Israel releases former Palestinian minister

HEBRON (Ma’an) — Israel on Sunday released the former Palestinian minister of local government after detaining him for 13 months without charge.

Issa Khayri al-Jabari, 47, returned to Hebron after being jailed under administrative detention, without trial or charge.

Fifteen Palestinian MPs are currently detained in Israeli jails, according to the prisoner rights group Addameer.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

Mursi’s Egypt seeks to keep strong ties with France

CAIRO (AFP) — Egypt wants to maintain close ties with France following the uprising which brought Islamists to power, Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr told AFP on Sunday on the eve of a visit to Paris.

“It’s a message of continuity,” Amr said ahead of the trip during which he will hold talks with President Francois Hollande and Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday.

“Relations are based on interests, on strategic cooperation, not depending on who is in power,” he told AFP in an interview.

Amr rejected the idea that the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, who had been in power for 30 years, and the arrival of a president from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Mursi, would result in a major change in ties between the two states.

Amr, a career diplomat and foreign minister since July 2011, sought to play down disagreements over France’s military intervention in Mali, after Mursi said in January he would not accept any operation “likely to fuel conflict in the region.”

A senior Brotherhood leader last week also compared the French intervention to those of the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Before using force, we need to exhaust and explore all peaceful means” and treat problems that often have their roots in poverty and under-development, Amr said.

“We are against any effort to overthrow the government by force, we are against any efforts for extremists to overtake any country,” he said.

“But we should also look at these issues in a holistic way, not only military force can solve that problem.”

Amr said that a visit by Mursi to Paris — cancelled in January due to unrest in Egypt — was still on the cards.

On the conflict in Syria, Paris and Cairo see eye to eye, both having firmly called for the ouster of President Bashar Assad, while Paris has proposed arming the Syrian opposition.

Amr said: “The opposition has of course the right to defend themselves, but at the same time we need to strike a balance so as not to contribute to an increase of bloodshed and not lose sight that the solution should be a political solution.”

Turning to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Amr said: “It is time for countries like France, Egypt and others to get together and come up with some creative ideas to really achieve peace on the ground.”

(Source / 31.03.2013)

Alternative world forum supports Palestinian popular resistance

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The World Social Forum expressed support for Palestinian popular resistance and called for the rights of Palestinians refugees in its closing statement Sunday.

The week-long anti-globalization forum, held in Tunis, also called for the release of Palestinian political prisoners, the dismantling of Israel’s wall and an end to Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip.

The forum’s closing statement condemned normalization with Israel, by countries, institutions or companies, which it said allowed Israel to act with impunity.

The forum’s general assembly called for an embargo on arms to Israel and urged more flotillas to break the Gaza blockade. It also called for the dissolution and restructuring of the international quartet of mediators – Russia, the UN, the US and the EU.

On Saturday, more than 15,000 people marched in central Tunis chanting support for the Palestinian people.

“Land, liberty, dignity,” chanted the marchers as they made their way to the emblematic Habib Bourguiba Avenue — epicenter of the 2011 protests in Tunisia that sparked the Arab Spring in several Arab capitals.

The march was organized to coincide with Land Day commemorations in Palestine and parts of Israel to mark the 1976 killing of six protesters demonstrating against Israeli plans to confiscate Palestinian land.

The World Social Forum brought together some 30,000 individuals and 4,500 organizations who addressed a range of subjects from the environment to women’s rights.

The event, launched on Tuesday with another massive march in the heart of Tunis, casts itself as an alternative to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“We are marching today to make sure that the rights of the Palestinian people to move freely by sea or land are respected, and against the blockade (imposed by Israel) on the Gaza Strip,” David Heap of the GazaArk rights watchdog told AFP.

Many marchers were draped in the iconic Palestinian black-and-white keffiyeh scarf.

Syrian dissidents, Chadian opposition members and officials of Lebanon’s influential Shiite movement Hezbollah marched shoulder to shoulder with citizens of France, Canada and the United States.

The peaceful protest wound its way from Habib Bourguiba Avenue to the embassy of Palestine some four kilometers away.

“We wanted to attend the forum which focused on a fundamental issue — the Palestinian cause,” said Ali Fayyad, a Hezbollah member of the Lebanese parliament who headed the party’s delegation to the forum.

Hundreds of workshops were held to discuss a variety of political and social problems, as well as the economic grievances behind the Arab Spring, the crisis in Europe and the role of women in the mostly Muslim Arab world.

The WSF has its roots in 1999 street protests in the US city of Seattle but its first edition was held two years later in Brazil’s Porto Alegre.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

7 injured as settlers attack Palestinian school bus

NABLUS (Ma’an) — Settlers threw rocks at a Palestinian school bus south of Nablus on Sunday, injuring seven children, a Palestinian Authority official said.

Ghassan Daghlas, who monitors settlement activity in the northern West Bank, said settlers smashed the windshield of two buses returning from a school trip.

Seven children were injured and taken to the Rafedia Hospital in Nablus, Daghlas said.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

Israel will continue to usurp Palestinian lands: Knesset member

Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoabi (file photo)

Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoabi
Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoabi says Tel-Aviv will continue to usurp Palestinian lands as Israeli forces attack Palestinian demonstrators on the 37th anniversary of Land Day.

Zoabi, who represents the Balad party in the Knesset (parliament), also stated that Israeli regime “expropriated 86% of the Arab’s land, who now live on 3% of their land.”

“They take what we have, and try to get rid of us and then push us into a small piece of land. Colonialism? – even worse,” she added.

The Arab member of Knesset went on to say that “Tel Aviv will continue to force out nearly 30,000 Palestinians from their villages in Naqab desert in a bid to usurp 200 acres of their lands.”

The Knesset member made the remarks hours after Israeli forces attacked Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, injuring dozens of protesters.

Clashes broke out in the village of Jayyus after Israeli troops fired teargas canisters at hundreds of Palestinians who wanted to plant trees in agricultural lands in commemoration of Land Day. Several people were injured in the attack.

Similar scuffles erupted at Qalandiya checkpoint in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where Israeli forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters. Several protesters were also wounded in the incident.

March 30 is commemorated every year because of a deadly incident on that day in 1976 in which Israeli troops killed six Palestinians during a protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands.

Palestinian activists also marched on the Israeli apartheid barrier. A similar rally was held in the town of Sakhnin.

During the 2012 Land Day protests one person was killed and more than two dozen others were wounded after Israeli forces opened fire on demonstrators in the northern Gaza Strip.

On the same day in the West Bank, Israeli forces beat up a crowd of peaceful demonstrators in al-Quds (Jerusalem) and arrested a number of protesters. Israeli police also fired rubber bullets, and teargas, and used stun grenades to disperse the protesters.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

Celebrated Palestinian singer arrested, accused of throwing stones; could face long prison term Serious doubts raised over accusations


Oday Khatib, performing in France in 2012. Photo by Musiciens pour la Palestine

An internationally-acclaimed Palestinian singer has been arrested by Israeli military forces and accused of throwing stones, a charge that could send him to prison for up to ten years.

Oday al-Khatib, 22 years old, born and raised in Al Fawwar refugee camp near Hebron, was arrested on March 19 by Israeli soldiers who were chasing stone-throwing youths in the area.  He is a star singer of Al Kamandjati, the acclaimed Ramallah-based music school founded in 2005 byRamzi Aburedwan, and has recorded and toured with various Arabic music ensembles in France, Belgium, Lebanon, Norway, Italy, Palestine, Dubai, Algeria, and Austria.  (Ramzi and Al Kamandjati form the main focus of my new book, and Oday’s story will be featured prominently in it.)

The apparent circumstances around Oday’s arrest cast doubt on the charges.  Oday, according to interviews with his parents, was waiting for a friend on a hill in Al Fawwar, and not part of the group of stone-throwing boys.  Jihad Khatib, Oday’s father, told a field representative for the respected Israeli human rights group B’tselem: “While Oday was waiting a group of kids threw stones at some soldiers who happened to be in the area and when the soldiers chased the kids.  It did not come to his mind the the soldiers would go for him, otherwise he would have run away.”  Oday’s mother, in a conversation with Celine Dagher of Al Kamandjati, and his father, speaking with my colleague Anan Abu-Shanab, underscored that Oday did not believe he was a target of the soldiers:  “Oday did not run when he saw the kids running towards him,” Anan reports hearing from Jihad, “and then the soldiers came and arrested him.”  The family maintains that Oday was waiting on the hill for his friend, with whom he planned to have dinner, and that Oday’s cell phone log can prove that he called his friend just before leaving his house.

Perhaps more significantly, the charges against Oday appear questionable because until now, Oday has never been arrested or jailed, according to Celine.  For many Palestinians, throwing stones at soldiers who have invaded their territory is part of a long history of legitimate resistance to a 47-year illegal military occupation.  And though Oday’s brothers have clashed repeatedly with Israeli soldiers since at least 2002 –  after one brother, Rasmi, was shot in the shoulder in an Al Fawwar schoolyard and lost the use of his left arm – Oday has found his resistance to Israel’s military occupation through his singing.  “Oday is not like any other of my sons,” Jihad told the military court when the charges were brought against his son.  “He is not interested in throwing stones or getting involved in this.  Since he was nine years old he was interested only in music.  For you to keep Oday in the prison with all other prisoners is simply an injustice.”

Oday has long been well-known in Al Fawwar as a singer of Palestinian resistance songs.  In 2003, he was “discovered” by Ramzi and a group of touring French musicians conducting workshops in Palestine in an effort to prepare the ground for the music school, which opened in 2005.  That year Oday began touring with Ramzi and his band, Dalouna, thrilling French audiences with his charismatic presence, wearing a keffiyeh around his neck and singing in his powerful boy’s soprano voice.

Oday was barely 14 when he took the French stage for the first time, looking out from behind the curtain to see nearly a thousand people waiting to hear him sing.  Fellow band members recall that he had no problem using his voice as an instrument to cut through the tabla, oud, clarinet and buzouk. He sang The Stranger, a Palestinian protest song, scanning the crowd to see if he was connecting.  “Ramzi told me to sing from my heart,” Oday recounted in an interview with me last summer.  “I wanted them to understand my life.  I looked into their eyes with a special emotion.  They really listened.  The way I looked at them, I could tell whether they liked it or not.”

“He created an amazing quiet in the room,” Ramzi remembered.  “People were standing there with their mouths open.  And for the ones who understood Arabic, they started to cry.  Even a French girl, who understood the sadness, was crying.”

On March 13, six days before his arrest, Celine saw Oday singing live on television from Nablus.  The occasion was the Mahmoud Darwish award, named for the late Palestinian poet. “We were watching it with Ramzi and I told him it is strange, Oday does not sing as usual today,” Celine recalled.  Later, when she came to Al Kamandjati, a fellow singer told Celine that Oday had just learned that his friend from Al Fawwar had recently been killed in the camp, and that Oday “did not want to sing..  He was almost crying before going to the stage,” Celine recounted.

That was the last time Celine heard Oday sing.  His military trial is scheduled for April 3.  The conviction rate for such trials, according to a recent article in the New York Times Magazine, was 99.74 percent in 2010; in other words, about one in 400 accused were found innocent of the charges brought against them.  If convicted of throwing stones — at soldiers engaged in a military occupation internationally recognized as illegal — Oday Al Khatib, the celebrated singer known throughout Palestine and Europe, could receive up to ten years in an Israeli prison.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

The Nakba

Palestinian employees at the Customs Department, Haifa
Nakba is an Arabic word that means “catastrophe.” The Nakba was the destruction, expulsion, looting, massacres and incidents of rape of the Palestinian inhabitants of this country. It was keeping refugees out by force at the end of the war, in order to establish the Jewish state. And it is the ongoing destruction of Palestinian localities, the disregard for the rights of refugees and displaced people, and the prohibition against teaching and commemorating the Nakba in schools and civic groups.

Zochrot (“Remembering”) seeks to raise public awareness of the Palestinian Nakba, especially among Jews in Israel, who bear a special responsibility to remember and amend the legacy of 1948. The principal victims of the Nakba were the Palestinians, especially the refugees, who lost their entire world. But Jews in Israel also pay a price for their conquest of the land in 1948, living in constant fear and without hope.

The Nakba destroyed the fabric of relations that existed between Jews and Palestinians before 1948. In recognizing and materializing the right of return lies the possibility for Jews and Palestinians to live in this country together.

Zochrot carries out different projects to advance understanding of Nakba and its legacy. This website is one of those projects. The site presents information about the Palestinian localities that Israel destroyed in 1948 and about the Nakba’s place in our lives today. The Nakba is spoken in different voices on this site — in photographs, testimonies, maps, prose, and more. Zochrot’s is one of these voices, a voice that seeks recognition for injustice and new paths toward change and repair.

Sign up for our newsletter.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

Deadly bombings strike Baghdad districts

At least four people dead and 15 others injured after separate bombings in Baghdad areas of Abu Ghraib and Kazimiyah.

Levels of violence remain high in Iraq, at least 266 people have been killed in attacks this month
Two separate explosions in Baghdad have killed four people and wounded 14, officials have said.

Police officers said a bomb attached to a policeman’s car exploded early on Sunday in the capital’s northern Kazimiyah neighbourhood, killing an officer and a bystander and wounding five others.

In the second incident, police officers said a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden car into an army checkpoint in Baghdad’s western suburb of Abu Ghraib a few hours later.

The bombing killed two soldiers and wounded nine people, of which four were civilians.

Health officials confirmed the causality figures. Police and military personnel are favourite targets of fighters seeking to undermine the Iraqi government’s efforts to maintain security.

The attacks come ahead of provincial elections scheduled for April 20, due to be held in 12 of Iraq’s 18 provinces, the country’s first polls since a parliamentary vote in March 2010.

But questions have been raised over the credibility of the polls as they have been postponed in two provinces roiled by months of protests, and 11 candidates have been killed, according to an unofficial tally by the AFP news agency.

Although markedly lower than its peak in 2006 and 2007, levels of violence remain high in Iraq – at least 266 people have been killed in attacks this month, the highest figure since August 2012.

(Source / 31.03.2013)

Israel Assassination of Rachel Corrie: BBC Admits Failings in Reporting

SPIRIT OF RACHEL CORRIE BLOCKED BY EGYPT:  Leader of Gaza aid mission goes on hunger strike

On Tuesday 26th March, the BBC has admitted that a reference it made to Israeli soldiers dying on the same day US activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza was not ‘duly accurate’. No Israeli soldiers were killed on that day, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) said in a press release.

The claim was made by veteran BBC presenter, Martha Kearney, on BBC Radio 4′s World at One programme, on the day an Israeli court ruled that Israel was not to blame for Corrie’s death.

PSC has been lobbying the BBC for seven months, since the broadcast in August 2012, to extract an admission that Kearney’s false claim constituted a breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines on Accuracy.

During a segment dealing with the court ruling on 28th August, Kearney interviewed the Israeli government spokesperson, Mark Regev, to ask for his views on the case.

In the course of the interview, she said to him: ‘Clearly Rachel Corrie was one of the casualties of what happened that day – and I know Israeli soldiers died too’.

She concluded her sentence with a question: ‘But has this meant there’s a re-think of the policy of what was happening at that time – bulldozing Palestinian houses?’

rachel copy

PSC objected on the grounds that Kearney’s statement was false and on the additional grounds that the presenter seemed to be implying conflict ‘that day’ between Corrie – an unarmed civilian protestor – and the Israeli army which had resulted in armed Israeli soldiers being killed.

The organisation, which campaigns for justice and self-determination for the Palestinian people, said this amounted to a breach of the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines, in particular:

‘The BBC must not knowingly and materially mislead its audiences. We should not distort known facts, present inverted material as fact or otherwise undermine our audiences’ trust in our content.’

Today, the BBC Trust ruled that there had been no breach of the guidelines. In its decision, published on the BBC website, the Trust acknowledged that Kearney’s question ‘was poorly phrased and therefore gave a false impression’. However, the Trust added that ‘there was no evidence to support the assertion that the audience were knowingly misled.’

The Trust also said Kearney’s question ‘had not been duly accurate; the BBC should have apologised and this had been done at Stage One.’

In an online apology printed in September 2012, the BBC continued to defend Kearney, saying: ‘Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the previous week.’ However, neither of those soldiers were killed in Gaza, but died in the West Bank, and their deaths were entirely unrelated to Corrie and her actions on 16th March 2003, the day she was killed.

In the course of seven months of correspondence, the BBC repeatedly said Kearney was right to mention the non-existent deaths of Israeli soldiers ‘that day’ as this provided ‘context for the incident’ and for the ‘overall situation’. When questioned on why Kearney hadn’t mentioned Palestinians being killed, including Palestinian children killed on the same day Corrie was killed, the BBC said:

‘The fact that other [Palestinian] deaths occurred on the same day as hers is incidental to that topic, and I therefore don’t agree that the omission of that information rendered the report inaccurate or misleading.’

Amena Saleem, of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘The hypocrisy of the BBC is breathtaking. In the same breath it is saying that Kearney’s fabrication of the deaths of Israeli soldiers on the day Rachel Corrie was killed provides ‘context’ for what happened, but to mention the deaths of Palestinians, including children, who were actually killed on that day is irrelevant.’

Saleem added: ‘While the BBC has admitted that one of its star presenters was not ‘duly accurate’ when she claimed to know that Israeli soldiers died on the same day as Corrie, it cannot just come out and say she was wrong and shouldn’t have said this at all. For seven months, the BBC has done its utmost to justify Kearney’s false statement and has made itself look ridiculous in the process.’

In total, 11 complainants took the case to the BBC Trust. Saleem said she hoped this would show the BBC that it could not take its misreporting lightly. She added: ‘In the week Rachel Corrie was killed, 27 Palestinians, including seven children, were killed by Israeli forces. If you listened to the World at One on 28th August 2012, you would think Rachel Corrie and some Israeli soldiers were killed in related incidents. You would be completely misinformed, and you would have no idea of the scale of the slaughter by Israel against the Palestinians. This, unfortunately, is par for the course with BBC reporting on Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.’

(Source / 31.03.2013)

UFree Network: Palestinian prisoners and detainees denied medical care


UFree Network to defend the rights of Palestinian prisoners denounced the ongoing human rights violations committed by Israel against prisoners. UFree confirms that Palestinian prisoners are being denied basic health care intentionally, the network suggested this is part of Israeli procedures of torture.

Prisoners with different diseases either chronic or normal complications are denied medicines and also not being seen by doctors. Many of the prisoners are given painkillers, antibiotics meanwhile they are in bad need for some special medications as they suffer chronic diseases. Israeli prison authorities prevent specialised doctors from providing health services to prisoners.

Additionally, prisoners lack health facilities like small clinics and units. The network perceive at these practices as measures of slow-death sentences against prisoners.

In a statement dispatched to the Press, UFree stated that a number of 1400 prisoners are suffering various health problems. Some of them are with chronic diseases like cancer, heart/kidney failure in addition to asthma and rheumatism. Many of the diseases inflicted prisoners due to environmental and health conditions in prisoners, said the statement.

According to the statement, prisoner Maysr Abu Hamdya suffers Throat cancer since 7 months, yet no medical care was provided to him so far. Another prisoner named Nasim Khatab in Nafha prison is disabled and in need for a surgery to implant artificial joint, however he is being ignored.

The statement revealed that dozens of prisoners in Ramla detention facility suffer various diseases. Five of them are paralysed and they are not being offered to see doctors despite their constant requests. Their families are demanding to bring doctors from outside prison but Israeli authorities refuse.

Israeli practices are part of human rights violations which include many forms of torture. Prisoners are being exposed to torture immediately as they are detained, then they are not allowed to see their families.

(Source / 31.03.2013)