Abbas discusses occupied territories situation with Pope Francis

Pope Francis during an international Prayer for Peace initiative entitled "No One Is Saved Alone in Rome, Italy, on October 20, 2020 [Riccardo De Luca/Anadolu Agency]
Pope Francis during an international Prayer for Peace initiative entitled “No One Is Saved Alone in Rome, Italy, on October 20, 2020

In a phone call on Friday with Pope Francis, Palestinian Authority (PA), Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) and Fatah President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his commitment to peace and his readiness to resume talks with Israel, Wafa News Agency reported.

Abbas discussed the importance of developing bilateral Palestine-Holy See relations to the benefit of both sides and the prevalence of peace in the region and worldwide.

He thanked the Holy See for its position in support of achieving peace based on the United Nations (UN) resolutions, as well as for its rejection of all peace plans in violation of international law.

Abbas renewed his call for an international peace conference to launch a genuine peace process. He pointed out that his call is in line with his commitment to achieving peace based on the UN resolutions and his immediate willingness to resume talks with Israel.

OPINION : Will your religion intercede for you in the presence of the coronavirus?

He urged the pontiff to work together to safeguard Palestinian Muslims and Christians and reinforce their steadfastness in Jerusalem and throughout the occupied territories.

Pope Francis affirmed that he was on the same page as Abbas regarding the importance of peace and dialogue, the need to convene the international peace conference, and reinforcing the perseverance of the Palestinian people.

He confirmed the Holy See’s consistent position with regards to achieving peace in the Holy Land and worldwide.

(Source / 25.10.2020)

Hamas: French cartoons provocative to Islam, beliefs

Palestinians gather to stage a protest against the republication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in France and the statement of French President Emmanuel Macron, in Rafah, Gaza on 24 October 2020. [Mustafa Hassona - Anadolu Agency]
Palestinians gather to stage a protest against the republication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in France and the statement of French President Emmanuel Macron, in Rafah, Gaza on 24 October 2020

Hamas on Saturday slammed France for publishing cartoons that degrade Islamic symbols, Anadolu reports.

“[French President Emmanuel] Macron’s encouragement to publish insulting cartoons of the Prophet [Muhammad], peace be upon him, is an attempt to revive the Crusades where France was the source of its debut,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, senior spokesman for the Palestinian group.

Abu Zuhri said publishing the cartoons was “provocative to the feelings of the [Islamic] Nation and an aggression on its religion and beliefs.”

Publishing the insulting cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, along with Macron’s remarks about Islam and the Muslim community,sparked widespread condemnation in the Arab world on the official and other levels with official statements decrying his remarks.

Activists launched boycott campaigns against French products in several Arab countries.

Morocco: Hashtag calling for boycott of French products trends on Twitter 

(Source / 25.10.2020)

Red Cross says Palestinian hunger striker entering ‘critical phase’

Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jail Maher Al-Akhras, who is in a hunger strike for 85 days, speaks to media, receiving medical treatment at hospital in Rehovot, Israel on October 14, 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
Palestinian prisoner in Israeli jail Maher Al-Akhras, who is in a hunger strike for 85 days, speaks to media, receiving medical treatment at hospital in Rehovot, Israel on October 14, 2020

A Palestinian prisoner on hunger strike for more than 85 days since his arrest by Israel is entering a medically “critical phase”, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced yesterday.

Maher Al-Akhras, 49, is from Jenin in the northern occupied West Bank. He has been held since 27 July under an administrative detention order with neither charge nor trial and can be detained indefinitely. His hunger strike is a protest against such inhuman treatment.

“More than 85 days into the hunger strike, we are concerned about potentially irreversible health consequences,” said Yves Giebens, the head of the ICRC’s health department in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. “From a medical perspective, he is entering a critical phase.”

The ICRC said it has been monitoring the situation closely and visited Akhras on Thursday. “The ICRC encourages the patient, his representatives and the competent authorities involved to find a solution that will avoid any loss of life,” the organisation added.

Last month, Akhras was moved to Kaplan Hospital in the Israeli city of Rehovot, where he has been drinking water but refusing solid food, explained his family.

OPINION: The spirit of Palestinian resistance

Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip have launched several demonstrations to demand the prisoner’s release. They have also organised sit-ins and online campaigns to show their support for him.

There are around 5,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, 350 of them under administrative detention. Israeli officials claim that detention without trial is sometimes necessary to protect the identities of undercover operatives.

Palestinians hunger-strikers in Israeli jails – Cartoon 

(Source / 24.10.2020)

Palestine’s Hotdog Van man is successful, despite the pandemic

Issa Haj Yasin in front of his Hotdog Van in Ramallah, Palestine [Instagram]
Issa Haj Yasin in front of his Hotdog Van in Ramallah, Palestine

The infrastructure of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is designed to have a negative impact on the lives of Palestinians, and it does. The dire situation has been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. No doubt to the delight of the Israelis, there can be no place easier to lock down than the occupied Palestinian territories.

Although necessary, the drastic preventative measures had dire consequences for the already high unemployment rate in Palestine; it has now gone through the roof. Businesses across all sectors have been hit hard, especially tourism and hospitality.

However, it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for everyone. Engineering student Issa Haj Yasin saw a gap in the market and set about filling it with his mobile business, the Hotdog Van. Based in Ramallah, Yasin opened his first van before the pandemic to provide himself with an income to cover his study and living expenses.

“I was studying at Birzeit University and worked at a restaurant making sandwiches, but I wanted to start something different on the campus,” he explained. “I had originally wanted to start my own coffee shop but it was going to be too expensive.” Then he thought about a food van, which was affordable. “And since there are no places here in Palestine serving hotdogs even though they’re common around the world, I decided to be the first to open a Hotdog Van.”Hotdog Van in Ramallah, Palestine [Instagram]

Hotdog Van in Ramallah, Palestine

The business stopped in the first months of the crisis when the total lockdown was imposed but reopened even as the pandemic worsened and outdoor dining was in demand. Now his business has more than doubled in size.

“I’ve employed six students who are working in two vans, and I am preparing a third van that is going to have another four new employees,” Yasin pointed out.

Buying street food is preferred over-ordering and waiting for food indoors. His customers know that social distancing is easier, and so there is less risk of infection.

INTERVIEW: Celebrating Palestine in Paris is what Ardi is all about

Yasin’s first orange Hotdog Van is stationed behind Nelson Mandela Square, a popular spot which families drive past when returning from road trips. The second van is parked at the university.

“Customers just park up, wear their masks, take their hotdogs, and go. It’s very popular with school children; when they see it in the street they get excited and run towards the van.”

The Hotdog Vans are classic VW campervans. “There is no vehicle like this here; the design and colours. All the elements of the van are perfect.”

The 27-year-old entrepreneur is now planning a fourth van, but this one will be the Sugar Van selling desserts ranging from marshmallow ice creams to creamy frozen yogurts and chocolate and strawberry waffles. It will mean a few more jobs for fellow students.

“Being able to provide jobs to students like me who are struggling to look after their families along with paying their university fees is what makes me more ambitious to expand my business,” said Yasin. This is important in the current climate as many employers are laying off their workers. “It’s having a devastating impact.”

One of his colleagues used to work at a hotel in Jerusalem, which closed down due to the lockdown. “He was close to having a breakdown so asked if he could work with me. I took him on right away.”Hotdog Vans in Ramallah, Palestine [Instagram]

Hotdog Vans in Ramallah, Palestine

Although his degree course is normally five years, Yasin is in his eighth year of studying because he couldn’t keep up with his tuition fees. He knows what it is like to struggle. Like him, he insisted, many Palestinians just want to get on and live a normal life. If a second lockdown is imposed, he thinks that businesses should be allowed to stay open.

“People should be allowed to work even if there’s a lockdown because there’s too much economic damage here. Too many of us are struggling. We need to learn how to work around Covid-19 instead of hitting both extremes of a complete shutdown or complete freedom.”

With unemployment in the occupied West Bank reaching 26.6 per cent during the second quarter of 2020, compared to 25 per cent in the first quarter, he has a point. According to a recent report from the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, those working in restaurants, hotels, and construction are the worst hit by the pandemic.

“When you see ten young people working hard to learn new skills together so enthusiastically, and know that they have families to feed even while going to university and making their semester payments, then I know that we are doing the right thing,” concluded Issa Haj Yasin. “To see them happy and achieve their ambitions, that’s what my target is now. That’s what’s going to make me open ten more vans in Palestine.”

If the success of the first Hotdog Vans in Palestine is anything to go by, he will succeed.

OPINION: Gaza is being left to tackle the pandemic on its own

(Source / 24.10.2020)

PLO: Israel attacks escalate after normalisation with Arab states

Explosion illuminates the night sky after Israeli warplanes hit farming areas in east of Deir al-Balah, Gaza on October 20, 2020 [Ashraf Amra/Anadolu Agency]
Explosion illuminates the night sky after Israeli warplanes hit farming areas in east of Deir al-Balah, Gaza on October 20, 2020

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has recorded a notable escalation in Israeli attacks against Palestinians since the recent normalisation agreements signed with Arab states, Arab48.com reported on Friday.

In a report, the PLO disclosed that it had recorded Israeli aggression on Palestinians between 15 September, the date of signing the deals in Washington, and 15 October.

More Israeli settlements in Palestine - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]
More Israeli settlements in Palestine – Cartoon

The report found that Israel intensified expansion of its settlements, demolition of Palestinian homes, the killing and wounding of innocent people, carrying out raids and detention campaigns, and “systematic aggression” on religious institutions.

The PLO indicated that the Israeli annexation of occupied Palestinian lands is continuous, adding that it is accompanied by settlers’ attacks on Palestinian citizens.

According to the report, the Israeli occupation forces opened fire more than 240 times, killing two Palestinians, wounding more than 90 others, detaining more than 480 including children, and have demolished 25 homes and facilities.

The report also conveyed that the Israeli occupation conducted 370 raids on Palestinian cities, villages and neighbourhoods, as well as more than 30 attacks on religious institutions.

When it signed the deal with Israel, the United Arab Emirates claimed that Israel agreed to cancel the annexation of the occupied Palestinian lands. However, Israel denies this, asserting that the plan was only postponed and would be executed soon.

READ: Israeli settlers flood Palestinian farmland with sewage

(Source / 24.10.2020)

Israel’s pre-emptive conditions for Hamas’ participation in elections

Hamas sets up elections committee in Gaza2
Hamas sets up elections committee in Gaza, 16 December 2019

By Dr Adnan Abu Amer

The Israeli calls against the participation of Hamas in the upcoming elections are getting louder, alleging that the involvement of a movement representing a threat to Israel is banned under the Oslo Accords. Thus, anti-Hamas advocates are demanding the Israeli authorities to block the way for the movement’s participation in the election race, by arresting its candidates, banning the elections, and closing voting centres.

This position stems from the recent agreements of Fatah and Hamas during the Istanbul talks. However, Israel remains concerned and alarmed, fearing an increase in Hamas’ presence in the West Bank given the vulnerability of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Beyond that, Israel’s concerns are focused on the expected victory of Hamas that will strengthen the power of Iran and Turkey in the region, and increase their influence in the West Bank. This explains the recent warning issued by Jordan and Egypt to PA President Mahmoud Abbas about establishing closer relations with Hamas, Turkey, and Qatar.

READ: Hamas, Fatah leaders issue conflicting statements on reconciliation

Israeli estimates indicate that Hamas aims to participate in the next elections as part of a plan to control the West Bank. Israel believes that this requires it to intervene and make it clear to Abbas that it does not intend to allow Hamas to participate in the elections, not even indirectly, through establishing a new political party to participate in parliamentary elections on its behalf.

Israel has sufficient power to ban the elections in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and to control both areas. The occupation authorities can also arrest candidates, close voting centres, and prevent 300,000 Jerusalemites from participating.

The calls opposing the participation of Hamas in the elections demand the Israeli authorities to overtly express their refusal to let the movement win the elections before a possible change takes place in the White House – if Trump loses the presidential race, which will make things harder for Israel.

Other Israeli circles have demanded the occupation to impose conditions on Hamas to accept its participation in the next elections. They claim that the movement’s involvement in the 2006 elections does not entitle it to return to the upcoming race, and does not justify repeating the so-called “hard mistake” on Israel’s part. In case Hamas does not seem ready to abandon the path of armed action, Israel must then show total opposition to its planned participation in the next Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) elections.

Despite the consensus between Fatah and Hamas to hold the elections, Israel must not be complacent. Rather, it should require that any Palestinian party participating in the elections should not seek to achieve its objectives via undemocratic means, whether as an individual or an organisation.

The Israelis remember Hamas’ victory in the 2006 legislative elections, which was achieved thanks to the movement’s popularity among Palestinians, along with the mistake that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government made by accepting Hamas’ participation in the elections.

OPINION: Has Fatah betrayed the Palestinian revolution?

A year and a half later, Hamas benefited from its victory and took control of the Gaza Strip mid-2007.

In 2005, after Sharon took a historic step to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, US President Bush succeeded in convincing him to let Hamas participate in the 2006 legislative elections. Bush believed at the time that allowing Hamas to participate in the election would give legitimacy to the Oslo Agreement, and if the movement wins 25 per cent of votes, then it would become a constructive element in the promising Palestinian democracy.Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon leans over housing plans as he meets with contractors who are building temporary housing for settlers due to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip under his disengagement plan July 5, 2005 at the Nitzanim construction site in southern Israel [David Silverman/Getty Images]

Then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon leans over housing plans as he meets with contractors who are building temporary housing for settlers due to be evacuated from the Gaza Strip under his disengagement plan July 5, 2005 at the Nitzanim construction site in southern Israel

For his part, Sharon managed to win his government’s approval to let Hamas participate, without any opposition from the right-wing camp. This was despite the fact that several members of the negotiation team in Israel believed that Hamas’ participation in elections violates the Oslo Agreement, without showing serious opposition to this step, because they did not see a difference between the participation of Hamas, Fatah or the rest of the Palestinian factions.

In the end, the result of the elections became very problematic. Hamas achieved a sweeping victory, while Fatah did not succeed in presenting a unified list in the elections. Hamas’ victory came as a surprise for everybody, even the movement itself. On the other hand, Bush did not know how to act after this significant shift of events. The European Union set four conditions to recognise Hamas’ victory, including the complete renunciation of armed action and the recognition of the signed agreements. However, Hamas did not show any commitment to these conditions.

Today, more than 14 years since the last Palestinian legislative elections, most of the world’s countries still refuse to recognise Hamas, but they were forced to have ties with it. Even Abbas, who saw Hamas as his biggest enemy, was obliged to ally with it. This was especially true after the wave of Arab normalisation with Israel and discovering that Hamas’ allies in the region still reject establishing ties with the occupation.

The Israelis claim that holding Palestinian elections today is not an internal Palestinian affair, but rather a matter of interest for the Israelis too. As long as it was the duty of the Israeli government to enable the Jerusalemites to vote in mailboxes in East Jerusalem, it should oblige Hamas to give up armed action. If the movement does not show its willingness to do so, then the Israeli authorities will have no other choice but to declare their opposition to Hamas’ participation in the elections, or in any democratic process in Palestine. However, this might be considered a blatant intervention in Palestinian affairs.

OPINION: The rapprochement between Hamas and Russia will benefit both

It is strange that Israel’s increasing demands to prevent Hamas from participating in the elections, under the pretext of its anti-Israel political positions, are matched by the occupation government’s sponsorship of various right-wing parties that call for the implementation of racist policies and measures against the Palestinians.

The Israeli position revealed a blatant contradiction and a schizophrenic tendency experienced by the Zionist entity while the world watches. The Palestinians do not need Israel’s approval to hold the upcoming election, which is a purely internal Palestinian affair, in which the Israelis have no right to intervene.

(Source / 24.10.2020)

Murder of pregnant Palestinian sparks protest against domestic abuse

Image of Palestinian Authority (PA) security services in Gaza [alresalah]
Palestinian Authority (PA) security services 

Human rights organisations are protesting about domestic abuse following the murder of a pregnant woman in the occupied West Bank, Wafa news agency has reported. According to police spokesman Loai Irzeiqat, the 24-year-old mother of two was found dead at her house in the town of Nabi Elias.

Unconfirmed reports said that the victim’s husband is being held for her murder. He is reported to have been drunk at the time of his arrest, and is a known drug addict.

The Palestinian Network of NGOs has expressed alarm at the murder, calling on politicians and civil society to take all necessary steps to protect Palestinian women from domestic abuse. Violence against women in Palestine has been on the rise for the past decade.

According to the UN Population Fund, 29 per cent of Palestinian women within occupied Palestine reported psychological, physical, sexual, social or financial abuse by their husbands at least once in 2018-2019. At the same time, there are major concerns that many cases of domestic violence go unreported. Moreover, the coronavirus pandemic has left women even more vulnerable to abuse across the region.

The Palestinian Ministry of Social Affairs described the killing as a “heinous murder” and said that it will do what it can to prevent violence against women in Palestinian society.

READ: Israel bans student branch of PFLP in West Bank

(Source / 23.10.2020)

Palestine fatwa council slams normalisation visit to Al-Aqsa mosque

An Ultra Orthodox Jew looks from a spot on the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem's Old City, with a view of the Dome of the Rock in the al-Aqsa mosque compound, on 23 September 2020 [AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images]
An Ultra Orthodox Jew looks from a spot on the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem’s Old City, with a view of the Dome of the Rock in the al-Aqsa mosque compound, on 23 September 2020

The Palestinian Supreme Fatwa Council on Thursday condemned visits that were recently carried out by pro-normalisation groups to Al-Aqsa mosque. The visits were under the protection of Israeli police and accompanied by officials from the Israeli Foreign Ministry.

In the wake of its 88th session, the council’s Chairman Muhammad Hussein told reporters: “The normalisation visits are no different than the repeated incursions of the occupation soldiers and settlers, who desecrate the holy mosque under the protection of their soldiers.”

“The holy Al-Aqsa mosque is for Muslims alone and only those who do not strip its Islamic legitimacy are welcome to visit,” Hussein asserted, adding that those who normalise with the Israeli occupation were “not welcome at the sanctity of the mosque.”

The grand mufti denounced what he described as: “Israeli plans to isolate the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, as well as the denial of thousands of worshippers from accessing them.”

He pointed out that the Israeli authorities were exploiting the occurrence of the pandemic: “In order to empty the mosque, seize it and facilitate the incursion of extremist settlers into it.”

READ: We have lived to see Arabs enter Al-Aqsa under Israeli protection 

(Source / 23.10.2020)

Palestinian family appeals to British MPs to stop East Jerusalem eviction

A general view of East Jerusalem as Palestinians gather to protest Israel's destruction in the area after a Friday prayer in Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem on August 28, 2020 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
A general view of East Jerusalem as Palestinians gather to protest Israel’s destruction in the area after a Friday prayer in Silwan neighbourhood in East Jerusalem on August 28, 2020

A Palestinian family is appealing for British members of parliament to intervene on their behalf in their imminent eviction from their home in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem. The Sumarin family, whose plight has grabbed global attention, are at the heart of Israel’s ethnic cleansing drive within the Holy City.

A press release sent on the family’s behalf by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions announced an online meeting to be held next week between a Palestinian Israeli parliamentarian, a rabbi opposed to Israeli government policy and British MP Richard Burden.

The ICAHD drew attention to Israel’s industrial scale demolition of Palestinian homes backed by international donors. A secret funding of ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem was highlighted in the BBC Panorama programme “Banking Secrets of the Rich and Powerful”. An Israeli organisation, Elad, which aims to Judaise East Jerusalem by evicting Palestinian residents and replacing them with Jewish settlers, has apparently received huge sums of money transferred from Virgin Island companies owned by Roman Abramovich.

New evidence shows that Elad funded court proceedings over decades to evict the Sumarin extended family from their lifelong residence in Silwan, East Jerusalem. Elad acted in coordination with a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Jewish National Fund.

An international campaign in support of the family has won the backing of 71 MPs and provoked division in the JNF and its subsidiary Himanuta. This week, though, settler groupings strengthened their hold on the leadership of the JNF and Himanuta through a battle within the World Zionist Congress. In a disingenuous attempt to deflect responsibility, the Israeli Embassy has claimed that the eviction, based on the so-called “Absentee Property Law”, does not involve the Government of Israel.

The online meeting will be hosted by UK campaign group Stop the JNF and partners. It will feature Amal Sumarin in an appeal to Britain to help stop the eviction.

Read: Israel orders Palestinians to vacate Jerusalem homes to make way for settlers

(Source / 23.10.2020)

Israel bans student branch of PFLP in West Bank

Palestinian students supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) movement take part in a rally during an election campaign rally for the student council at the Birzeit University, near the West Bank city of Ramallah on 26 April 2016 [ABBAS MOMANI/AFP via Getty Images]
Palestinian students supporting the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) movement take part in a rally during an election campaign rally for the student council at the Birzeit University, near the West Bank city of Ramallah on 26 April 2016 

The Israeli occupation authorities on Wednesday banned the student branch of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the occupied West Bank, calling it an “illegal and terrorist” organisation, Quds Press reported.

According to Quds Press, the Israeli army announced in a statement that the PFLP’s student branch: “Has been a terrorist organisation for years and has carried out action that caused the killing of several Israeli citizens, as well as the assassination of the late Israeli Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in 2001.”

The statement added: “In recent years, the PFLP has been recruiting student cells in the West Bank universities in order to carry out attacks.”

In the same statement, the Israeli army announced the detention of six Palestinians over claims of affiliation with the PFLP.

The PFLP was established in 1967 as an extension of the Arab Nationalist Movement, adopting Marxism. It joined the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1968 and was famous for hijacking planes in the 1970s. It was then divided into three branches.

Its founder and Secretary-General George Habash resigned in 2000. His successor Mustafa Al-Zubri, from the West Bank, was assassinated by Israel in 2001.

READ: PFLP criticises PA and calls for end to security chaos 

(Source / 22.10.2020)