Palestinian farmers thirsty for exports

A lack of water because of Israeli restrictions and a system of checkpoints make it harder for farmers to prosper.

Agriculture accounts for less than 5 percent of Palestinian GDP [Nakheel Palestine/Al Jazeera]
Jordan Valley, West Bank – Agriculture has long formed a pillar of Palestinian society, bringing in much-needed income and creating a bond between man and land.

Today, this sector is suffering, both because of the Israeli occupation and alleged negligence by the Palestinian Authority. This is the bleak picture that Zuhair Manasrah draws on as he speaks of the date company he runs.

Located in the Jordan Valley, known as the breadbasket of the Palestinian territories, Nakheel Palestine (Arabic for “Palm trees of Palestine”) is the largest company to grow, package and export dates all under one roof.

“There are many obstacles to farming here, Israeli restrictions to land and water being some of the main ones,” said the 69-year-old Manasrah. But his love for the land ultimately brought him into agriculture after a long political career, which included serving as governor of Jenin and Bethlehem.

Just beyond the walls of his plant, one can see what he is talking about. All around, rows of settlement houses stipple the higher elevations. For Palestinians here, water is hard to come by, and permits to dig wells are hardly ever given by Israeli authorities. But the precious liquid is copiously available for Israeli settlers nearby.

“The provision of water in the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas of jurisdiction is under their responsibility … if the distribution is somehow lacking, the questions regarding that should be addressed to the PA.”

– Israeli government spokesperson

According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group, “44 million square metres of water a year is allocated to fewer than 10,000 settlers living in the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area. This amount is almost one-third the amount of water accessible to the 2.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank.”

This unequal water distribution has allowed settlements to thrive while reducing the amount of Palestinian land cultivated, thus leading to a decline in the competitiveness of crops.

Israeli response

Ilana Stein, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ deputy spokesperson, said B’Tselem’s findings are partial and incorrect.

“The provision of water in the Palestinian Authority (PA) areas of jurisdiction is under their responsibility; they decide on these issues so if the distribution is somehow lacking the questions regarding that should be addressed to the PA,” Stein said.

“Some of these matters could have been resolved if the PA would have accepted desalinated water from Israel, or invested in their own desalination programs. [Moreover] water to the Israeli residents in the West Bank comes from Israel and has nothing to do with the Palestinian quotas of water.”

Manasrah first began his date-farming venture after he retired from politics and went back to his village of Bani Na’im near the southern West Bank city of Hebron, to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a farmer. There, he grew olive, almond and grape trees.

His work ultimately led him to Jericho, where he found the idea of raising date trees lucrative. “I quickly discovered that marketing and selling dates was the key to success, especially since a sealing and packaging plant was something that we lacked in the area,” he said.

He started off with 5,500 trees, built a plant unmatched in size and equipment, and the export business took off. But Manasrah eventually hit a financial wall and with no liquidity in tow, he resorted to Palestinian banks for loans. After he was turned down, he merged with another date-producing company that led to the birth of Nakheel Palestine.

According to Manasrah, Palestinian financial companies, aware of this political landscape, are loath to invest in the agro-business sector, while international donors are fearful of pouring in money because most agricultural land, including his date farms, are located in Area C. Under complete Israeli control, Area C constitutes some 60 percent of the entire West Bank, and contains the largest network of water supplies and arable land.


Israeli blockade limits Gaza farm exports

Agricultural decline

Today agriculture only contributes 4.6 percent of the Palestinian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), down from some 13 percent in 1994, just after the Oslo Accords were signed.

In a report released in March, the World Bank said the share of exports in the Palestinian economy has also been in steady decline since 1994, dropping to 7 percent of GDP in 2011.

A system of checkpoints and movement restrictions have led to a contraction in the agriculture sector, which is something that Manasrah echoed as he described the state of the industry.

“Restrictions on movement of people and goods directly impact our date production, while exports tend to be more expensive because Israel controls all entry and exit points from the West Bank,” he said.

A back-to-back system – one where goods are unloaded at Israeli checkpoints, then loaded onto other trucks on the other side – increase costs and decrease profitability, making Israeli dates more competitive. Sometimes farmers are even forced to resort to Israeli companies because they cannot access Israeli ports.

The Israeli government spokesperson said it is not checkpoints that hurt the Palestinian economy but the “violence” in the West Bank. “Having said that, the number of checkpoints has decreased dramatically in the [p]ast years and movement across the West Bank [has become] much easier,” the spokesperson said. “Most of the checkpoints are [at] the entrance to Israel and this does not interfere with the day-to-day life of Palestinians.”

Manasrah attributes some of the difficulties in agriculture to the PA’s priorities. “The PA is aware of the conceptual importance of investing in agriculture, but not in practical terms,” he said. “That’s apparent by the little it has allocated to the agriculture sector.”

Less than 1 percent of the PA budget is earmarked for agriculture, and Manasrah stressed that not much is done in way of introducing Palestinian dates to the world market.

“As we marketed our goods abroad, we noticed that many people did not know there’s such a thing as Palestinian dates,” he added, noting there is a lack of infrastructure and service centres to cater to the needs of the agro-business sector.

‘No border control’

The PA has acknowledged that there is much to do to help farmers, and lamented the “denied potential” of the agriculture sector.

“It’s not a matter of whether it’s our priority, it’s a matter of being prevented from implementing policies that support agriculture,” said Nour Odeh, the Palestinian government spokeswoman. “Part of the problem is that we have no control over borders, and the majority of arable land is in Area C.”

In a report submitted to a forum of donors dubbed the AHLC (Ad-hoc Liaison Committee), the PA estimates that the additional potential for agricultural production in Area C alone could reach $2.25bn annually. The report includes a Palestinian action plan focusing on projects to develop this area and shows that agriculture is part of the government’s newest set of priorities.

Nakheel Palestine today owns more than 20,000 trees and employes some 100 people. During harvest, these numbers can double depending on the season and production. There are plans to double those tree figures and triple production to 3 tonnes of dates per hour. This means injecting $4.6m of investment into the company.

It’s unclear whether this target will be met in light of the hurdles described by Manasrah. “The Palestinian farmer has to harvest the land, find the necessary water sources, buy the machines and market the goods. This is a heavy burden for any investor,” he said.

(Source / 13.04.2013)



Click here to download a PDF of Samer’s profile.

Name: Samer Tarek Ahmad Mohammad Issawi

Residence: Jerusalem
Date of Birth: 16 December 1979
Date of Arrest: 7 July 2012
Prison: Nafha
Legal Status: Awaiting Trial
Marital Status: Single

“I will not wait for another ‘Shalit’ to gain my freedom within a deal that is not respected by the Occupation, I will attain my freedom from hunger striking”

– Samer Issawi from Moskobiyya detention center


Samer Issawi was released in the historic prisoners exchange deal on the 18 October 2011 along with 1,027 other prisoners. He was initially arrested in April 2004 and sentenced to thirty years, of which he served ten before his release. After his release in 2011, Samer continued to be subjected to the Occupation’s arbitrary arrest practices. According to his sister Shireen: “The occupation forces used to detain him several times each month, and sometimes they held him for more than 10 hours in police stations and interrogation centers.”

Samer Issawi was the first Jerusalem ID card holder to be re-arrested after his release in the prisoner exchange deal. Seven ex-prisoners have been re-arrested after their release in the prisoner exchange, and several of them are being subjected to Military Order 1651, Article 186, in which a special military committee can rule that they complete their previous sentence based on a “secret file” that is not available to their lawyer or the ex-prisoner. This is a clear violation of international human rights and humanitarian law standards, as well as a violation of the prisoner exchange deal.

Samer was re-arrested on 7 July 2012 at the “Jaba” checkpoint northwest of Jerusalem. He was transferred to Moscobiya Detention Center and was detained there for 28 days, where he was subjected to strenuous interrogation for up to 22 hours a day as well as psychological torture such as sleep deprivation. Samer was denied his right to see a lawyer for 23 days as a tactic to pressure him during his interrogation and to isolate him.


Samer currently has cases in both the Jerusalem Magistrate Court and the Military Court. In the Jerusalem Magistrate Court, he is being accused of violating the terms of his conditional release by entering West Bank areas.

Samer also is being charged within a military committee formed under Military Order 1651 Article 186 (commonly referred to as the “Shalit Committee), which is detaining Samer based on secret information that is not accessible to him or his lawyer, and is requesting that he complete his previous sentence. Samer was previously sentenced to thirty years, of which he served ten, making his current potential sentencing twenty years.

On 21 February 2013, the Magistrate Court in Jerusalem ruled that Samer be sentenced to eight months beginning from the date of his arrest on 7 July 2012. However, it is important to clarify that this sentence in the Magistrate Court is in addition to the possible sentencing under Article 186 in the Military Court, in which he will continue the remainder of his previous sentence.


Samer announced a hunger strike on 1 August 2012 in protest of his re-arrest and re-trial based on secret information, disabling him from being able to defend himself. Samer has been on both partial and complete hunger strikes since 1 August 2012, and is demanding his immediate release. Samer maintains that the hunger strike is the only weapon he has to gain his freedom.


Samer is from Issawiya, Jerusalem. He has six brothers and two sisters, and is the brother of the martyr Fadi Issawi, who was murdered by the Israeli Occupying Forces in 1994 during the Ibrahimi Mosque massacre. Samer is also the brother of Medhat Issawi, who has spent 19 years in detention, and Shireen Issawi, who was detained for the duration of 2010.


According to Samer’s family he is a very optimistic person and a lover of life. During his short freedom, he had established a grant for an economic project and was hoping to get married and start a family. However, the Occupation denied Samer from reaching these goals when they arrested him less  than a year after his release.


Here is how you can help Samer Issawi:

*Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand that Samer Issawi be released immediately.

Brigadier General Danny Efroni

Military Judge Advocate General

6 David Elazar Street

Harkiya, Tel Aviv


Fax: +972 3 608 0366; +972 3 569 4526


Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon

OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command

Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam

Fax: +972 2 530 5741

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak

Ministry of Defense

37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya

Tel Aviv 61909, Israel

Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757

Col. Eli Bar On

Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5

Beth El 90631

Fax: +972 2 9977326

*Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to release S and to put an end to such an unjust, arbitrary and cruel system of incarceration without trial.

(Source / 13.04.201)

Abbas-Fayyad crisis meeting postponed

Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Salam Fayyad at UN headquarters in New York on Nov. 29, 2012.

RAMALLAH (AFP) — A planned meeting Saturday between President Mahmoud Abbas and prime minister Salam Fayyad to try to resolve a damaging dispute has been postponed until at least next week, Palestinian officials said.

It has been put back until after a visit by Abbas to Kuwait on Monday, an official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Abbas and Fayyad have been at loggerheads as criticism of the prime minister’s economic policies has mounted in the ruling Fatah movement but Washington has lobbied hard for the US-educated economist to remain in post.

Late on Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Abbas to press him to find common ground with his prime minister, Palestinian officials said.

Rumors that Fayyad would either resign or be told to step down by Abbas have been rife in recent weeks after longstanding differences between the two men came to a head over the finance portfolio.

Finance minister Nabil Qassis announced on March 2 that he was standing down. Fayyad agreed to the resignation but Abbas, who was abroad at the time, rejected it.

Fayyad held the finance portfolio as well as the premiership before Qassis’s appointment in May 2012.

A planned meeting Thursday at which a senior Fatah official had said Fayyad intended to hand in his resignation was also postponed after Washington insisted that to the best of its knowledge the prime minister was “sticking around”.

Last week, the Fatah Revolutionary Council for the first time openly criticized the Fayyad government’s economic policy.

Abbas’ Palestinian Authority is in serious financial crisis, partly as a result of non-disbursement of promised foreign funding, although the US Congress quietly unblocked $500 million in aid last month.

The international community credits Fayyad with building a sound institutional framework for the Palestinian Authority in the areas of the occupied West Bank under its control.

His resignation could hamper implementation of an agreement with Israel which Kerry announced this week to “promote economic development in the West Bank.”

(Source / 13.04.2013)

Does Islam teach that women are inferior or deficient in religion, reason, and testimony?

Woman near his heart to be loved by him

By Abu Amina Elias for


The Quran says a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man and your prophet said women are deficient in reason and religion and more women are in Hell. Does this mean women are inferior to men?


In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful

The Quran makes a distinction between a man and woman’s testimony in the specific case of business contracts, because at the time of revelation it was men who tended to be educated in such matter while women were educated in other matters. In other cases when a man and woman are equal in their level of education and veracity, then the testimony of a man and woman are equal.

Allah says:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا تَدَايَنتُم بِدَيْنٍ إِلَىٰ أَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّى فَاكْتُبُوهُ وَلْيَكْتُب بَّيْنَكُمْ كَاتِبٌ بِالْعَدْلِ … وَاسْتَشْهِدُوا شَهِيدَيْنِ مِن رِّجَالِكُمْ فَإِن لَّمْ يَكُونَا رَجُلَيْنِ فَرَجُلٌ وَامْرَأَتَانِ مِمَّن تَرْضَوْنَ مِنَ الشُّهَدَاءِ أَن تَضِلَّ إِحْدَاهُمَا فَتُذَكِّرَ إِحْدَاهُمَا الْأُخْرَىٰ

O you who believe, when you contract a debt for a specified term, write it down, and let a scribe write it between you in justice… and bring two witnesses from among your men. If there are not two men available, then a man and two women from those whom you accept as witnesses – so that if one of the women errs, then the other can remind her.

[Surah Al-Baqarah 2:282]

This rule was revealed as a practical guide for the Muslim community in the context of 7th century Arabia. Women were not typically educated in financial matters, so in this specific case the testimony of a woman should be supported by another woman who can remind her. The general lesson to be learned is that we should consider the veracity of a witness before accepting their testimony.

Commenting on this verse, Muhammad Asad says:

The stipulation that two women may be substituted for one male witness does not imply any reflection on woman’s moral or intellectual capabilities: it is obviously due to the fact that, as a rule, women are less familiar with business procedures than men and, therefore, more liable to commit mistakes in this respect.

Source: Message of the Quran, verse 2:282

However, this rule cannot be properly applied to a situation in which the woman is more educated than the man, such as the case of a woman graduated from a professional business college versus a man who cannot read.

In other cases, the testimony of a man and woman are equal. For example, Allah says:

وَالَّذِينَ يَرْمُونَ أَزْوَاجَهُمْ وَلَمْ يَكُن لَّهُمْ شُهَدَاءُ إِلَّا أَنفُسُهُمْ فَشَهَادَةُ أَحَدِهِمْ أَرْبَعُ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ وَالْخَامِسَةُ أَنَّ لَعْنَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهِ إِن كَانَ مِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ وَيَدْرَأُ عَنْهَا الْعَذَابَ أَن تَشْهَدَ أَرْبَعَ شَهَادَاتٍ بِاللَّهِ إِنَّهُ لَمِنَ الْكَاذِبِينَ وَالْخَامِسَةَ أَنَّ غَضَبَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْهَا إِن كَانَ مِنَ الصَّادِقِينَ

Those who accuse their wives of adultery and have no witnesses except themselves – then the witness of one of them shall be four testimonies swearing by Allah that indeed, he is of the truthful, and the fifth oath will be that the curse of Allah be upon him if he should be among the liars. But it will prevent punishment from her if she gives four testimonies swearing by Allah that indeed, he is of the liars, and the fifth oath will be that the wrath of Allah be upon her if he was of the truthful.

[Surah An-Nur 24:6-9]

Had the testimony of a woman always been less than a man, then a man who accuses his wife of adultery would always win in Islamic court. However, a woman accused of adultery by her husband can testify against him and in this case their testimonies are equal.

Other verses of the Quran put men and women on equal footing. Allah says:

وَالْمُؤْمِنُونَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتُ بَعْضُهُمْ أَوْلِيَاءُ بَعْضٍ

The believing men and believing women are allies of one another.

[Surah At-Tawba 9:71]

And Allah says:

إِنَّ الْمُسْلِمِينَ وَالْمُسْلِمَاتِ وَالْمُؤْمِنِينَ وَالْمُؤْمِنَاتِ وَالْقَانِتِينَ وَالْقَانِتَاتِ وَالصَّادِقِينَ وَالصَّادِقَاتِ وَالصَّابِرِينَ وَالصَّابِرَاتِ وَالْخَاشِعِينَ وَالْخَاشِعَاتِ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقِينَ وَالْمُتَصَدِّقَاتِ وَالصَّائِمِينَ وَالصَّائِمَاتِ وَالْحَافِظِينَ فُرُوجَهُمْ وَالْحَافِظَاتِ وَالذَّاكِرِينَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا وَالذَّاكِرَاتِ أَعَدَّ اللَّهُ لَهُم مَّغْفِرَةً وَأَجْرًا عَظِيمًا

Verily, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember Allah often and the women who do so – for them Allah has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.

[Surah Al-Ahzab 33:35]

Likewise, the Prophet would stress the complimentary nature of men and women.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

إِنَّمَا النِّسَاءُ شَقَائِقُ الرِّجَالِ

Verily, women are the counterparts of men.

Source: Musnad Ahmad 25663 Grade: Hasan

Regarding the tradition in which the Prophet says:

مَا رَأَيْتُ مِنْ نَاقِصَاتِ عَقْلٍ وَدِينٍ

I have not seen anyone more lacking in reason and religion than you.

Source: Sahih Bukhari 80

The Prophet here is speaking to a specific group of women whom he was admonishing due to their lack of generosity in giving charity. The “lack of reason” refers to their limited duty in giving testimony regarding business contracts, as mentioned in verse 2:282. The “lack of religion” refers to their limited duty regarding prayer, as women do not perform the ritual prayer while on their menses. It does not mean as a general rule that women are less intelligent or less pious than men. In fact, Islamic history and experience would prove otherwise.

Nevertheless, some Muslims do use such verses and traditions to degrade the status, intelligence, and piety of women. As Dr. Taha Jaber Al-Alwani summarizes:

It must be admitted that Christian, Jewish, and Muslim scholars have neglected the wisdom of their respective revelations concerning the equality of the sexes. Quranic commentators and jurists in particular seem to have ignored the broader intellectual aspects of a woman’s testimony. In addition, some seem to have allowed themselves to completely overlook the basic Quranic principle of gender equality, even though this teaching is mentioned in literally hundreds of Quranic verses. Instead, they have engrossed themselves in studies emphasizing biological and psychological differences, thereby attempting to derive evidence from divine revelation to support the attitudes and customs of their pre-Islamic heritage… In essence, Muslim jurists and Quranic commentators allowed their cultural prejudices to color their discussions on the subject of women. In their ignorance, they used those verses declaring the competence and equality of women to “prove” the contrary.

Source: The Testimony of Women in Islamic Law

It is unfortunate that some cultural paradigms that degrade women are used as a guide to interpret the Quran and Prophetic tradition. However, we should politely remind them that the Quran says, “Men and women are allies of one another,” and the Prophet said, “Women are the counterparts of men.”

Regarding the Prophet’s statement that more women are in Hell than men, this is again in the context of admonishing a specific group of women due to their lack of generosity in giving charity. It is interpreted that this is tradition is evidence that there are more women than men in general. Al-Qadi Iyad said:

قَالَ فَيَخْرُجُ مِنْ مَجْمُوعِ هَذَا أَنَّ النِّسَاءَ أَكْثَرُ وَلَدِ آدَمَ

What can be understood from these narrations is that women are the majority of the children of Adam.

Source: Sharh Sahih Muslim

Therefore, the tradition does not mean more women are in Hell because they are inferior. Rather, more women are in Hellfire because they are the majority of humankind.

In conclusion, Islam does not teach that women are inferior to men. Rather, the Prophet taught that men and women are allies and counterparts of one another. The rulings of Islamic law that make a distinction between men and women are specific to their particular context.

Success comes from Allah, and Allah knows best.

(Source / 13.04.2013)

Samer Issawi’s ‘hunger speech’ to Israelis


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Samer Issawi

Hunger Speech by Samer Issawi

I am Samer Issawi on hunger strike for eight consecutive months, laying in one of your hospitals called Kaplan. On my body is a medical devise connected to a surveillance room operating 24 hours a day. My heartbeats are slow and quiet and may stop at any minute, and everybody, doctors, officials and intelligence officers are waiting for my setback and my loss of life.

I chose to write to you: intellectuals, writers, lawyers and journalists, associations, and civil society activists. I invite you to visit me, to see a skeleton tied to his hospital bed, and around him three exhausted jailers. Sometimes they have their appetizing food and drinks around me.

The jailers watch my suffering, my loss of weight and my gradual melting. They often look at their watches, asking themselves in surprise: how does this damaged body have an excess of time to live after its time?

I’m looking for an intellectual who is through shadowboxing, or talking to his face in mirrors. I want him to stare into my face and observe my coma, to wipe the gunpowder off his pen, and from his mind the sound of bullets, he will then see my features carved deep in his eyes, I’ll see him and he’ll sees me, I’ll see him nervous about the questions of the future, and he’ll see me, a ghost that stays with him and doesn’t leave.

You may receive instructions to write a romantic story about me, and you could do that easily after removing my humanity from me, you will watch a creature with nothing but a ribcage, breathing and choking with hunger, loosing consciousness once in a while.

And, after your cold silence, Mine will be a literary or media story that you add to your curricula, and when your students grow up they will believe that the Palestinian dies of hunger in front of Gilad’s Israeli sword, and you would then rejoice in this funerary ritual and in your cultural and moral superiority.

I am Samer Issawi the young “Arboush” man according to your military terms, the Jerusalemite, whom you arrested without charge, except for leaving Jerusalem to the suburbs of Jerusalem. I, whom will be tried twice for a charge without charge, because it is the military that rules in your country, and the intelligence apparatus that decides, and all other components of Israeli society ever have to do is sit in a trench and hide in the fort that keeps what is called a purity of identity – to avoid the explosion of my suspicious bones.

I have not heard one of you interfere to stop the loud wail of death, it’s as if everyone of you has turned into gravediggers, and everyone wears his military suit: the judge, the writer, the intellectual, the journalist, the merchant, the academic, and the poet. And I cannot believe that a whole society was turned into guards over my death and my life, or guardians over settlers who chase after my dreams and my trees.

I will die satisfied and having satisfied. I do not accept to be deported out of my homeland. I do not accept your courts and your arbitrary rule. If you had Passed over in Easter to my country and destroyed it in the name of a God of an ancient time, you will not Passover to my elegant soul which has declared disobedience. It has healed and flew and celebrated all the time that you lack. Maybe then you will understand that awareness of freedom is stronger than awareness of death.
Do not listen to those generals and those dusty myths, for the defeated will not remain defeated, and the victor will not remain a victor. History isn’t only measured by battles, massacres and prisons, but by peace with the Other and the self.

Listen to my voice, the voice of our time and yours! Liberate yourselves of the excess of greedy power! Do not remain prisoners of military camps and the iron doors that have shut your minds! I am not waiting for a jailer to release me, I’m waiting for you to be released from my memory.

(Source / 13.04.2013)

European Campaign: Stop Administrative Detention

As Palestinian political prisoners begun a mass hunger strike on April 17, Palestinian organisations called for action to be taken to hold G4S accountable for its involvement with Israel’s unlawful detention of Palestinians.

April 17th is Palestinian Prisoners Day. Boycott National Committee & Addameer have called for the targeting of G4S because of their complicity in the detention and torture of Palestinians in violation of international law.

Over 4,743 Palestinians are currently detained by Israel; 10 of them women, 193 of them children, and 178 of them held under administrative detention, a decrepit policy that Israel uses to hold Palestinians on secret information indefinitely without charging them or allowing them to stand trial.

More informations:


Actions in Europe and Palestine: (see map on the site)


France: Association France Palestine Solidarite (AFPS)

Italy:  Assopace Palestina, Friends of the Red Crescent, Roma network in solidarity with Palestine, International Foundation Lelio Basso, Palestinian Commmunity in Rome

Luksembourg:  Comite pour une Paix au Proche Orient (CPJPO)

Slovenia:  BDS Slovenia

Poland: Amnesty International

UK: Palestine Solidarity Campaign

(Source / 13.04.2013)

Israelis attempting to visit hospitalized Palestinian hunger-striker arrested 14Apr13


2982260513Police arrested two left-wing activists who tried to enter Kaplan Hospital with the intent to visit Samer Issawi, the Palestinian prisoner who has been on hunger strike for the past eight months.

On Saturday morning, twelve activists attempted to visit the hospitalized Issawi, who is receiving intravenous nourishment and is under constant watch by Israeli Prison Service guards.

Two women succeeded in making their way to the room where he is being held before they were blocked by hospital security. A commotion subsequently arose, after which security stopped the other activists from entering the building. Police who were summoned to the place demanded the group leave the place, and eventually arrested two activists: the author and translator Ilana Hammerman, and Chava Lerman. The two were put onto a police vehicle, which later deposited them on the side of a highway.

The activists plan to undertake additional actions to protest the holding of Issawi.

Hammerman told Haaretz “I have decided on a path of civil disobedience. I have been doing it for some time. I think one can’t hold a dying man in prison, that’s illegal. I refuse to obey these laws. I entirely identify with his struggle.”

Issawi, who was one of the 1,027 prisoners released from Israeli prison in the deal for the freedom of Gilad Shalit, was re-arrested last August for violating the terms of his release. Shortly after his return to prison, he began a hunger strike, and now receives only liquids fortified with vitamins, which are keeping him alive. The doctors treating him say his condition has deteriorated drastically and there is a real threat to his life.

(Source / 13.04.2013)

Syria air raid ‘kills 18’

BEIRUT (AFP) — At least 18 civilians were killed, including two children and two women, in a Syrian air raid on a rebel-held town in the northwestern province of Idlib on Saturday, a monitoring group reported.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, updating an earlier toll, said 50 others were wounded in the raid on an industrial zone in the town of Saraqeb.

Citing reports from activists in the area, the Observatory said a barrage of cluster munitions was fired at the area by regime forces after the air strike.

Footage filmed by local activists showed thick columns of smoke rising from the scene of the raid, as panicked residents tried to retrieve the dead and wounded.

Others tried to put out fires using water hoses and buckets as a man appealed on camera: “There is no water, there is no electricity, and now (President) Bashar (al-Assad) is… firing at us with rockets and MiG warplanes.”

Elsewhere in the province, the Observatory said at least 12 rebels were killed in shelling and heavy fighting near the village of Babolin, which lies near the Damascus-Aleppo road and which loyalist forces have been trying to capture.

It also reported air strikes around the Damascus area and the central province of Homs.

At least 54 people were killed in violence across Syria on Saturday, according to the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics for its information.

(Source / 13.04.2013)

Activists say 40 Hezbollah, Syrian regime fighters killed in Qusayr clashes

Qusayr is a contested central Syrian town near a key highway between Damascus and the coast.

At least forty Hezbollah fighters and Syrian soldiers have been killed in recent clashes with opposition fighters in the strategic town of al-Qusayr in Homs province, activists said on Saturday.

In clashes with Syrian troops in Qusayr, the opposition fighters described on Friday what they called the “biggest intervention” by Lebanese militant movement, Hezbollah, in the two-year conflict that started as protests against President Bashar al-Assad but morphed into a civil war.

Qusayr is a contested central Syrian town near a key highway between Damascus and the coast.

According to the activists, Hezbollah fighters used Syrian government aircraft as backup to take control over large areas in the Tal al-Nabi, described as occupying the highest hill in the Qusayr region.

The fierce fighting in Qusayr, which is located along the Syrian-Lebanese border, was followed by the deployment of Syrian soldiers, who were also backed by warplanes, on Friday.

Government troops have stepped up counterattacks against opposition forces threatening regime supply lines on the country’s frontiers.

On Friday, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) claimed that it has seized control of some areas in the northeast Syrian city of Qamishli for the first time. Qamishli is yet another frontier area, located in Al-Hasaka province neighboring Turkey.

Mourning on dead Syrian soldiers

Bomb blasts and shots fired into the air to mourn a fallen Syrian government soldier could be heard Friday on the Lebanese side of the border as fighting raged around Qusayr, the Associated Press reported.

Syria’s opposition have gained momentum and made significant gains in the past weeks, largely due to an influx of arms.

AP reported Arab officials and Western military saying that regional powers opposed to Assad government have stepped up weapons supplies to Syrian rebels, with Jordan opening up as a new route.

More than 70,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war, the United Nations says.

(Source / 13.04.2013)

Israeli Journalist Amira Hass Sparks Furor at Home for Defending Palestinian Right to Resist

Amira HassHaaretzcorrespondent for the occupied Palestinian territories. She is the only Jewish-Israeli journalist to have spent almost 20 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,,The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to Israel, where Secretary of State John Kerry has just concluded his third visit to the region in less than three weeks. His trip was intended to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which have been stalled for more than four years. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Kerry both claimed progress had been made toward possible peace talks. To that end, Kerry pledged Tuesday to work with Israeli and Palestinian leaders to boost economic growth in the occupied West Bank.

SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: We agreed among us—President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu and ourselves—that we are going to engage in new efforts, very specific efforts, to promote economic development and to remove some of the bottlenecks and barriers that exist with respect to commerce in the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: On Monday, while Secretary of State Kerry was visiting Israel, Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian photographer in the face with a rubber-coated metal bullet in the Aida refugee camp in the West Bank city of Bethlehem. Mohammad Waleed Al-Azza was shot during clashes that took place between Israeli soldiers invading the camp and local youths who were hurling stones at them.

Another journalist, Israeli journalist Amira Hass, has suffered a torrent of hate mail and calls for her prosecution after she wrote an article defending the rights of Palestinians to resist violent occupation. In the article, Amira Hass defends the throwing of stones by Palestinian youth at Israeli soldiers, calling it, quote, “the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule,” unquote. Amira Hass says Israelis remain in denial about, quote, “how much violence is used on a daily basis against Palestinians. They don’t like to be told that someone has the right to resist their violence,” she wrote.

Well, to talk more about the situation is the journalist herself. Amira Hass joins us now, Haaretzcorrespondent for the occupied Palestinian territories, the only Jewish-Israeli journalist to have spent almost 20 years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.

It’s great to have you with us here in New York, Amira.

AMIRA HASS: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about what this article said. You wrote it for Haaretz?

AMIRA HASS: That’s right. It was published last week. And I think it’s not the first time that I write that Palestinians have the right to resist, like any other group which is suffering the oppression or repression. And I wrote several things. Maybe the main thing was that the Israeli occupation is the source of violence. I mean, this is violence. The Israeli policies are institutionalized violence. Even when there is no physical force used, it is always violent.

And then I was posing the question, how come that Palestinians schools do not teach kids to resist, forms of resistance? And I also wrote—I also said something about the restrictions that there are on forms of resistance, like, I said, of course, a distinction between an armed person and a civilian, or a child and a person with uniform. I made this distinction, but I didn’t think it—I mean, it’s not that we have always to defend and to explain why this resistance has to be so or so or so. The main thing to concentrate on is the violence of the ruler and the domination.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Amira Hass, as you point out, you’ve made the same points in other articles you’ve written.


NERMEEN SHAIKH: But the criticism of this piece, in particular, was quite widespread. And I want to turn to one of the critics of your article. This is Adva Bitton, the mother of three-year-old Adele. Adele, the three-year-old, was critically injured in a stone-throwing incident last month. And the mother wrote in the Hebrew daily Ma’ariv, quote, “I agree with you that everyone deserves their freedom. Arab and Jew alike. I agree with you that we all ought to aspire to liberty, but there isn’t a person on earth who will achieve freedom and liberty by means of an instrument of death. There’s no reason on earth that Adele, my three-year-old daughter, should have to lie in the intensive care unit now, connected to tubes and fighting for her life, and there is no reason, Amira, for you to encourage that.” Can you—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: —respond to this?

AMIRA HASS: No, I don’t want to respond.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened? What happened to her daughter?

AMIRA HASS: She drove—she visited friends or family in one of the settlements in the West Bank, and while they were driving back home, some kids from a village are said to have thrown stones, and one hit—one hit her. She made a turn, and she bumped into a truck, and they were wounded, yes.

I don’t think I have to respond to this. It’s her pain, and I don’t—like, people could come and bring the stories of hundreds of Palestinian children who are killed and wounded by Israeli [inaudible], by Israeli bullets and by Israeli tear gas and, I don’t know, whatever. I’m against asymmetry. And I think that I explain very well in my article the differences and the distinction that one has to take.

But the fact is that Israelis—I mean, that we maintain our hegemony with the use of almost unlimited power—I mean, with unlimited institutional power against the Palestinians. And Palestinians have tried many ways—diplomatic ways and other ways—to resist this Israeli domination, and it has not succeeded. Stone throwing is a sort of a message, and the Israelis don’t listen to it. Twenty-five years ago, with the First Intifada, Israelis did listen to this message. I mean, they did understand that this is a message of—it’s not in order to kill, it’s not in order to hit somebody, but it’s in order to tell: “You are unwelcome visitors in our midst.”

NERMEEN SHAIKH: OK, so what accounts for the change? Why were Israelis more amenable or open to understanding stone throwing 25 years ago—


NERMEEN SHAIKH: —during the First Intifada? What about now?

AMIRA HASS: I think the main—it’s the main, you could say, achievement of the Oslo process, that the benefits of the occupation have been much—have been really entrenched and reached larger segments of the Israeli society.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: By which you mean? Profits in what sense?

AMIRA HASS: Economical profits. You know, it is occupation deluxe: We don’t have—we have the benefits of the occupation; we don’t have the responsibility of taking care of the population. We have delegates who actually put the people under control. I mean, that’s the Palestinian police, Palestinian security agencies. So it is not really—the onus of occupation is not felt as it was felt maybe 25 years ago, when so many Israeli soldiers were amidst Palestinians in the cities and when Israel had to take some kind of care about health and cleaning the streets and water distribution. Now all the responsibility is on the Palestinians and on the PA.

And then, of course, you grew—I mean, you talk about drones. I mean, I think that the Israeli industry of arms has developed very much in the past 25 years. And the form—this form of arms that is very much—that fits into a world of containment, into policies of containment, not the conventional wars, but the wars which are meant to quell social unrest.


AMIRA HASS: And we fit into this—

AMY GOODMAN: Amira, the significance of Secretary of State John Kerry going to Israel, and what you believe the role of the U.S. should be right now?

AMIRA HASS: I think that the role of the U.S. is—I mean, they want to keep the—to maintain the status quo, that the Palestinians keep quiet and keep this fake process of endless negotiation, so the negotiation becomes an end to itself and not a means to reach their independence. So, they again will try to extract from Israel some promises for gestures. And I’ve been—I’ve been hearing this for 20 years. Economical progress, which is really an impossible thing. It’s a—you cannot both maintain Israeli control over 60 percent of the West Bank and continue to divide Gaza from the West Bank and continue to forbid Gazans from exporting their products and have economical progress. I mean, Kerry will soon see that he has failed just as others before. But I don’t think it’s failure, because he wants—I mean, the policy, the U.S. policy, is to maintain—to keep the status quo going. I mean, this kind.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: You also suggest an article that the Palestinian Authority is interested in maintaining the status quo.

AMIRA HASS: It is, yeah.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: Could you explain? Why is that?

AMIRA HASS: It has become—maybe it’s not interested, as it has become second nature of the Palestinian Authority. Some—some for personal reasons, because, you know, there is a strata that also benefits from the status quo, and because they don’t see any—any near real—any near real solution, or they don’t—there is not a feeling that we’re near a fair solution. So at least they can maintain the status quo, which benefits stratas—and not only benefits in the bad sense of the word; I mean, I see many people who are tired of fighting. So they want to keep—to have these several years to be able to care for their families, to send their children to better education, to travel in the world or something. So it’s a very normal aspirations for the time being, because there is a sense that politically nothing is—no fair solution is near. And there is also—it became also a second nature of the PA to think only about diplomatic means and not means which involve the general—the people.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira, we just have 20 seconds. But you were awarded here in 2009 by the International Women’s Media Foundation for your courage, for your lifetime achievement. CNN’s Christiane Amanpour introduced you, describing you as “one of the [greatest] truth-seekers of them all.” You have been in the Occupied Territories for 20 years, the only Jewish-Israeli reporter to live there. Do you think the pain will end?

AMIRA HASS: Not in our—not in my lifetime.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re the daughter of a Holocaust survivor.


AMY GOODMAN: You wrote a book about your mother.

AMIRA HASS: Essays, yeah, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Holocaust often used to justify what’s happening to the Palestinians?

AMIRA HASS: Look, our terrible tragedy is that we have two catastrophes, human catastrophes, clashing with each other. And each has its own pains and layers of pain, which do not vanish, even when—the only thing—and this is where I can quote my father, who is a survivor—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

AMIRA HASS: The difference is, with the Palestinians, it continues and continues and continues.

(Source / 13.04.2013)