the walkout. Rimawi explained that of those who stayed, five were in a group of Palesinian students “who weren’t too happy with silence idea … they stayed behind, and during question and answer portion, they asked questions and challenged the soldiers,” she said.

Stanford University students “hail significant milestone in push for divestment” even as vote fails

– Stanford, California: While a divestment bill put forth by Stanford University’s Students for Palestinian Equal Rights ultimately failed to pass on 5 March, students involved in the campaign are celebrating the “powerful show of solidarity” that assembled at the undergraduate senate meeting.

In a press release, Students for Palestinian Equal Rights stated:

In a powerful show of solidarity, over 75 Stanford students turned out Tuesday evening to express support for the campaign calling for Stanford University’s Board of Trustees to divest from a set of companies that violate international law and abuse human rights in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The students hailed over the two dozen student groups, including the NAACP, Stanford Students for Queer Liberation, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), Stanford Says No to War, Asian American Student Association, the Stanford Labor Action Coalition, and the Black Student Union. These were among the 10 student groups that spoke strongly in favor of divestment at a Senate meeting the previous week.

While the divestment bill put forward by Students for Palestinian Equal Rights did not pass, the Associated Students of Stanford University Undergraduate Senate passed a separate resolution expressing its firm stance against investment in companies that cause “substantial social injury.” It further called on the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing to review the University’s investments to ensure compliance with the University’s Statement on Investment Responsibility.

Meanwhile, on 6 March, the student government at the University of California at Riverside passed a divestment resolution; and a week later, on 13 March, the University of California at San Diego’s student government did the same.

South African boycott activists disrupt Israeli Embassy-sponsored concert during Israeli Apartheid Week

– Johannesburg, South Africa: Boycott activists around South Africa engaged in a week of actions during Israeli Apartheid Week, the international series of events meant to educate the wider public about Israel’s occupation and policies against Palestinians.

Included in the actions was a disruption — and eventual cancelation — of a concert at theUniversity of the Witswatersrand (Wits) which was sponsored by the Israeli Embassy. On 13 March, the Wits University Palestine Solidarity Committee stated in a press release that the night before,

15 minutes into what was going to be a 90-minute scheduled concert by Israel’s Yossi Reshef, Wits University students in Johannesburg stormed the concert venue, disrupted Reshef’s performance and as a result forced the organizers to cancel the event. The cancellation was celebrated by the protesting students as a “cultural boycott of Israel success.”

The press release added:

Kenneth Mgaga, a politics student who was present at the protest, explains: “The Reshef performance, which was funded by the Israeli Embassy in Pretoria, was a clear violation of the cultural boycott of Israel. In weeks prior to the concert, our Student Representative Council (SRC), had repeatedly raised this concern with the organizers as well as relevant university authorities. However, neither the organizers nor the University Management responded to our SRC’s letters. Thus students embarked on last night’s protest action, to much success.”

In August 2012, the Wits University Student Representative Council (Wits SRC) became the first South African SRC to adopt a full academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

… Mgaga further comments: “The hosting of Reshef in South Africa is a direct attempt to undermine the Israeli Apartheid Week campaign. Last year the Israeli government sent Israeli “Public Relation envoys” to our campuses during Israeli Apartheid Week to ‘educate’ us. This year they’ve decided on a different approach, either way, we stand firm in our solidarity with the Palestinians against Israel and its apartheid policies.”

Various calls have been made for the protest and boycott of Reshef, including one by the Youth League of the African National Congress (ANC). Abner Mosase, the International Relations Secretary of the ANC Youth League said in astatement: “[W]e condemn the coming of the Israeli pianist Yossi Reshef at Wits University and other parts of the country who is clearly sponsored by the Israeli government. We call on all students to boycott the concert as it only seeks to normalize apartheid Israel. No one must be seen singing with [Israeli] apartheid, particularly in South Africa where we have seen what apartheid policies can do.”

Boston activist groups contfront Sodastream CEO

In Boston, boycott activists called attention to Sodastream’s profiting from Israel’s occupation in the West Bank.

– Boston, Massachusetts, US: Activists with Jewish Voice for Peace and The American Friends Service Committee held a protest on 6 March outside the Deutsche Bank Consumer, Retail, Gaming & Lodging Conference, whereSodastream CEO Daniel Birnbaum was presenting.

Sodastream beverage makers are produced in the illegal Mishor Eddumim settlement colony in the occupied West Bank, but label their products as “made in Israel.” In a joint press release emailed to The Electronic Intifada, Jewish Voice for Peace and The American Friends Service Committee stated:

While Birnbaum discussed the company’s corporate strategy, community activists outside the window and in the room drew attention to the company’sviolation of international law in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

Activists chanted slogans like “Occupation is obscene! Boycott, boycott SodaStream” outside the window, and distributed literature to conference attendees. One activist entered the room to present Birnbaum with an award for “Occupation-Profiteer of the Year,” but was not allowed to reach the podium.

“SodaStream’s CEO profits from human rights violations, and potential investors should be aware of that risk,” said Jewish Voice for Peace organizer Liza Behrendt. “We must hold Birnbaum accountable for preventing peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

… [Sodastream] has a history of abusive labor practices, taking advantage of a captive Palestinian workforce and dismissing workers who protest conditions. SodaStream faces increasing pressure from boycott campaigns around the world.

Dutch government announces new retail guidelines to label settlement products

– The Netherlands: The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) stated on 9 Marchthat the Dutch government “has announced that it will introduce new guidance calling on retailers to label fresh produce from illegal Israeli settlements in a way that distinguishes it from products originating inside Israel.” With this move, the Netherlands is now the latest country to take action against the Israeli settlement industry.

The BNC added, in part:

“We do not want to contribute to the economy of the illegal settlements,” said foreign minister Frans Timmermans in a statement to parliament.

The Netherlands is a key destination for Israeli fresh produce, with many of the main Israeli agricultural export companies operating subsidiaries and distribution centers in the country. The guidance will be voluntary and no action will be taken against retailers that do not follow it.

The Dutch move follows similar steps by the governments of the UK, Denmark and South Africa and a letter sent by EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton on February 22 to all EU foreign ministers calling on EU member states to implement labeling of settlement produce in accordance with a May 2012 decision of the EU Foreign Affairs Council.

Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions and networks, said:

“It is truly heartening to see that European governments are starting to match their condemnation of Israel’s continued settlement expansion and the resulting human rights abuses with action targeting the financial transactions that allow illegal Israeli settlements to flourish. The level of coordination between European governments on this issue is unprecedented and is a result of determined and effective campaigning by European grassroots networks, trade unions and NGOs.”

Shuaibi continues: “The construction of settlements constitutes a war crime and European governments are breaking their own obligations under international law by allowing settlement trade to continue. While a welcome first step, non-binding labeling guidance does little to practically end the exports of settlement produce to European markets on which many illegal settlements depend. European governments should implement effective legislation banning all trade that sustains settlements.”

A recent report released by the EU Heads of Mission in Jerusalem recommended that the EU “prevent, discourage and raise awareness about problematic implications of financial transactions … from within the EU in support of settlement activities, infrastructure and services.”

Dawood Hammoudeh, Executive Manager of the Palestinian Farmers Union, one of 16 Palestinian agricultural and civil society organizations that recently issued an appeal for governments and retailers to take action against companies exporting from settlements, said:

“As long as trade with Israeli settlement exporters such as Mehadrin and Hadiklaim is permitted, Palestinian farmers will continue to be forced from their land to make way for crops grown by illegal Israeli settlements for export to European supermarkets.”

Activists to Ben & Jerry’s: Peace, love and occupation?

– Vermont, US: Activists with Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel (VTJP) have launched a campaign calling on the famous ice cream company to “end the marketing, catering and sales of Ben & Jerry’s products in Israel and Jewish-only settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.”

Additionally, the group is appealing to the company to “stop manufacturing ice cream in Israel,” and issue a statement “calling on Israel to end its occupation and settlement enterprise and appealing directly to other socially responsible companies to do likewise and to cease business operations in Israel and its illegal settlements” until Israel ends its occupation and settler-colonial project on Palestinian land, and complies with international law.

VTJP added in its online report that it has learned that:

Ben & Jerry’s franchise in Israel is manufacturing ice cream and selling it in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Additionally, in 2010, as Israel was expanding its illegal settlements and continuing to impose an inhuman siege on Gaza, Ben & Jerry’s opened a new factory in Israel and announced plans to re-establish 16 new stores and kiosks across the country.

Water abstraction and allocation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is under Israel’s control. The manufacturing of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel may involve diversion of much needed drinking water from Palestinian communities and farmers under occupation.

More on the Ben & Jerry’s campaign is on VTJP’s website.

Appeals to musicians to respect cultural boycott call

– Worldwide: In the wake of the cancelation of the Lollapalooza Israel concert, activists say that a new music festival — Plugfest — is being promoted for May. The boycott group Refrain Playing Israel notes that artists such as Lee “Scratch” Perry and Azealia Banks are scheduled to play, but activists are urging the artists not to break the international picket line.

A Facebook group has been set up to call on the artists to respect the boycott call.

Palestinians to commemorate Land Day on 30 March

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) posted the following statement preceding the 37th annual Land Day — the day when Israeli forces shot and killed six young Palestinians with Israeli citizenship in 1976. Each year, Palestinian citizens of Israel hold Land Day protests and rallies.

The BNC states:

These brave youth were among thousands protesting the Israeli government’s expropriation of Palestinian land. Today, we continue to celebrate Palestinian resistance to Israel’s ongoing land expropriation, colonization, occupation and apartheid.

Thirty-seven years after the first Land Day demonstrations, Israel continues its expropriation and colonization of Palestinian land. Israel continues to expand its illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, forcing Palestinians from their land. Palestinians also face dispossession and displacement inside Israel.

For international supporters of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality, Land Day is an opportunity to develop campaigns for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, particularly campaigns targeting the Jewish National Fund, Israeli agribusinesses and companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements, all of which play a vital role in the continued theft of Palestinian land.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) invites people of conscience across the world to join us in marking land day by highlighting BDS as an effective form of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

At a time when Israel is facing unprecedented levels of pressure over its continued colonization of Palestinian land and quickly losing the international support upon which it depends, let us work together to intensify our collective efforts to hold Israel and its supporters accountable.

If you are planning BDS activities to mark Land Day, please send in the details

More recent BDS news from our Activism and BDS Beat blog:

(Source / 20.03.2013)

FBI’s penchant for “manufacturing terrorists” probed in new book

Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations since one week before the 11 September 2001 attacks, recently wrote a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee bemoaning the “across-the-board cuts” imposed on the agency while outlining the areas of law enforcement that will suffer as a result. Among the areas in which the FBI and Department of Justice would be forced to downsize their activities would be the financial sector. “Left unchecked, fraud and malfeasance in the financial, securities and related industries could hurt the integrity of US markets,” Mueller warned.

In light of the reality of US economic woes, Mueller’s admonition is disingenuous, if not downright pernicious. In fact, the FBI’s 12-year absence from monitoring financial fraud saw the nation’s biggest economic meltdown — itself a direct result of the financial sector running roughshod over what few regulations remained. And now, more than four years after that manmade collapse, the Department of Justice has yet to investigate, let alone prosecute, the criminals responsible for the devastation.

What the FBI was doing before, during and after the financial crisis is the subject under examination in Trevor Aaronson’s new book The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism.

The book unveils the FBI’s domestic counterterrorism program that began after the 11 September attacks and has continued well into Barack Obama’s second term in office. The program, vividly portrayed by Aaronson, is defined by a wanton use of informants and sting operations in order to produce a high rate of convictions — thus ensuring that Congress continues to write out checks to the FBI’s counterterrorism program to the tune of $3 billion annually.

Since the 11 September attacks, the FBI has employed more than 15,000 confidential informants nationwide. And, according to Aaronson, for each official informant there are as many as three unofficial informants — known within the FBI as “hip pockets.” By 2011, the Justice Department had prosecuted more than 500 individuals on terrorist charges, a handful of whom Aaronson categorizes as “actual terrorists.” The rest were hatched within the context of FBI sting operations, informants and agents provocateur.

Until 2009, the specifics of the Department of Justice’s terrorist cases were classified. But when Attorney General Eric Holder decided to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a Manhattan courtroom, he was called upon to prove how capable US courts were of convicting terrorists. In order to do so Holder made public the document containing the track record of the DOJ’s prosecution of terrorists. With that information divulged, Aaronson — already watching “terrorist” convictions with a fair amount of skepticism — grabbed the opportunity to investigate who these alleged terrorists really were.

Sordid practice

What Aaronson discovered was that, far from preventing terrorism, the FBI uses its funds to “manufacture” terrorists out of marginalized, desperate, mentally ill or immature men (many of the convicted individuals profiled are in their early twenties). In Aaronson’s words, “The FBI has been effective at creating the very enemy it is hunting.”

Taking his readers through several FBI sting operations, Aaronson reveals a sordid practice in which the FBI often employs criminals to infiltrate Muslim communities to turn otherwise powerless malcontents into “terrorists.” According to Aaronson’s accounts, these so-called terrorists would have no more than the capability to mouth off in a chat room if it weren’t for the inert weapons and cash that informants would literally place in their hapless hands, thus creating “bogeymen from buffoons.”

The Terror Factory adroitly covers the context in which the informant program emerged, including interviews with several current and former members of the FBI. Aaronson portrays a feeble pre-11 September FBI, comprised of Luddite lawyers and technocrats whose negligence appears in no small part responsible for the 2001 attacks, transformed by an influx of cash and a new set of instructions.


In addition to providing intimate and harrowing portraits of individuals framed as terrorists by the FBI, Aaronson also elucidates precisely how the agency similarly creates informants. Whether by leveraging an individual’s criminal history, exploiting a precarious immigration status or manipulating the expansive no-fly list, the FBI frightens and coerces vulnerable people into acting as spies for the agency.

Aaronson confines his critique of the “war on terror” to the FBI’s use of informants and sting operations. The narrow parameters of his book allow Aaronson to effectively drive home the important point that the proliferation of informants among Muslim-Americans has not only fragmented communities and devastated lives, but is entirely ineffectual at preventing terrorism.

However, this limited scope proves perilous when Aaronson attempts to navigate around the distinction he makes between a “real terrorist” and a manufactured one, hampering his ability to fully critique the FBI’s counterterrorism program and the war on terror. This problematic tension is felt at various points throughout the book, but is starkly revealed when Aaronson describes the list Holder declassified in 2009: “While the list did include one dangerous terrorist, Najibullah Zazi, as well as people who were raising money for or sending money to terrorist groups such as Hamas, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, others who made the list were terrorists only because the Justice Department had labeled them as such.”

Dubious apology

It seems implausible that Aaronson is unaware of the cases of the Holy Land Five, Muhammad Salah, Sami Al-Arian and countless others — all of them also manufactured “terrorists” whose lives were destroyed by allegations of providing “material support” to Palestinian groups categorized as terrorist organizations in 1997 — but the above suggests he is. While this flaw does not negate the value of Aaronson’s significant investigation, it indicates a troubling and, given his insight, rather surprising short-sightedness. In not questioning the US definition of terrorist organizations, Aaronson fails to account for the political motivations that lead to these designations.

Furthermore, he offers a dubious apology for the dangerous notion that the world can and should be divided into good Muslims and bad Muslims — not only real terrorists and manufactured terrorists. Aaronson cites, without irony, a 2011 study that finds most Muslims in the US want to “adopt American customs and ways of life” and “reject religious extremism” in order to argue that Muslim values are “identical to that of the general US population.”

That an individual identifies with the impossibly vague and faintly racist notion of “the general US population” is, of course, irrelevant to his or her entitlement to civil liberties and freedom from FBI coercion, spying and entrapment — and Aaronson does his readers no service in failing to remind them of this.

In fact, the “terror industry” has multiple fronts — around the world, in Guantanamo and within the US. All have been facilitated by the ease with which the federal government can label groups, defendants and individuals as “terrorists.” Aaronson’s book does much to reveal the meaninglessness of this label as far as it has been applied in certain contexts. However, he does not extend this logic to the broader war on terror — a war that equips the US government with the authority to not only entrap, but also torture, indefinitely detain and ultimately execute people everywhere.

Aaronson’s book is a powerful portrait of the FBI’s insidious and destructive counterterrorism program that enables the contortion of the innocuous into the threatening, ruining hundreds of lives in its wake. As we view the devastation that lies on the battleground of the war on terror and observe the White House now skirting admission that it may execute citizens on US soil, it is imperative that we address the depths of this deadly sham.

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Roger Waters roept artiesten op tot boycot Israël

Zanger Roger Waters van de rockband Pink Floyd zegt artiesten te willen oproepen om zich aan te sluiten bij de boycot tegen Israël.

Dat zegt hij in een interview met The Electronic Intifada.

Waters is van plan een open brief te publiceren om zijn collega’s wereldwijd aan te sporen niet op te treden in Israël. De muzikant zegt dat hij Stevie Wonder al heeft weten over te halen niet te zingen tijdens een galadiner voor het Israëlische defensieleger.

“Ik schreef hem een brief waarin ik hem vertelde het vergelijkbaar zou zijn aan een optreden op een politiebal in Johannesburg de dag na het bloedbad van Sharpeville in 1960”, aldus Waters, waarmee hij verwijst naar de politieactie tegen een groep zwarte demonstranten in het township Sharpeville op 21 maart 1960.


Stevie Wonder gaf gehoor aan het verzoek van de Pink Floyd-zanger, een week nadat Waters ook de Verenigde Naties toesprak. Waters bekritiseert de Amerikaanse media omdat dit alles onderbelicht is gebleven. “Beide gebeurtenissen waren bijna even belangrijk als de bh-maat van Kim Kasdashian”, sneert hij.

“Ik denk dat het soort boycot zoals dat van kracht was tegen het apartheidsregime in Zuid-Afrika destijds waarschijnlijk de meest effectieve manier is, omdat de Israëlische overheid een soortgelijk regime voert, in de bezette gebieden en waar het maar wil”, concludeert Waters over een algehele politieke en handelsboycot tegen Israël.

(Source / 20.03.2013)

Hebron officials urge PA ban on Israeli media

HEBRON (Ma’an) — The Hebron governorate executive council recommended Wednesday a ban on Israeli journalists reporting in Palestinian territory without a permit from the Ministry of Information.

The council, headed by the governor of Hebron, suggested the ban on non-licensed Israeli media as a matter of reciprocity because Israel bans Palestinian media from working without a permit.

The issue of reciprocity is widely debated among Palestinian journalists who have been severely restricted from reporting inside Israel. In 2002, Israel stopped issuing press credentials to most Palestinian media.

There was no indication Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority at large was considering such a ban. A spokeswoman said she was unaware of plans to introduce restrictions on Israeli media.

In early March, Palestinian tour guides protested outside the Church of the Nativity demanding an end to permits allowing Israeli guides into PA-controlled areas without reciprocal permits for Palestinians.

According to Palestinian Authority statistics, 250 Israeli tour guides hold permits to enter Bethlehem. By comparison, only 43 Palestinian tour guides are allowed into Jerusalem, which is controlled by Israel.

(Source / 20.03.2013)