Film review: Gaza love story triumphs over Israeli obstacles

Maisa Abdel Hadi and Kais Nashif in Habibi.

More than 1,000 years ago, in the middle of the Arabian peninsula, Qays ibn al-Mulawwah fell in love with Layla bint Mahdi ibn Saad. He recited poetry expressing his adoration of her, but in naming her continuously and publicly, convinced Layla’s father that he was mad, and so lost the opportunity of her hand in marriage. Layla was married to another man, and theirs became one of the great tragic love stories, a Middle Eastern Romeo and Juliet. It became known as Majnun Layla (Possessed by madness for Layla).

In Habibi (My beloved; the full Arabic title Habibi Rasak Kharban translates as Darling there’s something wrong with your head), the American-Syrian-Lebanese filmmaker Susan Youssef transfers the Majnun Layla tale to Gaza in 2001, near the beginning of second intifada. Qays and Layla, both from Khan Younis, have met at Birzeit University in the West Bank. When the Israeli occupation revokes their permits, both have to return home to Gaza and the watchful eyes of their families and community.

Layla’s mother is keen for her to marry Ward, an ambitious young doctor recently returned from America and in the process of setting up his own clinic. Her father, a quiet and religious man, is at first sympathetic to Layla’s passionate desire to finish her engineering degree.

But when Qays — like his ancient namesake — starts spray-painting classical Arabic paeans to her on the walls of neighboring shops and houses, the family becomes worried for their daughter’s reputation, and the business of getting her respectably married becomes all the more pressing. The modern-day Qays has grown up in a refugee camp and is a casual laborer on Gaza’s many building sites — not what Layla’s middle-class family had in mind for her.

Running away

At the same time, a family friend has been killed by a sniper from an Israeli settlement, not yet removed from Gaza at this point in the intifada. Layla’s brother and his friend make their first appearance in a comic scene, hanging out in the street, commenting on the niqaband abaya-clad “hotties” as they walk past, swathed in black cloth. But grief for his companion drives Walid to take comfort in religion and Hamas activism, and in his new-found conservatism he will not countenance the idea of his sister having a boyfriend or, indeed, leaving the house unaccompanied while she is under suspicion.

As they finally realize the magnitude of the obstacles facing them, Qays and Layla decide that if they want to be together, they will have to run away — not only from Khan Younis, but from the increasingly besieged Gaza Strip with its closed borders and close-knit society. But in 2001, this still involved having to cross an Israeli-controlled border. So they fall into the hands of interrogators who, grasping their vulnerable position, try to force them to become collaborators. From here on, we can only watch as their bid for happiness and freedom unravels.

Deft handling

This could easily have become a film of clunky stereotypes and obvious moralizing. But with Youssef’s deft handling of the story, it takes on an emotional depth and poetic subtlety which has earned it awards at film festivals in Venice, Dubai, Toronto and elsewhere. Layla’s father, for instance, is no “strict Muslim parent” straight from central casting. He is depicted as an affectionate father, trying to balance the demands of an increasingly conservative society and the diminishing choices available as the occupation makes education and movement more and more difficult and dangerous.

But it is the central characters — Qays, played by Kais Nashif, and Layla, played by Maisa Abdel Hadi — who carry the weight of the film. Nashif is a poet and a dreamer, wandering the bombed-out buildings of Khan Younis and daubing verses to his love. His plans for the future are as vague and imprecise as might be expected from this Byronic-looking former literature student with his shock of ringlets and worn suit jacket.

Layla, meanwhile, is a vivacious young woman, convincing as a would-be engineer with her cleverness and practicality. But Abdel Hadi’s portrayal of her is also warm, moving and vulnerable, and her pain when the Israeli interrogators try to force the names of resistance fighters from her is palpable. The performance richly deserves the best actress award Abdel Hadi received in Dubai, alongside a best film prize.

Poetic

Habibi is a film that has been ten years in the making. Stemming partly from Youssef’s own experiences of love and heartbreak, its story bears the familiar stamp of the Israeli occupation. Initial footage filmed in Gaza had to be trashed after Youssef was denied re-entry, and in the end the look and atmosphere of Khan Younis and Gaza City had to be reconstructed in the West Bank and other locations.

Typically for films about Palestine, it is also a low-budget affair, although skillful camera work means this isn’t an obvious drawback. Youssef’s direction maintains a tight focus on her main characters, often just their faces, and makes clever use of lighting, color contrasts and angles.

In doing so, she creates an emotionally complex and poetic film, much richer than its simple plot would suggest. Habibi looks set to become a stalwart of film festivals focusing on Palestine or on Arab or women directors, so hopefully it will be able to reach the audience it deserves.

Habibi screens on 10 April at the Birds Eye View festival in London and during theChicago Palestine Film Festival on 28 April and 2 May.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

Palestinians still resisting as they mark 37 years since Land Day

(CHICAGO 03/29/2013) – On the eve of the 37th year since Israeli Occupation Forces killed six Palestinians defending their land against Zionist confiscation, a new report admits Palestinians have access to less than 1 percent of “state land” in the West Bank.

Land Day, or ‘Youm al-Ard’ in Arabic, commemorates March 30, 1976, when hundreds of Palestinians staged a demonstration to protest the confiscation and closure of 5,500 acres of land from their villages in the Galilee. Six were murdered, 96 were injured and 300 were arrested. The day honors Khair Mohammad YasinRaja Husein Abu RiaKhader Abd KhalailehKhadijeh ShawahnehMohammad Yousef Taha, and Rafat Al Zuheiri, who died protecting their land. It has come to symbolize the resilient and defiant spirit of Palestinians who continue to demand justice, liberty and a life free from occupation.

Since 1967, occupation authorities had taken private Palestinian land, declaring it closed for ‘military use’ and then opening up the area for Jewish-only settlements. In 1979, Zionist authorities began confiscating  liberally Palestinian property and making it “state land.” The West Bank has about 325,000 acres of this so-called state land, and more than 99 percent of it has been given to Jewish settlers, according to Haaretz. 

This practice is just one of the many occupation policies that violate international law and deprive Palestinians of their basic human rights. The siege on Gaza, the refusal of right of return to millions of Palestinian refugees and prohibiting most Palestinians from entering Jerusalem, where this spring Jewish settlers – under the protection of the Israeli military – chased Palestinians from Al Aqsa mosque to conduct their Passover rituals inside Islam’s third holiest site.

The tactic is part of the escalation of the Judaization of Jerusalem, which includes removing Palestinians from the city, destroying Muslim and Christian religious sites and denying Palestinians access to the Al Aqsa mosque compound.

The United States enables Israeli authorities to act with impunity, mainly because of our more than $3 billion per year in US foreign military aid. We can ameliorate our culpability in America’s complicity in the occupation by continuing to raise our voices about the occupation, Israeli apartheid and US foreign aid.

Help AMP bring its awareness-raising ad campaign to cities across the country by making a tax-deductible donation today. Join AMP’s email list to get our latest action alerts, statements and notices of events.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

Syrian rebels capture key town near Jordan border

Syrians living in Jordan take part in a protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in front of the Syrian embassy in Amman March 29, 2013.

Syrian rebels on Friday captured the strategic town of Dael near the border with Jordan, after a day of fierce clashes that killed at least 38 people, activists said.

Sixteen rebels were among the dead, said the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The town lies less than 15 kilometers (10 miles) from the Jordanian border in Daraa province, where the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime began two years ago.

The rebel gains have coincided with what regional officials and military experts say is a sharp increase in weapons shipments to opposition fighters by Arab governments in coordination with the United States.

Although rebels control wide areas in northern Syria that border Turkey, the Jordanian frontier is only about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Damascus, or a third of the distance to the Turkish border.

“Rebels now control wide areas in the Daraa countryside,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman who heads the observatory. “Every area that goes out of government control is important.”

Despite the steady advances and the latest rebel victory in Dael, the regime still maintains a strong presence in the strategic province that leads to the capital, said Syrian activist Maher Jamous, who is from Dael.

He added that the capture of the town increases the pressure on the regime, which is known to have posted elite troops to Daraa province.

Dael has a population of 40,000, making it one of the bigger towns in the primarily agricultural region, which is dotted with small family farms, said Jamous.

Dael was taken by opposition fighters in the early days of the uprising, but was quickly recaptured by regime forces in May 2011, he added.

Amateur videos posted online by activists showed rebels in the streets of Dael, and the bodies of dead soldiers lying on the ground.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

Irish activist injured by IDF in West Bank

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Irish activist, Tommy Donnellan  was shot in the arm today by Israeli forces,  while he was filming in Nabi Salah, West bank. Tommy is a well known activist in Ireland and has been instrumental in many activities such as the highlighting of the mislabelling of Goods by Israel, speaking out against Human Right abuses, calling for safe passage of ships to Gaza , BDS etc…. He is always on the front line and I  am sure will continue to be , We wish Tommy a speedy recovery and will update when possible.

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Speaking from Nabi Saleh, Tommy Donnellan said: “I was filming the protest when suddenly I was shot in the arm by a rubber-coated steel bullet, fired by an Israeli soldier from about forty feet away. I think I was deliberately targeted as a journalist as my video camera was plainly visible, and there was no stone throwing going on anywhere near me. After being hit I remonstrated with the soldier who fired on me. He then went back down on onto his knee adopting a firing position; luckily I was able to run to the cover of a nearby wall.”

Mr. Donnellan also said that: “It’s important to stress that while today I was hit, Palestinians are injured by these bullets almost every day. Many are also killed by these so-called non-lethal weapons, while the international community looks on and does absolutely nothing.”

Also in Nabi Saleh today, there were reports of many injuries due to tear gas inhalation and several other professional journalists were attacked with rubber bullets, concussion grenades and forced out of the area by the Israeli military.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

Burma: Rohingya Muslims Face Humanitarian Crisis

  • A soldier patrols through a neighbourhood that was burnt during recent violence in Sittwe on June 14, 2012.

Burmese government restrictions on aid to Rohingya Muslims are creating a humanitarian crisis that will become a disaster when the rainy season arrives. Instead of addressing the problem, Burma’s leaders seem intent on keeping the Rohingya segregated in camps rather than planning for them to return to their homes.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director

(Bangkok) – The Burmese government is systematically restricting humanitarian aid and imposing discriminatory policies on Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State. The government should permit unfettered access to humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to Muslim populations, end segregated areas, and put forward a plan for those displaced to return to their homes.

“Burmese government restrictions on aid to Rohingya Muslims are creating a humanitarian crisis that will become a disaster when the rainy season arrives,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of addressing the problem, Burma’s leaders seem intent on keeping the Rohingya segregated in camps rather than planning for them to return to their homes.”

An ethnic Arakanese campaign of violence and abuses since June 2012 facilitated by and at times involving state security forces and government officials has displaced more than 125,000 Rohingya and Kaman Muslims in western Burma’s Arakan State. Tens of thousands of Rohingya still lack adequate humanitarian aid – leading to an unknown number of preventable deaths – in isolated, squalid displacement camps. Government security forces guarding the camps do not permit the residents to leave the camps, which has a devastating effect on their livelihoods, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch has visited every major internally displaced person (IDP) camp in Sittwe Township in Arakan State, as well as pockets of unregistered displaced people in coastal and intra-coastal waterway areas, and in Mrauk-U Township, where many displaced Rohingya currently remain. Displaced Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State are located in 13 townships throughout the state; the 15 largest IDP camps are in the area of the state capital, Sittwe.

Several camps housing Rohingya are located in paddy fields and lowland areas that face heavy flooding during the rainy season, which will begin in May, yet the authorities have not taken serious steps to move them to higher ground. Humanitarian organizations in Arakan State are concerned that heavy rains will overflow already inadequate and overused latrines, spreading otherwise preventable waterborne diseases throughout the displaced population, whose health has already been weakened by inadequate food and medical care. In some sites visited by Human Rights Watch, a handful of latrines were being shared by several thousand displaced Rohingya.

“The government seems untroubled by the dire humanitarian conditions in the camps in Arakan State but it will be responsible for the lives unnecessarily lost,” Robertson said. “Concerned donor governments should be demanding that the Burmese government produce an action plan to resolve the crisis because continued inaction will only make the crisis worse.”

The Burmese government has obstructed the allocation of adequate land for relocation sites for displaced Rohingya and Kaman Muslims despite repeated appeals by humanitarian agencies. On March 18, the European Commission warned the situation would turn into a “humanitarian disaster” if the internally displaced people living on paddy fields and sand banks were not relocated to safer sites within weeks. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) likewise warned of a “potentially devastating” effect on displaced Rohingya when the rains start.

On March 20, President Thein Sein’s spokesman, Ye Htut, rejected warnings about the severe humanitarian conditions for displaced Rohingya, telling Australia Network’s Newswire, “they have enough shelter and food supply for the rainy season.”

None of the displaced Rohingya interviewed by Human Rights Watch were consulted about where their shelters would be constructed. The government has refused to make a commitment to ensure their right to return home, or set out plans to ensure security for both the Muslim and Buddhist populations in the state. Human Rights Watch urged the Burmese government to treat displaced people in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement.

Among the displaced population are tens of thousands of “unregistered” Rohingya – those who were displaced between June and November 2012 but who have not been formally recorded by the Burmese authorities, even though they live in areas where the security forces deny them freedom of movement and their presence is known to the aid community.

Unregistered Rohingya told Human Rights Watch they lack food, shelter, medicine, potable water, clothing, and other necessities. The government has not authorized providing them with humanitarian aid.

Rather than providing assistance, state government officials have made excuses for denying the Rohingya aid, Human Rights Watch said. In February, Win Myaing, spokesman for the Arakan State government, told the Democratic Voice of Burma that Rohingya are deliberately inflating the numbers of those displaced to receive more aid. “Now, when we are making a list in the camp over here, then people from [another camp] will come,” he said. “Frankly, [the Rohingya] are just attempting to make the list bigger so that they can get more aid.”

The government’s failure to put forward plans or make efforts to return displaced Rohingya and other Muslims to their original towns and villages heightens concerns of a long-term intent to segregate this population, Human Rights Watch said. In the city of Sittwe, the Muslim population is now completely segregated. The neighborhood of Aung Mingalar, which is the last remaining Muslim neighborhood in Sittwe, is surrounded by barbed wire and Burmese army soldiers.

The Muslims remaining in the neighborhood are not permitted to leave the area, and humanitarian agencies are not permitted to deliver aid to the neighborhood because the residents are technically not displaced. Rohingya in the neighborhood told Human Rights Watch the state government has not replied to their requests to purchase rice.

A Muslim man in Aung Mingalar told Human Rights Watch that UN agencies have not been able to deliver any aid since June, saying, “We only want permission to bring food from outside to Aung Mingalar.”

In some areas, such as Myebon Township, the government and humanitarian agencies are constructing shelter on stilts over ground that will flood, rather than permitting the Rohingya to rebuild on land in their home village nearby. The authorities have told the UN and diplomatic community that the camps throughout the state are not envisioned as long-term “solutions,” but the government has failed to put forward plans for displaced people to return home, and also has not rejected demands by Arakanese communities to keep Rohingya segregated in remote areas.

“Donor governments should be pressing Burma’s government to allow humanitarian agencies to provide assistance to all those in need,” Robertson said. “But donors also need to make clear that government policies intended to segregate the Muslim population will be publicly opposed.”

The Burmese government has long prevented Rohingya from accessing health care in Arakan State, and restrictions have tightened since violence began in June. Human Rights Watch visited Arakan State’s largest government-operated hospital in Sittwe in late October, at a time of widespread violence against Muslims throughout the state, and there were no Muslim patients in the hospital.

A displaced Rohingya man in Sittwe told Human Rights Watch at the time: “After our houses were burned down here we couldn’t go to the government hospital. We cannot go to government hospitals.” A hospital employee confirmed that: “There have been no Bengali [Rohingya] patients in the hospital. If some Bengali [Rohingya] patients were sent to the hospital there would be many problems. I think there is a separate hospital by the military, in the refugee [IDP] camp. This is a government hospital.”

A discriminatory Citizenship Law passed in 1982 effectively denied Burmese citizenship to Rohingya, who are estimated to number between 800,000 and 1 million people in Burma. The government does not allow Rohingya to travel between townships without special permission or paying substantial bribes to state security forces. Internally displaced Rohingya are not permitted to travel outside of displacement sites, severely restricting their ability to earn a livelihood. There are also severe restrictions on marriage and the number of children Rohingya can have – and the multiagency border guard force Nasaka typically demands sizable payments from Rohingya seeking to marry or preparing to give birth.

Arakan State’s Rohingya population also faces widespread hostility from the majority Burmese Buddhist society. The violence in Arakan State in June between Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims was followed by planned attacks on Rohingya and Kaman Muslim communities in various townships in the state in October.

More recently, disputes between Buddhists and Muslims resulted in violence in the central Burma town of Meikhtila on March 20 to 22, which has spread to other parts of the country. During the violence, at least five mosques were burned down and an unknown number of people died as mobs and Buddhist monks attacked Muslim residents and set fire to Muslim homes, businesses, and places of worship. The violence in Meikhtila has displaced 12,000 Muslims, according to OCHA.

“The unfortunate lesson from the violence in Arakan State is that so far the government does little to hold accountable those who violate the rights of Muslims in Burma,” Robertson said. “By failing to stop violence and prosecute those who incite it, the country’s leaders are failing the test of reform.”

(Source / 29.03.2013)

Iraq to stop more aircraft, vehicles bound for Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad March 24, 2013.

Iraq says it will stop more aircraft moving through its airspace and vehicles traveling overland to search for weapons being sent to the Syrian civil war, a senior Iraqi official said Friday.

Government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said Iraq would conduct more random searches to check for weapons heading for the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad or rebels seeking to topple his regime.

In a telephone call to The Associated Press, al-Moussawi said Iraq refuses to be a “conduit for weapons for either side of the conflict.”

“The government has no interest in arming any side of the Syrian conflict,” he said.

The announcement came after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki during an unannounced visit last Sunday that shipments of Iranian weapons and fighters through Iraqi territory must stop. Iranian planes flying to Syria over Iraq have long been a source of contention between the U.S. and Iraq. American officials fear the near-daily flights are weapon runs.

U.S. officials were hoping for a ban on Iran-Syria flights over Iraqi territory. But they had said during Kerry’s visit that they would at least want the planes to land and be inspected in Iraq to ensure they were carrying humanitarian supplies, not weapons.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton secured a pledge from Iraq to inspect the flights last year, but since then only two aircraft have been checked by Iraqi authorities, U.S. officials said during Kerry’s visit.

It was not immediately clear when, and how more plane and vehicle searches would be conducted.

Al-Moussawi said part of the problem was the porous nature of Iraq’s long border with Syria that stretches some 600 kilometers (370 miles).

Rebels of the militant Islamic Jabhat al-Nusra are mostly in control on the Syrian side of the border. Iraqi officials say the militant group’s ideological parent, al-Qaida in Iraq, has also been growing more powerful in the western Anbar province that abuts the border.

Al-Moussawi said truck inspections in particular, would help halt weapons to militant rebels.

“It is a big border and we can’t fully control it,” he said.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

The Brotherhood does not arrest people: Ghozlan

Clashes between pro and anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters outside the Brotherhood's main headquarters in Moqattam on 22 March 2013

Clashes between pro and anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters outside the Brotherhood’s main headquarters in Moqattam on 22 March 2013

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan denied reports that his group mobilises its members in anticipation of presidential decisions.

In a letter to independent Al-Shorouk newspaper, the spokesman refuted claims made in an article published in the paper on Tuesday 26 March 2013. The article stated that the Brotherhood’s Shura Council met on Monday following Friday’s Moqattam clashes to discuss how the group would respond.

“It is simply not true that any meeting of the Brotherhood Shura Council or the Guidance Bureau was held,” said Ghozlan.

He also denied that the Muslim Brotherhood “arrested” anti-Brotherhood demonstrators. “The Brotherhood does not impose house arrests not shutter media outlets, because Brotherhood members never style themselves as judges over people or institutions, nor they break the law like many others do.”

Ghozlan blamed reports indicating the Brotherhood knew of presidential decisions beforehand for “inciting political forces against the Brotherhood, stirring up discord in society, deepening the political divide, and destroying social and political bonds.”

Multiple reports and eyewitness testimonies indicate that Brotherhood supporters detained others during clashes at the presidential palace in December and last Friday when violence erupted near the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Moqattam.

Leaders of Belal bin Rabah Mosque in Moqattam accused Brotherhood supporters of storming and taking control of the mosque.

Last week’s clashes left over 200 injured. President Mohamed Morsi condemned the wave of violence, claiming foreign enemies were seeking to sow discord amongst the Egyptian people.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

More than 100 Jerusalemite detainees within 3 months, including 20 children

 

images_News_2013_03_28_arrest7_300_0[1]OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) arrested since the beginning of 2013 about 105 Jerusalemites, including 20 minors, Palestinian human rights sources revealed.

The arrests came during protests and marches in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike, and demonstrations that have recently emerged to address the settlers’ breaking into al-Aqsa mosque, in addition to the recent events that took place at Shu’fat checkpoint and many parts and Jerusalemite villages.

The Israeli Public Prosecution have charged 85 out of 105 Jerusalemites with stone-throwing, participating in demonstrations, affiliation to Palestinian factions, shooting and attacking Israeli soldiers and settlers, PPS explained.

The PPS added that 34 detainees were released to house arrest after being tried out of jail and 15 detainees were released unconditionally after being tried in jail.

About 20 detainees were released unconditionally for lack of evidence, while 36 detainees were arrested until completion of all judicial proceedings against them.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

From Brazil to Tunisia, Palestinians call for their revolution

From Brazil to Tunisia, Palestinians call for their revolution

The World Social Forum marks a renewed commitment to the Palestinian cause.


As more than 50,000 activists from around the world bear down on Tunis for the twelfth annual World Social Forum, one group of delegates – the Palestinians – already has a head start in framing their agenda and message to civil society.

Just weeks after the most recent spate of attacks on Gaza, more than 3,500 participants from at least 36 countries gathered in the south-of-the-Capricorn Brazilian city of Porto Alegre last December to voice their opposition to Israeli occupation and pool knowledge and experience gleaned from their own grassroots movements.

The gathering highlighted the different approaches to the Palestinian cause taken by the Global North and the Global South. Northern countries and organisations, despite what may (or may not) be good intentions, often offer sympathy and charity – perpetuating a cycle of dependence that fails to address root causes. Collective organising at the Global South level, however, pinpoints systemic violence such as land grabs and militarisation. This starkly different method was front and centre in Porto Alegre, as Palestinians set forth on the road to Tunis.

Social movements and grassroots organisations chose Porto Alegre for a number of strategic reasons. It is an epicentre of progressive politics, and the host city for the first global World Social Forum in 2001. Paving the way for that initial meeting, Brazilian social movements like the MST (Landless Workers Movement) had won many of their hard-fought battles in the area, and were eager to share those victories with the 70+ member Palestinian delegation they were a part of hosting. The necessity of holding the forum outside the Middle East was also imposed by Israeli restrictions on movement in the occupied Palestinian territories. Combined with the politics of surrounding Arab countries, it is impossible for Palestinians from Israel, East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza, and the diaspora to meet in their own homeland.

The idea for a thematic Palestine-based World Social Forum originated in meetings in Dakar during the 2011 World Social Forum. Social movements – in particular, large Latin American movements such as the MST – offered to host the Palestinian-led international delegation. Three committees were instrumental in organising this forum for nearly two years: the Palestinian Committee, the Brazilian Committee, and the International Committee. The Palestinian delegation included a diverse group of women, youth, and other key grassroots leaders from across occupied Palestinian territory, Israel, and the diaspora.

Moving towards the current global World Social Forum in Tunis, there was strong agreement to support Palestinian popular resistance and cross-connect issues, such as Israeli arms exports and military aid that reaches far beyond the unilaterally-changing borders of occupied Palestinian territory. Brazil itself purchases increasing amounts of Israeli weaponry as Israel, the world’s third largest arms exporter, aims to reach $10 billion in profits within the coming years.

As a movement opposed to war and capitalistic profiteering, MST is rooted in land struggles, and is therefore no stranger to the campaigns that Palestinians are engaged in right now. In 1983, after years of underground organising, indigenous and displaced Brazilians founded what is today one of the most successful social movements in the world. To date, MST has reclaimed 17 million hectares of land – an area the size of neighbouring Uruguay. Its 1.5 million members across 23 Brazilian states realise that land confiscation is not just a national, but also a global problem.

The first Palestinian intifada, or uprising, of the 1980s brought with it a focus on Left politics – especially as they related to land grabs. MST partnered with Palestinians who sought to keep the territory that was promised to them under international law. One of their delegations to Palestine camped out in Yasser Arafat’s compound in Bethlehem while it was under siege. Ever since, MST has educated its base about facts on the ground in Palestine.

Together with social movements from each corner of the globe, MST was instrumental in forming Via Campesina (International Peasants Movement) that has grown to more that 200 million farmer, pastoralist, fisher, and indigenous members worldwide. What Via has lacked historically has been membership in the Middle East and North Africa. Palestinian movements, with the help of Brazilian and global counterparts, are eager to change that. Now it’s happening – movements from Palestine will be the first in the region to join the ranks of Via Campesina this year.

The Palestine-themed events in Brazil set a dazzling stage for this worldwide dance of civil society in Tunisia. Organisers are sending a powerful message through their country of choice. Tunisians proved to the world that a determined mass of people could non-violently overthrow a dictator in less than a month. When it comes to Global North patronage versus Global South solidarity, and when negotiations backslide, the leadership of social movements may represent a new force in the international politics that have failed us thus far. The World Social Forum process emphasises that another world is indeed possible.

And many Palestinians are eager to use Tunis as an opportunity to remind us all that their own revolution is far past time.

(Source / 29.03.2013)

PCHR Weekly Report: 4 wounded, 30 abducted by Israeli troops this week

In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for the week of 21- 27 March 2013, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) found that Israeli forces continued to use excessive force against peaceful protests in the West Bank. 4 protesters were wounded in the center and south of the West Bank, including a Norwegian human rights defender and a Palestinian one.

beit_hanoun[1]
Trucks stopped at Beit Hanoun crossing, which was closed by Israeli forces this week

In addition, Israeli forces conducted 37 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. 26 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children, were abducted in the West Bank, and a Palestinian child was abducted while attempting to cross the borders into Israel in the Gaza Strip. 3 Palestinian children were abducted at checkpoints.

The Israeli forces closed Karm Abu Salem and Beit Hanoun (Eirez) crossings into the Gaza Strip for seven consecutive days.

Israeli attacks in the West Bank:

During the reporting period, the Israeli forces wounded 4 protestors, including a Norwegian human rights defender and member of the board of directors of Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center, in the West Bank.

During the reporting period, the Israeli forces continued to systematically use excessive force against peaceful protests organized by Palestinians and Israeli and international activists against the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities in the West Bank and other protests in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in the Israeli jails. As a result, dozens of protesters suffered from tear gas inhalation and other sustained bruises.

During the reporting period, the Israeli forces conducted at least 37 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these incursions, the Israeli forces abducted at least 26 Palestinians, including 6 children. In one example of this week’s 37 incursions, on Wednesday, 27 March 2012, at approximately 01:00, the Israeli forces moved into Hebron. They raided and searched a number of houses and abducted 3 civilians affiliated with Hamas movement and a Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) member.

The Israeli forces have continued to impose severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians throughout the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem. Thousands of Palestinian civilians from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip continue to be denied access to Jerusalem.

The Israeli forces established dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank.

Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:

The Israeli forces have continued to attack the Palestinian fishermen in the sea. Israeli forces fired at Palestinian fishing boats, but no casualties were reported. The Israeli forces reduced the allowed fishing area to 3 nautical miles. PCHR’s fieldworkers documented 4 shooting incidents on Palestinian fishing boats that were sailing 3 nautical miles off al-Waha resort, northwest of Beit Lahia in the north of the Gaza Strip. As a result of the attacks, the fishermen were obliged to flee back to the shore fearing of being wounded or abducted. However, neither casualties nor material damage were reported.

It should be noted that on Thursday, 21 March 2013, the Israeli forces announced reducing the allowed fishing area from 6 to 3 nautical miles. Israel had allowed the Palestinian fishermen to sail 6 nautical miles off the Gaza Strip’s shore following the cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel last November.

In the Gaza Strip, on 24 March 2013, the Israeli forces stationed along the border fence, east of al-Musaddar village to east of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip, abducted Zeyad Sami Abu Ghuraba, 17, from al-Mussader village, when he attempted to cross the border into Israel.

In the Gaza Strip, the Israeli forces continued to chase the Palestinian fishermen in the sea. PCHR’s fieldworkers documented 4 shooting incidents on Palestinian fishing boats that were sailing 3 nautical miles off al-Waha resort, northwest of Beit Lahia in the north of the Gaza Strip. As a result of the attacks, the fishermen were obliged to flee back to the shore fearing of being wounded or abducted. However, neither casualties nor material damage were reported.

It should be noted that on Thursday, 21 March 2013, the Israeli forces announced reducing the allowed fishing area from 6 to 3 nautical miles. Israel allowed the Palestinian fishermen to sail 6 nautical miles off the Gaza Strip’s shore following the cease-fire agreement between Hamas and Israel last November.

The illegal Israeli-imposed closure of the Gaza Strip, which has steadily tightened since June 2007, has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip. The illegal closure has caused not only a humanitarian crisis, but a crisis of human rights and human dignity for the population of the Gaza Strip. Recently-declared measures to ease the closure are vague, purely cosmetic and fail to deal with the root causes of the crisis; the root causes can only be addressed by an immediate and complete lifting of the closure, including lifting the travel ban into and out of the Gaza Strip and the ban on exports. Palestinians in Gaza may no longer suffer from the same shortage of goods but, as long as the closure is allowed to continue, they will remain economically dependent, unable to care for themselves, and socially, culturally and academically isolated from the rest of the world.

During the reporting period, the Israeli forces completely closed the commercial border crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel. They closed Karm Abu Salem crossing from Sunday, 24 March 2013 – Wednesday, 27 March 2013, because of the Jewish holidays. This closure negatively affected the entry of goods, construction materials and medical consignments in the Gaza Strip. It also had a negative impact on the living conditions of the Palestinian civilians. The Israeli forces also imposed comprehensive security restrictions due to the Jewish Holiday of Passover. As a result, dozens of thousands of Palestinian workers were denied access to their work in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem. Moreover, the Palestinian traders were denied access to Israel and/or travel via the border crossings between the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Israeli settlement activities:

The Israeli forces have continued settlement activities in the West Bank, and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

On 21 March 2013, dozens of settlers, coming from a number of settlement outposts established in the center of the old city of Hebron in the center of the town, erected big tents and amusement park games in the Ibrahimi Mosque’s garden in the center of the old city, for celebrations of the Jewish holiday, Passover.

On the same day, Israeli forces started bulldozing tracts of land of approximately 550 dunums in area, belonging to members of Salah family in Batten al-Ma’si area, southern of al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem. The Israeli forces issued a decision two months ago ordering that 114 settlement units be built in the area in order to expand “Tel Hitamar” settlement outpost, established on lands of al-Khader village.

On 22 March 2013, Israeli forces issued a decision confiscating approximately 3 dunums of the lands of al-Jalama village, northern Jenin, approximate to the commercial crossing between the West Bank and Israel, under pretext of expanding the crossing and also for security necessities. The land is the property of Saleh Abu-Farha.

On 23 March 2013, Israeli forces, accompanied by military vehicles, raided the agricultural lands surrounding “Susiya” settlement, established on Palestinian civilians’ lands eastern of Yatta, southern of Hebron. The soldiers were deployed in the area and banned Palestinian farmers from accessing their lands under pretext that these areas are closed military zones. The Israeli forces assaulted Palestinian civilians after they refused to leave their lands, and abducted one of them.

On the same day, a number of settlers from “Havat Gilad” settlement outpost, established on Palestinian civilians’ lands western of Nablus, gathered by Nablus – Qalqilya road. The settlers threw stones at Palestinian vehicles as they were passing by the aforementioned road.

On Sunday, 24 March 2013, dozens of settlers, coming from a number of settlement outposts established in the center of the old city of Hebron, central Hebron, raised Israeli flags on historical monuments and ancient ruins in the old city as well as al-Sahla, al-Shuhada Street and the Ibrahimi Mosque’s playground.

On Sunday, 24 March 2013, the Israeli authorities issued a military decision ordering that dozens of dunums in Kherbat al-Dair area, southwestern of Bethlehem, be confiscated. The goal of the confiscation of these lands is for the construction of 70 new housing units, in order to link “Betar Illit” settlement, established on lands of Housan, Nahalin and Foukein valley villages, to “Jfot” settlement, which would lead to an almost comprehensive closure of the village, depriving dozens of families from accessing their agricultural lands in Kherbat al-Dair area.

On 26 March 2013, the Israeli forces prohibited Palestinian civilians from reconstructing the eastern entrance to Yatta village, south of Hebron, which is linked to bypass road (60), under pretext that it falls under area (C) which goes under Israeli jurisdiction according to the Oslo Accords of 1993 and it is forbidden to make any changes in these areas without obtaining prior permission from the concerned Israeli authorities.

Israeli attacks on non-violent demonstrations:

Following the Friday Prayer on 22 March 2013, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders organized a peaceful demonstration in Bil’ein village, west of Ramallah, in protest to the construction of the annexation wall and in solidarity with the prisoners on hunger strike inside Israeli jails. The demonstration was held in commemoration of Mohammed ‘Assfour, who had died of his wounds, sustained on 22 January 2013 in the clashes between Palestinian civilians and the Israeli forces at the eastern entrance of ‘Aboud village, on 07 March 2013. The demonstrators marched in the streets of the village, chanting slogans calling for national unity. The protesters aimed to stress the need to adhere to national principles and the right of return, to resist the occupation and to call for the release of all Palestinian prisoners. The protesters raised Palestinian flags and pictures of prisoners and made their way towards the lands adjacent to the annexation wall. The Israeli forces closed all ways and entrances to the village since early morning hours, to prevent Palestinians, journalists and international activists from joining the protest. The protesters raised Palestinian flags and made their way towards the wall. They called through megaphones for Israeli settlers in “Mitityahu” settlement to leave Palestinian land. Israeli soldiers stationed in the area fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators. As a result, Norwegian solidarity activist, Harold Hawka, 64, was hit by a tear gas canister to the right leg, and dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises.

Also following the Friday Prayer, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders organized a peaceful demonstration in Ne’lin village, west of Ramallah, in protest at the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities. The demonstrators moved towards areas of the annexation wall. Immediately, Israeli soldiers stationed in the area fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators. As a result, dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises.

Around the same time on Friday, 22 March 2013, dozens of Palestinian civilians and Israeli and international human rights defenders gathered in the Martyrs Square in Nabi Saleh village, northwest of Ramallah, to organize a weekly peaceful protest against the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities and in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners inside Israeli jails. The protesters walked towards the gate erected by Israeli forces near the entrance of the village, which leads to Palestinian lands that Israeli settlers from the nearby “Halmish” settlement are trying to seize. Israeli soldiers fired live and rubber-coated bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the protesters. As a result, dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises.

Following the Friday Prayer, dozens of Palestinian civilians from ‘Aboud village, international and Israeli human rights gathered in the center of ‘Aboud village, northwest of Ramallah, for a demonstration in protest to the construction of the wall, settlement activity and in solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike inside Israeli jails. The demonstrators marched in the streets of the village, raised the flag of Palestine and headed towards the western entrance of the village, approximate to the annexation wall. The demonstrators threw stones and empty bottles at the Israeli forces, who were deployed at the entrance of the village and across the adjacent settlers street. In response, the forces fired live bullets, rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs at the demonstrators, sprinkled them with waste water and chased them inside of the village. As a result, two Palestinian civilians sustained wounds, and others suffered tear gas inhalation; others sustained bruises. The wounds’ of the two civilians were as follows: the first, a 25-year-old civilian sustained a bullet wound to the chest; and the second, a 31-year-old civilian sustained three bullet wounds in both legs.

At approximately 12:15 on Friday, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international human rights defenders organized a peaceful demonstration in the center of Kufor Kadoum village, northeast of Qalqilya, in protest to the continuous closure of the eastern entrance of the village since the outbreak of al-Aqsa Intifada. The demonstrators chanted against the occupation and raised flags before the Israeli forces, who unusually, did not fire any sound bombs or tear gas canisters. The demonstrators found a number of ambushes set by the Israeli forces to arrest them, as a number of Israeli soldiers hid behind bushes and between houses. The demonstration ended at approximately 14:00; no abductions were reported.

At approximately 13:00 on Thursday, 22 March 2013, dozens of Palestinian civilians, activists of the Popular Committees against Settlement Activity and the Hebron Defense Committee and international human rights activists gathered in al-Haraiek area, southeast of Hebron, for a peaceful demonstration calling for opening the route linking Hebron to it southern villages, which has been closed for the past 12 years. These villages are, al-Rayhia, al-Thaheria, Doura and al-Fawar Refugee Camp. Upon their arrival to the steel gate which closes the road leading to bypass road (60), the Israeli forces surrounded the area and declared it a closed military zone, ordering the demonstrators to leave immediately. The soldiers fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs at the demonstration. A number of protesters fainted as a result of tear gas inhalation. As a result, Amin Abdel-Majid Ahmed al-Bayed, 50, was hit by a tear gas canister to the right side of his face; the canister was shot by an Israeli soldier from a distance of less than 30 meters, this resulted in damaging the bones of his jaw. Mr. al-Bayed was evacuated al-Ahly Hospital in Hebron where he underwent three surgeries, it should also be mentioned that he is a board member of Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center (JLAC). In his testimony to a PCHR fieldworker, Mr. al-Bayed said, “We went to al-Haraiek area to participate in the weekly demonstration demanding that the routes, closed by cement blocks and steel gates, be opened. We were surprised to find a large unit of the Israel forces stationed in the area. These forces started to fire tear gas canisters and sound bombs indiscriminately at us and the civilian houses in the area. In the meantime, I was standing close to the scene and an Israeli soldier was standing less than 30 meters from me. When I looked at him, he fired a tear gas canister directly at me and it hit me in the jaw and I fell to the ground. I was taken via a private car to al-Ahly Hospital in Hebron for treatment, where I underwent three surgeries because I sustained damages to the arteries and the jaw bones.”

At noon on Friday, 22 March 2013, dozens of Palestinian civilians and dozens of prisoners’ families demonstrated in front of “Ofer” prison, southwest of Ramallah, in solidarity with the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. The demonstration moved towards the prison gate. The Israeli forces closed the gate before the demonstrators could enter and started shooting live fire, rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs at them. As a result, dozens of civilians suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises after being severely beaten.

Also following the Friday Prayer, dozens of Palestinian boys and teenagers gathered near the annexation wall, established on the southern side of Beit Loqia village, southwest of Ramallah. The demonstrators threw stones at the Israeli soldiers stationed behind the wall, who in response fired rubber-coated metal bullets, tear gas canisters and sound bombs at them and chased them across the olive fields. As a result, a number of Palestinian civilians suffered from tear gas inhalation; others sustained bruises.

Following the Friday Prayer on 15 March 2013, dozens of Palestinian civilians gathered in Um Rokba area, at the southwestern entrance of al-Khader village, south of Bethlehem, for a demonstration in solidarity with the prisoners inside Israeli prisons. The demonstrators set fire to rubber tires and threw stones at the Israeli forces stationed at the aforementioned entrance. Immediately, the Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs at the demonstration and civilian houses; as a result, some fainted due to tear gas inhalation. Also, Israeli soldiers used the roofs of a number of civilian houses in the area as military watchtowers.

Recommendations to the international community:

Due to the number and severity of Israeli human rights violations this week, the PCHR made several recommendations to the international community. Among these were a recommendation that the international community act in order to stop all Israeli settlement expansion activities in the West Bank through imposing sanctions on Israeli settlements and criminalizing trading with them.

The PCHR calls upon the UN General Assembly to transfer the Goldstone Report to the UN Security Council in order to refer it to the International Criminal Court in accordance with Article 13(b) of the Rome Statute.

For the full text of the report, click on the link below:
http://www.pchrgaza.org/portal/en/index.php?option=com_…d=183

(Source / 29.03.2013)