Settlers in Hebron Celebrate ‘Freedom’ While Palestinians Suffer

An Israeli settler (front) and Palestinian demonstrators, one wearing a mask depicting US President Barack Obama, scuffle during a protest against the continued closure by the Israeli army of Shuhada Street to Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron March 20, 2013.

“Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for and ultimately won,” the president said in a greeting he issued to the people in Zion. “I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from [the national Israeli anthem] Hatikvah, ‘lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu,’ ‘To be a free people in our land,'” Obama waxed poetic, having just completed a successful visit to the Holy Land.

His call to view life through the eyes of Palestinians resonated among the young Israelis who convened last week [March 21] at the Jerusalem conference center to hear him speak. This exercise, simple and obvious as it may sound, is not easy. It runs counter to our indoctrination, which included years of education and the continuous dehumanization of the Palestinians. It’s hard to find a young Israeli who does not repeat the mantra, “There’s no one to talk to on the other side,” and few are bothered by the reality of the Israeli occupation in the West Bank.

Speaking to the students, Obama described the special bond he feels with the Passover holiday and the message it conveys.

“It is a story of centuries of slavery and years of wandering in the desert,” he told his young listeners. “To African-Americans, the story of the Exodus told a powerful tale about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the civil-rights movement.”

The president may have meant to compare the struggle of blacks in the United States for freedom from the chains of slavery to the struggle of the Palestinians for freedom from the shackles of occupation. Perhaps. If this is the case, the president could have found a clear illustration of his words in the small parade that made its way through the ancient Palestinian city of Hebron shortly after Air Force One landed at Ben-Gurion airport. A small group of Palestinian, Israeli and foreign peace activists, wearing masks depicting the faces of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and of President Obama, marched together through Shuhada Street, for years the heart of the Arab city from which Palestinians have been banned for the past two decades.

The marchers’ black T-shirts bore the words “I have a dream,” a portrait of Rosa Parks and other symbols of the American civil-rights movement. A small megaphone played, “Woke up this morning with my mind set on freedom,” one of the songs which symbolized the struggle of blacks in America. One the demonstrators said that he and his friends wished to remind Obama that had it not been for the struggle for equality, today the United States would not have had a black president.

“Martin Luther King fought against the segregation in buses and cafes,” said another. “We are fighting for our ability to survive in the houses and on the streets of Hebron.”

Several minutes later, local Jewish settlers attacked the peace activists, lashing out at them and trying to tear the signs they held. In the manner befitting the “lords of the land” in the occupied territories, the settlers gave orders to the soldiers who arrived on their heels. Nine protesters were detained. Once again, the violence of the Hebron settlers remained unanswered.

There is no place in the West Bank where the discrimination is more blatant than the on streets of Hebron, where the city’s 800 Jewish residents celebrated Seder evening this week for the 45th time. While they did so, the city’s 160,000 Palestinian residents were under curfew. That’s the way it is every Jewish holiday.

In fact, the story of the Jewish settlement in Hebron is the story of all Israeli settlement activity — and it is connected to the Passover holiday. The “freedom holiday” celebrated this week in Israel and around the world is also the birthday of the first and only settlement to have been established within the heart of a Palestinian city.

It happened in 1968. Several days before Seder, the Palestinian owner of the Park Hotel in old Hebron acceded to the request by a group of Jews headed by Rabbi Moshe Levinger, one of the founders of Gush Emunim (the main settlement movement), to rent the hotel’s 14 rooms for the holiday. When the holiday was over, the residents of the “temporary” settlement sent a cable to then-defense minister Moshe Dayan, saying “Happy holidays from the settlers of Hebron.” The minister’s response — “I thank you for your wishes and have a happy holiday” — was interpreted as official recognition of their action. And the rest is history.

Twenty-six years later, in 1994, this time on the holiday of Purim, Baruch Goldstein, a settler from Kiryat Arba (adjacent to Hebron), entered the Cave of Patriarchs in Hebron and massacred 29 Muslims in cold blood. In order to prevent acts of vengeance, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the city center, especially Shuhada Street. As a result, more than 1,000 Palestinian families left their homes and the vast majority of Palestinian businesses in the neighborhood closed down. The restrictions are still in force to this day.

The carnage in the Cave of Patriarchs set off the spree of suicide-bombing attacks by Hamas. They peaked in March 2002 with the murder of 30 Seder participants in the heart of Netanya, at a hotel with the chilling name of “Park,” just like the Hebron hotel where the Jewish settlement began in the city. The massacre took place in the midst of the Seder meal, several hours after the Arab League announced its historic peace initiative. The following day, then-prime minister Ariel Sharon ordered the IDF to capture the towns of the West Bank in what became known as “Operation Defensive Shield” and to damage the infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority. The reports of the dead and the destruction in the territories pushed reports of the Arab peace initiative to the back pages.

Another seed of violence was planted at Goldstein’s funeral, held in Kiryat Arba, which was to change the course of history. Yigal Amir, who was among the crowd of mourners, swore on that occasion to follow in the footsteps of his dead hero and to murder then-prime minister Yitzak Rabin, thereby destroying the Oslo process.

Back to our times. While Obama was giving his “Jerusalem speech” to an enthusiastic young audience, Israeli security forces in Hebron were arresting 27 Palestinian minors, among them 14 children under the age of 12, members of the “Youth Against Settlements” Palestinian movement (YES). On the eve of Obama’s visit, they had watched a tape of the famous Million Men March on Washington. Amro, their counselor, told the boys: “Look how hundreds of thousands of people are marching and not a single stone is being thrown. That’s how one wins.” He promised them that if they follow in the footsteps of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and others like them in the United States, “we will eventually reach the Promised Land.” But as Obama said in his Passover greeting to the people of Israel, “responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins.” These words sound good in English and in Hebrew — and in Arabic, too.

(Source / 28.03.2013)

Gaza Fishermen Outraged By Renewed Israeli Restrictions

A Palestinian fisherman prepares his net with his sons at the seaport of Gaza City, March 22, 2013.
Following the firing of two rockets into the Israeli town of Sderot, which coincided with President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel and the West Bank, the Israeli military announced it would reduce the fishing zone for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from six nautical miles to three nautical miles.

Quoting Israeli army forces, the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported that “in response to the rocket fire earlier this morning … the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Minister of Defense, Mr. Moshe (Bogie) Yaalon, have instructed the IDF to narrow the permitted fishing zone for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip from six to three miles,” the army said.

In an interview with Al-Monitor, a spokesman of the Palestinian government in Gaza, Taher al-Nono, condemned the Israeli decision and warned of its potentially grave repercussions. “Israel should not try to test the patience of the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people against its outrageous practices,” Nono told Al-Monitor, urging Israel to abide by the terms of the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement.

Following eight days of fierce fighting between Palestinian armed factions in Gaza, primarily Hamas, and the Israeli army, which started Nov. 14, 2012, and resulted in the deaths of more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis, Hamas and Israel signed the cease-fire understanding, under which Israel would allow fishermen an increased access to the fishing zone from three to six nautical miles.

Nono called on the Egyptian government to intervene in order to ensure that Israel respects the conditions of the November cease-fire agreement. The Hamas government, he added, is also hopeful that Turkey will spare no effort in order to ensure that Israel makes good on its promises to the Turkish prime minister with respect to the blockade on Gaza.

“The Israeli occupation has to promptly implement what has been agreed on in the context of the Egyptian-mediated ceasefire understanding, particularly with regards the fishing zone and the crossing borders.”

Even the six nautical miles, however, fall short of the 20 nautical miles promised to the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords. In 2002, Israel reduced this to 12 nautical miles to be further reduced to six nautical miles in October 2006 and finally to three nautical miles in January 2009 following its Cast Lead Operation in the Gaza Strip.

Although Israel has technically allowed fishermen expanded access in the fishing zone following the cease-fire, it, according to Palestinian human rights NGOs, has not ceased violating fishermen’s rights on a regular basis. Israeli forces routinely open fire on Gaza fishing boats, arresting fishermen, damaging and confiscating their boats even within the allowed fishing zone.

Since Nov. 22, 2012, until late February 2013, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) documented tens of Israeli violations in access-restricted areas (ARA) both on land and in the sea. In the sea, this included 41 shooting incidents, which resulted in four injured fishermen and 42 arrested, eight boats damaged and another eight confiscated. Roughly 85% of these violations took place within three nautical miles off the coast.

Khalil Shahin, Director of PCHR’s Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) Unit, explained that the Israel’s recent limitation of the fishing zone bringing it back to three nautical miles constitutes a form of collective punishment under the rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), which is prohibited per Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

“Israel’s acts constitute a flagrant violation of the rules of IHL and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) since it systematically prevents the fishermen’s community from their most basic rights, particularly that they are mere civilians who do not pose the least threat to Israeli naval forces,” Shahin said.

Israel’s act, he illustrated, only serves to punish the civilian people by preventing them from having free and safe access to their means of livelihood. In the case of the Buffer Zone along the separation fence between Gaza and Israel, the state is preventing them for accessing their possessions, homes, farms and agricultural lands.

Israeli rights group B’Tselem also criticized the renewed restrictions as a form of “collective punishment.”

In a news release on its website, B’Tselem said: “Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids collective punishment and states that a person must not be punished for an act that he or she did not commit. It is Israel’s duty to protect its borders and its citizens and to act to neutralise a threat when it arises, but this cannot justify the harsh damage to fishermen who have done nothing wrong.”

Khaled El-Shrafi, 56, a fisherman from Gaza, explained how this additional restriction on the movement of fishermen in Gaza waters will have grave impacts on the livelihood on fishermen across the costal enclave.

Shrafi, a father of seven, says he could hardly make ends meet for his family while fishermen were allowed a six-nautical-mile fishing zone. According to him, there is hardly any fish in the newly imposed three-mile zone and fish prices will definitely skyrocket, making it less and less affordable for average people.

“To make things worse,” he added, “the decision could not have come at a worse time for fishermen since this is specifically the fishing season during the entire year. Now I will go at the end of a long day with not enough money to ensure that my children live with dignity. We are losing more and more. I hope I can work freely in the sea one day with no restrictions and no prospects of getting shot at by Israeli soldiers.”

Another fisherman, Mohammed Baker, 35, expressed the same concerns saying that fishermen are particularly outraged about not only the decision, but its timing which coincides with the fishing season that extends from April until July of every year.

“It is at this time of the year when we procure a fair amount of fish which enables us to make up for the dearth of fish during the entire year. We were so excited about the expansion of the fishing zone and the upcoming season, and made investment in the six-nautical-mile zone only to be disappointed by this development.”

According to PCHR, there are more than 70,000 people in Gaza who are dependent on fishing as the main source of income.

According to Baker, fishermen in Gaza are some of the most vulnerable communities, and fishing is normally one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, let alone when a fisherman has to face an army of soldiers and vessels as is the case in Gaza. Weaving his fishing net, he pondered: “Every time before I drive my motor boat into the sea, I think I might not actually return to my family. They [Israeli naval vessels] never fail to disappoint you and will soon start shooting toward us, forcing us to return fearing for our lives.”

(Source / 28.03.2013)

Zahhar: Hamas will not interfere in Egyptian affairs

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — Hamas will not interfere in internal Egyptian affairs, a senior party official said Wednesday.

“We respect all political, popular, constitutional components of Egypt. We will not interfere in Egyptian matters,” Mahmoud Zahhar told reporters in Gaza City.

“We want to establish legitimate economic relations with Egypt, and not through tunnels,” Zahhar added.

Egypt has recently cracked down on smuggling tunnels under its border with Gaza, blocking a lifeline to the besieged enclave.

Regarding Hamas’ latest campaign against collaborators with Israel, Zahhar said the party would legally pursue anyone “who abuses the program of the resistance, especially from the Palestinian side.”

Zahhar stressed Hamas’ commitment to an Egypt-brokered ceasefire with Israel, signed to end an 8-day war in November. Israel backtracked on its commitment to extend the fishing zone along the Gaza coast on Thursday after two rockets were fired from Gaza.

“We spoke to the Egyptian sponsor, and they promised to pressure Israel to implement the agreement. If the enemy wants to get away from the agreement then they will pay the price, because they were the ones who asked for the ceasefire on the second day of the last war,” Zahhar said.

(Source / 28.03.2013)

Mashaal: Obama retreated on settlements

DOHA (Ma’an) — US President Barack Obama is a charismatic leader with talents that distinguish him from other American presidents but his policies are biased toward Israel, says Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal.

In an interview Wednesday in Doha, Mashaal said Obama offered nothing for the Palestinians despite starting out strong with a landmark speech in Cairo calling for a freeze on Israeli settlements.

“Unfortunately he retreated from this position in practical terms,” Mashaal said.

“During his second term visit to Jerusalem a few days ago, he seemed biased toward the Israeli side. He wanted to strengthen his relations with (Israeli premier Benjamin) Netanyahu at the expense of the Palestinian side.”

Mashaal added: “He has no plan (to resolve) the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The Hamas leader said that “despite his talk about a Palestinian state,” he also “talked about the establishment of Israel like it’s a promise from God and the promised land.”

“In Hamas, in general, we don’t put our hope in anyone in the White House.”

He said the Islamist movement “believes in achieving its goals and needs through armed resistance,” but nevertheless we are flexible and we will seize all the chances to benefit from any available opportunity.”

On reconciliation with Fatah, Mashaal said he welcomed Qatar’s offer to hold an initiative to bring the two factions together in Cairo.

“God willing, I and Abu Mazan will succeed in achieving national unity. I can see how close it is,” he said.

He also said the Arab summit in Qatar was unlikely to accomplish much despite Hamas’ appreciation for Arab leaders’ “encouragement to Palestine. But this is not enough to stop settlements and Judaization.”

He called for a new strategy to protect the holy city and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Asked if he would consider a run for the Palestinian presidency, Mashaal responded that Hamas “hasn’t made its final decision regarding the presidency. If Hamas nominated me to head the PLO, this is Hamas’ natural right. But we’re not going to fight for the presidency.”

Mashaal also said the Arab spring was a positive development. He said every nation has a right to demand freedom, reform, development and in fighting corruption. The Arab spring benefits Palestine, he said.

(Source / 28.03.2013)

Pro-Palestinian activists raped in Libya

TWO British activists with a humanitarian convoy destined for the Gaza Strip have been subjected to a brutal gang rape by five men in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi, the deputy prime minister says.

The two women of Pakistani origin “were brutally raped in front of their father”, Awadh al-Barassi said on his Facebook page, condemning “a horrible act”.

Barassi said he had been to see the two victims in Benghazi on Thursday, and that the family was “in a very bad psychological state”.

The women, accompanied by their father on the convoy organised by Turkish NGO IHH, had been destined for the Palestinian coastal enclave blockaded by Israel when it was blocked from leaving Libya and entering Egypt.

The three decided to return to Benghazi accompanied by two more Britons, with the aim of getting a flight home. But when they arrived in Libya’s second city they were abducted by five unidentified men.

A Western diplomatic source speaking on condition of anonymity confirmed the group had been abducted, but was unable to say the women had been sexually assaulted, pending medical reports.

The diplomatic source also said there had been arrests in the case, without specifying how many.

Another source said the family was now being looked after at the Turkish consulate in Benghazi.

(Source / 28.03.2013)

Israeli occupation soldiers arrest five Hamas leaders including MP Mohammed Jamal Al-Natshe


images_News_2013_03_27_leaders_300_0[1]AL-KHALIL, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) nabbed five Hamas leaders in pre-dawn raids on Wednesday in Al-Khalil city including MP Mohammed Jamal Al-Natshe.

Local sources said that IOF soldiers stormed the home of the 55-year-old MP south of Al-Khalil city and searched it and confiscated mobile phones and a computer before taking away the lawmaker.

For her part, the wife of Dr. Amjad Al-Hammouri, a leader within Hamas, said that IOF soldiers broke into their house in central Al-Khalil and thoroughly searched it before taking away her husband.

Sources close to Sheikh Abdulkhaleq Al-Natshe, a Hamas leader, said that IOF soldiers encircled his house in the Hawooz suburb and arrested him.

Sheikh Natshe was released from Israeli prisons on 28/3/2012 after ten years imprisonment.

IOF soldiers also detained Jawad Al-Jabari, who is a liberated prisoner, and Sheikh Tahseen Shawer, an administrative manager in Al-Khalil Islamic charity, who was also an ex-prisoner.

(Source / 28.03.2013)

Arab leaders pledge fund for Jerusalem


The Arab League on Tuesday approved a Qatari proposal to set up a $1 billion fund for Arab East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as the capital of an independent state under any peace deal with Israel.

Arabs say that Israeli settlement-building on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war, including Arab East Jerusalem, has made a two-state solution backed by the United States unfeasible.

Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said his country will contribute $250 million to the fund, which he called for in an opening speech to an Arab summit in Doha that focused on the crisis in Syria and stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts.

“The summit… calls for setting up a fund to support Jerusalem to the value of $1 billion to finance projects and programmes that would maintain the Arab and Islamic character of the city and reinforce the steadfastness of its people,” the draft resolution said.

The Islamic Development Bank, based in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah, will manage the fund, it said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the fund to help protect the Arab character of the city and urged Arab states to contribute to it.

“The Israeli occupation is working in a systematic and hurried way to Judaise East Jerusalem, change its features and uproot its Palestinian inhabitants, attacking the al-Aqsa Mosque and its Muslim and Christian holy sites,” Abbas said in a speech at the summit.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said the initiative was “a badge of shame” for Qatar.

“Objecting to ‘Judaisation of Jerusalem’, so to speak, is absurd and is equatable to an objection to the Catholic nature of the Vatican or the Islamisation of Mecca, it is naturally unthinkable,” Palmor said.

The fate of Jerusalem has proved one of the thorniest sticking points in past Middle East peace negotiations.

Citing Jewish biblical ties to the holy city, Israel annexed the Arab eastern half and its surroundings in 1980 in a move rejected by the United Nations Security Council.

The Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, is in deep financial crisis.

On Friday the United States promised $500 million in aid to the PA, and Israel pledged to resume transferring $100 million in monthly tax revenue it collects on the Palestinians’ behalf.

Qatar’s emir did not say if the proposed Arab fund would be channelled to the PA, whose writ does not run in East Jerusalem.

About 200,000 Israelis live in the annexed Arab part of Jerusalem, including more than 1,000 in and around the mostly Arab Old City.

Palestinian officials are sceptical of Arab aid pledges, as few Arab countries carried through on promises last year to cover a Palestinian funding gap aggravated by Israeli sanctions.

Last year Arab donations, including $200 million from Saudi Arabia, constituted almost half the PA’s foreign aid, with the United States and European Union providing around $330 million.

“As we’ve have seen many times before, unfortunately decisions in Arab summits often do not materialise on the ground,” said Ghassan Shaka, a senior member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

“Financing is just a means, political help is the important thing,” he said. “The Arab world must convince and apply pressure so the world knows what’s required for peace.”

(Source / 28.03.2013)

The proxy war destroying Syria

WRITING about Syria is emotionally draining and intellectually overwhelming.

Evident by the level of destruction and killing, the mutual hatred between President Bashar Al Assad’s regime and the armed opposition surpasses their love of country.

More than 70,000 have been killed and, not counting internally displaced Syrians, there are more than one million refugees in neighbouring countries.

The Syrian people who selflessly opened their homes and shared their schools with the children of refugees from Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq are themselves living in horrible conditions in camps.

Greater Syria, first broken up by British and French colonisers under the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement, is being fragmented further by internecine strife agitated by competing foreign powers.

Russia and Iran are supporting a doomed dictatorship, while the West pours just enough fuel for the opposition to sustain an unwinnable war.

The Syrians are trapped between an arrogant tyrant and an opposition led by thirsty, prospective dictators united in their hate and lacking a futuristic vision for Syria.

Not to mention the Arab Summit’s vain resolutions, four important local and regional events took place in the past week that offer an insight into what’s in store for Syria and the Middle East at large.

The murder last Thursday of a high ranking Sunni Muslim cleric Shaikh Muhammad Bouti in a Damascus mosque, along with 49 peaceful worshippers, violated a central Muslim tenet on the sanctuary of holy places – irrespective of Mr Bouti’s political position.

Although it could be argued that the regime’s atrocities emboldened Al Qaeda-inspired fighters, the opposition can’t continue to present itself as an alternative to dictatorship when it is associated with organisations professing a divine mandate to kill people they disagree with.

Second was the sudden resignation of Moaz Khatib, head of the anti-government Syrian National Coalition, along with 12 other members of the coalition’s leadership.

Khatib was forced to back down several weeks after he posited direct negotiation with the government to put an end to the carnage in Syria.

This, along with disagreement over the formation of a government in exile and the sidelining of historical opposition figures, were some of the “red lines” Khatib promised never to cross.

On the regional level, there was the collapse of the Lebanese government following a political impasse over whether to extend the term in office for the head of Lebanon’s internal security forces and a dispute over a committee to oversee parliamentary elections in June.

Lebanon is divided into two diametrically opposed political blocs: one supporting the Syrian regime and another siding with the opposition.

The resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister deepens the national political rift over the violence in Syria.

This, juxtaposed with ongoing military skirmishes in the city of Tripoli between supporters of the two rival camps, is an omen of a larger regional conflagration should foreign powers play a more direct role in the Syrian conflict.

Speaking of foreign powers, the fourth event was the only success President Barack Obama could claim from his trip to the region.

The Obama-orchestrated Israeli apology to Turkey and the subsequent rapprochement between those two countries is inseparable from what is going on in Syria.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote on his Facebook page last Saturday that “the crisis in Syria … was the main consideration” for the apology.

His national security adviser Yaakiv Amidror said: “Between us and Turkey is a country that is falling apart.”

The timing of the apology, three years after Israeli soldiers killed nine Turkish activists on board an aid ship bound for Gaza, is another clue that external advocates pushing for a military solution have a veiled agenda to dismantle Syria. It is sad to witness a vacuous dictator and truculent opposition unwittingly breaking up Syria, a mosaic of ethnicities and religions, into mini Israeli-type ethnocentric states.

(JAMAL KANJ / Source / 28.03.2013)

PLO launches online platform to attack BDS right after sabotaging UN vote on settlements

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) today launched a new online forum whose main priority appears to be to undermine the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

This came just days after the PLO sabotaged a UN Human Rights Council resolution that could have hastened international action against Israel for its continued illegal colonization of Palestinian land.

New “Engage” forum launched with attacks on BDS movement

The PLO delegation in Washington launched “Engage,” an online blog hosted on its official website.

Two of the first three posts are attacks on the increasingly successful BDS movement. In “Connecting the Dots on American campuses,” Samer Anabtawi, a graduate student at the University of Chicago, claimed that the Palestinian solidarity movement on campuses is “heavily fragmented” and needed to be unified.

What is standing in the way of this unification? Anabtawi singled out Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) whose national organizing and support for BDS has made it an increasingly important factor in the struggle.

But Anabtawi would like to see SJPs move away from BDS. He proposes:

instead of instructing chapters to support BDS campaigns against Israel, our cause must encourage discussions on the efficacy and morality of BDS and whether BDS is the most effective tool.

Anabtawi speaks of SJP as if it is a national organization with chapters who follow “instructions.” In fact, each SJP is autonomously and locally organized, and only in the past two years has a national umbrella been formed. No one “instructs” SJPs or other Palestinian solidarity groups to support BDS.

Anabtawi accuses Students for Justice in Palestine of having a “narrow political agenda,” when in fact the points of unity adopted at the first National Students for Justice in Palestine conference in October 2011 embrace the rights of the entire Palestinian people.

Anabtawi even proposes that Palestinians ally themselves with J-Street, a Zionist lobby group that explicitly opposes BDS and rights for all Palestinians, and indeed does have a narrow political agenda of preserving Israel as a racist state with a guaranteed Jewish majority at the expense of the rights of Palestinian refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Anabtawi was an “Intern at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palestine,” a relevant institutional affiliation not disclosed in the blog post.

The second piece, “BDS Role in Palestinian Economy,” by Laila Ikram, calls bluntly for “abandoning BDS” under the guise of proposing “positive investment” – the very strategy used by the Israel lobby to oppose divestment efforts.

Of course this is not the first effort by the Palestinian Authority to undermine BDS. In 2010, Salam Fayyad, the externally-imposed Palestinian Authority “prime minister,” launched a call on Palestinians to boycott goods from Israeli settlements.

While this brief campaign grabbed headlines, it was actually an attempt to undermine BDS more broadly because while calling for a boycott of settlements goods onlyPA officials were assuring Israel of their desire to maintain expand econonomic ties with Israel in defiance of the Palestinian BDS call.

PLO cave in leads to “missed opportunity” for Palestinian rights

On 22 March, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a weak resolution on a recent report about Israeli settlements. The resolution was condemned by a coalition of Palestinian human rights groups as a “missed opportunity.”

The human rights groups blamed the “influence of European States in dictating that a stronger, more detailed resolution would not have received consensus support at the Council.”

But this failure was entirely the fault of the PLO delegation, which is effectively a puppet of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

As The Electronic Intifada exclusively reported last week, the PLO delegation had the support and opportunity to present a stronger resolution that would undoubtedly have gained a majority and could have led to concrete international action against Israel. But the PLO apparently refused to do so in order to appease its international sponsors.

Start from scratch?

Although the venerable name of the PLO has cachet, and the idea of the PLO still commands the loyalty of millions of Palestinians, in practice this body long ago lost any legitimacy or representativeness among Palestinians.

Its loss of legitimacy is so severe that in a recent analysis for The Electronic Intifada, Osamah Khalil proposed that Palestinians should abandon it altogether and start from scratch.

The latest antics at the UN and with the “Engage” forum can only bolster those who agree with Khalil.

(Source / 28.03.2013)

President pardons journalist jailed over insult

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas has pardoned a journalist whose year-long sentence for insulting him on Facebook was upheld earlier Thursday.

Abbas’ office said in a statement that the president had pardoned Mamdouh Hamamreh, a correspondent for al-Quds satellite channel, hours after a Bethlehem court rejected the reporter’s appeal against the jail term.

Hamamreh was charged over a photo posted to Facebook juxtaposing Abbas beside a similar-looking man who plays the part of a collaborator with French colonial forces in an old Syrian television drama.

“They resemble each other in everything,” a caption read.

Journalists and media watchdogs, saying Hamamreh was only “tagged” in the photo and did not create it, criticized the ruling and curbs on media freedom by the Palestinian Authority.

“(Hamamreh) didn’t even publish the picture. When images online are criminalised, it’s a very serious violation of basic rights of expression,” said Riham Abu Aita of Mada, the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms.

“We don’t have a king, we have a president,” she said.

Hamamreh is the second Palestinian to be pardoned for insulting Abbas this year.

A court in the northern West Bank city of Nablus in February sentenced a local man to a year in prison for creating a picture of Abbas to make him look like a football player, and entitled it “the new striker for Real Madrid”.

Anas Awad, 26, denied he had intended any offence and the president promptly pardoned him.

(Source / 28.03.2013)