Studies show that US coverage is Israeli-centric. The main bureaus for CNN, Associated Press, Time, etc. are located in Israel and often staffed by Israelis. The son of the NY Times bureau chief is in the Israeli army;"pundit" Jeffrey Goldberg served in the IDF; Wolf Blitzer worked for AIPAC. Because the U.S. gives Israel over $8 million/day - more than to any other nation - we feel it is essential that we be fully informed on this region. Below are news reports to augment mainstream coverage.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Obama Bravely Takes on a Tortured Child Soldier: Torturing the Rule of Law at Obama's Gitmo

CounterPunch - Chase Madar - Obama may lack the nerve to stare down Liz Cheney or Bibi Netanyahu, but no one can deny that our commander in chief has the guts to take on a child soldier. Come October, a military commission in Guantánamo will try Omar Khadr, a Canadian national captured outside Kabul in 2002, when he was just 15 years old. This will be only the third Gitmo trial and the Obama administration’s first, and there won’t be anything kinder and gentler about it.

But give our government credit for breaking new ground: no nation has tried a child soldier for war crimes since World War II, and the decision to prosecute Khadr has drawn protests from UNICEF, headed by a former U.S. national security adviser, as well as every major human-rights group. The audacity doesn’t stop there: charges against Khadr include “murder in violation of the rules of war,” a newly minted war crime novel to the history of armed conflict. Battlefield deaths do not usually result in murder trials for prisoners of war. But according to the Department of Defense, Omar Khadr is no POW. He’s a non-uniformed, “unprivileged belligerent.” In the euphemistic lingo of Gitmo, Khadr is not even a prisoner, just a “detainee” who has been awaiting trial for the past eight years.

This kind of court action would have made great copy under Cheney and Bush, noisome proof of their barbarity. Now everyone except the Right’s usual panic-merchants is sick of Guantánamo and wishes it had closed, as Obama promised, by the end of 2009. But that deadline has passed, and Gitmo will surely be open next year too. Several reporters told me they had to beg their editors to be sent down to cover the Khadr story.

Anyone expecting to witness eye-popping tableaux of Rumsfeldian cruelty at Gitmo will be disappointed. It’s a military base like many others, except instead of the nearby base town with obligatory pawn shop, strip club, and Korean restaurant, you find an impermeable barrier sealing base dwellers and visitors inside. Overall, it’s not a bad deployment: soldiers can at least get a beer off duty, the snorkeling’s good, and the roads are free of IEDs. Given the paucity of lurid local color, scribblers who take the military flight—when I flew down, a leased Delta aircraft from Andrews Air Force Base—have been reduced to soliloquizing about Guantánamo’s McDonald’s and the banality of evil amid the French fries.

Gitmo’s population continues to trickle away, to a point. Over 600 prisoners have been let go, most by the Bush administration, and of the 51 habeas petitions for release filed since the Boumediene decision in 2008, 37 have been granted. Were these really “the worst of the worst”? Hardly. Still, the Obama administration has announced that it will continue to hold some 45 detainees indefinitely without charges, one of George W. Bush’s most radical policies, now zealously defended by a smoother, smarter team of Democratic lawyers. This is exactly the kind of lawlessness that Harold Koh, a human-rights icon, used to condemn from his bully pulpit as dean of Yale Law. Now, as legal adviser to the Department of State, he’s tasked with justifying indefinite detention.

Of the 176 remaining prisoners, Omar Khadr is the youngest. The 23-year-old is now in the midst of pretrial suppression hearings to determine whether his confession of throwing a grenade that killed a Special Forces medic is admissible as evidence. Few would deny that Khadr was tortured—one interrogator testified that he first laid eyes on the youth hooded and chained to the walls of his cell, standing with his shackled arms extended at head level. The only questions are how much torture, exactly what kind, for how long, and whether it contaminates the confession that Khadr later retracted. The first round of hearings afforded a clear vantage into the legal black hole that Guantanamo very much remains.

The Obama administration has striven to paper over the abyss with a layer of legality. There are new, improved rules for the military commissions, signed by the secretary of defense the night before the hearings began. Alas, they continue to fall short in core areas of juridical fairness. There is no right to a speedy trial, no pretrial investigation to weed out weak cases, and the defense’s requests for witnesses must go through the prosecution. There is no credit for pretrial detention—now nearly a decade for many prisoners—and no right of equal access to witnesses and evidence. Freshly invented war crimes like “material support for terrorism,” retroactively applied, violate the fundamental juridical principle of nulla poena sine lege, no crime without a prospective law.

The greatest flaw is structural: the interference of the “Convening Authority”—the politically appointed head of the commissions—into the prosecutions has been documented again and again. Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, former legal adviser to the Convening Authority, was so blatant in his attempts to secure convictions that he was banned from any involvement in three separate trials for his “undue command influence.” One former chief prosecutor at Guantánamo has said that Hartmann pushed hard for the Khadr case because he thought it would be “sexy, the kind of case the public’s going to get energized about.” Such micromanaging did not endear Hartmann to his colleagues: former deputy prison camps commander at Guantánamo Brig. Gen. Gregory Zanetti testified in 2008 that Hartmann’s conduct was “abusive, bullying and unprofessional … pretty much across the board.”

One might expect that a legal system thus rigged would greatly appeal to its prosecutors. Until now, one would be wrong. Half a dozen prosecutors have quit the commissions in disgust, most with blistering criticisms on their way out. Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of the commissions until October 2007, said that constant political pressure made full, fair, and open trials impossible: “What we are doing at Guantánamo is neither military nor justice.”

No less scathing is Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, formerly lead prosecutor in another commissions case against a child soldier—a case that collapsed midway through, with the government dropping all charges. “It would be foolish to expect anything to come out of Guantánamo except decades of failure. There will be no justice there, and Obama has proved to be an almost unmitigated disaster,” he told me. After resigning from the commissions as a matter of ethical principle, Vandeveld was punished with a mandatory psychiatric evaluation and gratuitous hearings into his fitness for remaining in the Army, even though he now has only two months remaining in his term of service. Vandeveld, who has deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Bosnia, doubts very much that any more prosecutors will resign after his highly visible reprimand.

The new head of the prosecution team, Capt. John Murphy, told me proudly that morale has never been higher on his team. Half of the four lawyers looked young enough to have started law school long after 2001, and it is hard to imagine young attorneys quitting the commissions without established careers to fall back on.

This may spell the end to a golden chapter in JAG history: throughout the sordid drama of Guantanamo, the few glimmers of governmental integrity have come from the JAG corps’ dissent. They even earned that ultimate ethical accolade, the disapproval of John Yoo, who scolded the military lawyers for adhering to the rule of law in defiance of the “unitary executive authority” as embodied by torture buffs such as himself.

For its part, Team Obama’s main innovation has been to ban troublesome journalists from the base, a move Bush never dared. On May 6, toward the end of this round of hearings, the Joint Task Force abruptly barred four of the most knowledgeable reporters from returning to Gitmo, accusing them of violating an order that the identity of Omar Khadr’s primary interrogator be kept secret. It doesn’t matter that “Interrogator Number One,” convicted in a 2005 court martial for prisoner abuse at Bagram prison, had already been interviewed by one of these journalists two years ago and that his identity is available in the public record.

One of the banned journalists, Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy, was hounded last summer by a risible and quickly dismissed sexual harassment complaint made by Navy press officer Jeffrey Gordon. Rosenberg is the acknowledged dean of Gitmo journalists, and getting rid of her would be a singularly effective way for the Department of Defense to regain some control over the sordid War Court narrative. Carol and two other journalists have since been reinstated after reaffirming their allegiance to the DoD’s “ground rules” at Gitmo, but the government’s warning shot has registered.

The uproar over the banned journalists did successfully deflect attention from the prosecution’s cosy arrangements with a convicted detainee abuser. Joshua Claus, or interrogator number one as he was called in the hearings, was court-martialled for detainee abuse in 2005, and pled guilty to maltreatment and assault on a taxi driver known only as Dilawar, who was beaten to death by his Bagram interrogators. (Dilawar’s crime had been to drive his taxi near the detention centre at the wrong time.) Though Claus was not convicted of murder (no one was), he did admit to throttling Dilawar and forcing water down his throat, and he was the last interrogator seen with the prisoner before his death. Claus's pledge to cooperate with the Khadr prosecution team helped earn him a lenient sentence of only five months. Though called as a defense witness in the recent Khadr hearings, Claus had spent far more time conferring with the prosecution, and his well-prepared statements in the hearings evinced much rehearsal and preparation. The prosecution’s chummy working relationship with a court-martialed detainee abuser: this is not the stuff for an Obama-era rehabilitation of Guantánamo’s public image.

And that image remains pretty terrible, even if Camp X-Ray, the open-air cages that held orange jumpsuited detainees for four months in 2002, is now growing weeds. Camp Delta, the detention complex, is rather prosaic. Camp 5, for the least compliant prisoners, is a direct modular copy of a block from the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana; Camps 4 and 6, for the most compliant, of Lawanee Prison in Adrian, Michigan. Some detainees are able to take courses in Arabic, English, and art. And so what?

A prison doesn’t have to be a Gothic nightmare to threaten the rule of law. As the ACLU’s Ben Wizner puts it, “At this point, Guantánamo isn’t a place anymore, it’s a principle.” A normal-looking prison that just happens to hold people indefinitely without charge is a more insidious threat to the integrity of the legal system than Camp X-Ray ever was. For this reason, the ACLU does not see transporting the system to Thomson Correctional Facility in Illinois as any kind of progress.

Guantánamo, wherever it is located, runs the grave risk of normalization, a process already well underway. Over a few nights during the Khadr hearings, I read in my air-conditioned tent a law-review article by Prof. Adrian Vermeule, an up-and-comer at Harvard Law School. He proposes that legal black holes—the term was coined by a British law lord expressly for Guantánamo—are not only tolerable but necessary. Any attempt to fill them in with law would be “hopelessly utopian,” “quixotic” even. “Our Schmittian Administrative Law,” published last year in the Harvard Law Review, draws heavily on the work of Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, lifelong opponent of the rule of law and liberal democracy. A chronic figure of fascination among lefty academics for the cold eye he cast on liberalism’s sacred myths, Schmitt’s ideas had always been held at a prophylactic distance.

No longer. Schmitt’s ready-made conceptual lexicon for political emergencies, non-state combatants, and the need for strident executive authority has proven irresistible to ambitious intellectuals in the revolving door between the federal government and the finer law schools. These tweedy immoralists urge us to relax our square-john commitment to the rule of law and embrace strong executive action. Surely the moralizing banalities of rule-of-law theorists are inadequate for the unique challenges of the post-9/11 global order, they tell us.

But after the events of the past decade, one would be on safer ground drawing the opposite conclusion about the rule of law’s value. Our government responded to 9/11 with extraordinary measures contemptuous of ordinary legality, and every one of them has been catastrophic. From the conquest of Iraq to waterboarding to warrantless wiretapping to the military commissions of Guantánamo, these policies have been exorbitantly costly in blood, money, and national prestige. Nor is setting up a shambolic court to try a child soldier who was tortured in custody likely to solve anything. Has any part of our frenzied rejection of legal restraints improved national security one bit?

Vermeule is correct to note that these black holes are likely to dilate rather than contract as an imperialist foreign policy strains our legal system, not only with the panic and fervor of war but with juridical conundrums of extraterritoriality, non-state belligerents, and geographically far-fetched definitions of self-defense. Already a new Guantánamo for indefinite detainees has opened up in Bagram, which will be much less accessible to media, nonprofit observers, and defense counsel.

Meanwhile, the rule of law will continue to suffer rough treatment at the hands of our best and brightest. The concept has been debunked by many postmodern academics as so much high-minded bourgeois blather and, more dangerously, derided by the neoconservative Right as a folktale for chuckleheads. But people in countries where violent lawlessness is rife see the rule of law as something more than rhetorical window dressing. From Colombia to Egypt to Italy to Guantánamo’s neighboring Cuba, citizens who risk their lives against the depredations of organized crime or authoritarian states routinely invoke the rule of law to give meaning to their acts of resistance. Yes, the rule of law may be an ideal—but it is not only an ideal.

Repairing legal black holes in America may start by shutting down Guantánamo, wherever the detention complex ultimately winds up, and radically rethinking our post-9/11 security policies. Indefinite detention in some nondescript prison with a few art classes doesn’t make for splashy headlines, but it marks the beginning of the end of the rule of law.

Chase Madar is a lawyer in New York, and can be reached at This is an updated version of a piece that originally appeared in the August 2010 edition of The American Conservative, a nonpareil source of anti-imperialist news and opinion.

Grief-filled final hours of slain Palestinian resistance leader

Ma'an - "Slain Al-Qassam leader marred by Gaza war" – Hours before he was killed by an Israeli air strike, the Al-Qassam Brigades leader told his second wife “Farewell! Today is departure day ... I can no longer tolerate life away from my previous family.”

The fighter's first wife, Manal Sha’rawi, was killed along with five of their children, Bilala, Izz Ad-Din, Ihsan, Islam and Ayman, on 26 January 2009, when an Israeli shell targeted the family’s balcony in the Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip.

The attack was one of the few that followed Israel's unilateral declaration of a ceasefire in the wake of its Operation Cast Lead, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip over 21 days.

“We will follow in your footsteps!” his wife replied as her husband walked out the door. Hours later the 41-year-old Issa Abdul-Hadi Al-Batran was killed. His wife Sundus Taha Al-Muqayyad, 24, related to Ma'an their last conversation.

Only one of Al-Batran's sons, toddler Abdul-Hadi, survived the 2009 attack, Sundus recalled, saying her husband had been devastated by the deaths of his wife and children.

After he lost his family, Batran’s mother urged him to continue with his life and remarry. Six months after the attack, he married Sundus.

"We got married in June [2009] and he used to weep everyday when he remembered his late wife and children," she said.

"Only yesterday, he whispered in my ear telling me than he could no longer go on living without them despite the fact that he loved his son Abdul-Hadi and our son Muhammad. He kissed both of them several times before he left and he urged me to take good care of them."

She said that when the first Israeli shelling targeted Tel Al-Hawa in western Gaza City at 10.30 p.m. on Friday, she telephoned her husband to check up on him, and he told her he was fine. However, when the news came about a second air strike on a deserted area in the Nuseirat refugee camp, Batran’s wife had a feeling her husband was there.

Batran had survived four previous targeted assassination attempts, one of which killed his family during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead assault on the Gaza Strip.

Analysis: Palestinians struggling for independence to make own decisions

Ma'an - "What happened in Cairo" - Nasser Lahham, Ma'an editor-in-chief - Arab media has not paid enough attention, either deliberately or out of ignorance, to what could be described as a “tough political raid” in Cairo on Arab countries' attitude toward Israel over the past few days.

Palestinians have fought fierce battles against Arab countries to defend the independence of Palestinian decisions. In 1970, there was Black September in Jordan. In 1976, there was the Tel Az-Za’tar battle against the Syrian army in Lebanon, then the 1978 civil war in Lebanon and Maghdouche in 1983, among others. Despite all these battles to secure the independence of Palestinian political decisions, President Mahmoud Abbas decided to put the ball in the Arab countries’ court regarding the resumption of direct negotiations with Israel.

In fact, the Arab public -- including leftists, moderates and rightists -- knew that their leaders would never disappoint the US, and that they would ask Abbas to resume direct talks with Israel. However, the more optimistic among them expected a little hesitation before the leaders announced their decision, and were surprised that Qatar, Syria and other countries rushed to urge Abbas to agree to US demands so quickly.

Last Tuesday, Abbas attended a meeting in Cairo with a committee of foreign ministers from 13 Arab countries, authorized to follow up with the Arab Peace Initiative adopted in the Beirut Summit of 2002. Arab League chief Amr Mousa attended the meeting, which was dedicated to discussing the peace process and the ongoing indirect proximity talks.

The follow-up committee concluded their Cairo meetings with Abbas on Thursday, and agreed “in principle” that the president should resume direct talks with Israel, but with conditions. A message was sent to the US president following the meeting to notify him of the Arab countries’ position.

The decision was condemned by Palestinian factions who described it as “submission” to US pressures. Meanwhile, Israel welcomed the decision.

For its part, the Hamas movement, which controls the Gaza Strip, slammed the decision, calling it “submissiveness to a de facto imposed by Israel, and yielding to pressures exerted by US President Obama who is siding with Israel for the sake of internal US calculations related to the upcoming elections.”

The Islamic Jihad movement reiterated its rejections of a resumption of direct negotiations. Senior leader Khalid Al-Batsh said during a rally in Gaza, “We expected the leaders of the Arab world to take action to protect the besieged Palestinian people and support their just rights.”

He added, “Instead of punishing the enemy for its crimes and instead of boycotting Israel, we find that once again, the Arabs provided the extremist Israel government with the safety equipment.”

Muhammad Dahlan, who was once Fatah’s strongman in the Gaza Strip, currently commissioner for media, said his movement wanted guarantees before moving to direct negotiations.

Chief editor of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper Abdul-Bari Atwan entitled his editorial “Congratulations for resuming negotiations.” He wrote, “Even the Arab League chief Amr Mousa did not coin his words as usual to save the face of the Arab countries’ official system. The old equation is still in effect: Israel sets the demands, the US adopts them, and the Arab countries submissively execute them without any discussions.”

Ma'an News report on collaboration; group finds Israeli torture chief cause

Ma'an - The term "collaborator" refers to individuals who supply information, or in some cases land, to Israel, or anyone considered an “enemy state,” either voluntarily or by coercion.

The term became familiar to the international community during the First and Second Intifadas, when known and suspected collaborators were publicly executed and in some cases lynched in highly publicized events. Treatment of suspected collaborators by Palestinian police and justice systems came under intense scrutiny from international media and human rights groups.

Types of collaboration include providing one-time bits of information on leading Palestinian figures to Israeli intelligence officers, the sale of land to Israeli interest groups, ongoing information sharing, and spying for Israeli intelligence.

Forms of collaboration

Low level informants provide intelligence on specific persons of interest, like family, friends of work associates, often comprising information on daily routines, places frequented, etc. The small pieces of information provide for Israel what amounts to detailed analysis of the workings of a community.

Infiltrators are active members of a political party, popular committee, or other organization of interest, recruited by Israeli intelligence to provide detailed and wide-ranging information. The individual is often detained by Israeli forces and recruited during interrogation or prison terms, with targets expected to provide information on an on-going basis once they are released. Release is often conditioned on the promise to provide information.

The UN Human Rights Council subcategories infiltrator as:

Intermediaries work to assist in the recruitment of additional collaborators by participating in a preferential system of permit granting and security checks. The intermediaries identify those to receive preferential treatment and liaise with Israeli security officials.

Armed collaborators assist Israeli forces during arrest and assassination campaigns, helping locate the homes and hideouts of wanted Palestinians based on familiarity with an area.

Political collaborators represent Israeli interests in Palestinian public positions.

Economic collaborator are those who sell land or information to Israel for financial compensation.
Of particular importance to the Palestine-Israel conflict as it concerns land in the 1967 borders intended for a future Palestinian state. A collaborator in this case would include either the land owner or the land dealer who facilitates the sale of Palestinian land to Israeli government or to private buyers affiliated with a pro-Zionist organization or individual.

Becoming a collaborator

Despite the 1999 ban on the use of torture by the Israeli Supreme Court, human rights groups insist torturing prisoners remains the primary method of coercing Palestinians into passing on information to Israeli security.

The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem estimates that since 1987, 85 percent of all Palestinian detainees have undergone some form of torture, and has accused the Israeli Shin Bet of using torture to force Palestinians into collaboration. Torture techniques include sleep deprivation, beatings, degrading treatment and the use of stress positions.

Threat of imprisonment
Palestinians are sometimes offered reduced sentences in exchange for becoming a collaborator, or else threatened with severe sentences if they refuse. Israeli human rights group Yesh Din reported in 2006, that 95 percent of the cases brought against Palestinians by the Israeli military courts ended in plea bargains, a statistic they said shows the probability of manipulation leading to collaboration in the prison and military justice systems.

Granting of 'special privileges'
Palestinians are often coerced into collaboration by the promise of 'special privileges' like family visit permissions, travel permissions that make work in Israel possible, medical treatment or eased travel restrictions.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Israel enforces strict limitations on the movements and activities of Palestinians in almost every aspect of their lives. For example, Palestinians in areas such as East Jerusalem are regularly denied building permits, Palestinians are unable to travel between the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and Palestinian cities and villages in Israel to visit family, and many are denied permission to travel to Israel for medical treatment unavailable in the West Bank or Gaza.

In August 2008, the Israeli branch of Physicians for Human Rights documented 32 cases in which sick Gazans admitted they were denied permits after refusing to become informants, including that of Shaban Abu Obeid, whose pacemaker was installed at an Israeli hospital and needs intermittent maintenance by Israeli doctors, and Bassam Waheidi, now blind in one eye after he refused to cooperate and was denied a permit.

Former collaborators have testified that Israeli forces threatened to expose instances of criminal behavior or sexual misconduct unless they revealed information to security personnel. Religious and cultural expectations in Palestinian society, including tightly knit family networks, place high value and expectation on personal conduct, making the threat of exposure for even minor misdeeds one with serious social repercussions.

Treatment of collaborators

Rights groups have said collaborators have a slim chance of a fair trial, despite legislation guaranteeing one, as reports on little-documented cases of collaborators fleeing to Israel or into exile continue.

In both the West Bank and Gaza, Palestinian authorities have come under harsh scrutiny for using illegal interrogation techniques against suspected collaborators. Human rights groups, such as the Palestinian Human Rights Monitor, say that fair trials on charges of treason are often impossible due to the implications of the crime.

Provisions exist under the Israel-Palestinian agreements, human rights law, international humanitarian law and Palestinian domestic law for the protection and fair trial of suspected collaborators, but have not always been enforced.

Accounts of the treatment of collaborators who flee to Israel vary greatly. In a 2010 report published by the Legal Forum for Eretz Israel, an estimated 6,000 former collaborators and their families are currently being denied residency status in Israel, with some forced to wait up to ten years for residency, work or housing permits after they are brought into the area under the auspices of a deal made following a collaboration agreement.

In recent years, both major Palestinian political parties, Hamas and Fatah, have conducted "amnesty drives" to encourage collaborators to come forward.

In April 2010, two Palestinian men convicted of providing information to Israel that lead to the death of two civilians and two resistance fighters were sentenced to death. They were executed by firing squad in what the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights condemned as being in contravention of Palestinian Basic Law, which requires the sentence to be approved by the Palestinian president.

Israeli religious and government leaders condemn arrest of rabbi who authored book permitting killing of non-Jews

YNET - Dozens of rabbis, National Religious figures sign condemnation of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira's arrest over book. Rabbi Aviner tells Ynet: I am opposed to book, but religious laws governing killing non-Jews outlined in it are legitimate, must be dealt with halachically'
The Religious Zionist movement has issued a blanket condemnation of the arrest of Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira over the book he authored. Dozens of rabbis, Knesset members, and National Religious public figures have signed a petition against the rabbi's arrest, claiming that he expressed "a halachic opinion."

The petition also came out against the manner in which he was arrested – in the middle of the night by dozens of policemen. 

Beit El Rabbi Shlomo Aviner told Ynet on Monday that the book "Torat Hamelech" is a "halachic-academic work, a pedagogical work," and, therefore, there is no justification to send its author to prison. 

According to Aviner, the "'religious laws governing the killing of a non-Jew' outlined in the book are a legitimate stance and must be addressed via clarification of halachic sources and nothing else."

Israeli soldiers watch as Israeli settler assaults Hebron resident

Ma'an - Soldiers watched as a settler harassed a Palestinian man near the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement on Friday afternoon, Hebron’s Youth Against Settlements group reported.

When the man became angry and yelled back at the group, he was assaulted and sustained severe bruises, the report said.

The youth group said the man targeted in the assault was Anan Ja’bari, who lives adjacent to the settlement in the Old City of Hebron.

Israeli occupation forces imprison five Palestinians from Hebron region, taken to unknown location

Ma'an - Palestinian security officials recorded five detentions from the Hebron region between Thursday night and Saturday morning, a police report said.

Israeli soldiers, accompanied by police, entered the Al-Ja’bari neighborhood in Hebron’s center overnight Thursday, detaining Fadi Bajis Ja’bari, Muhammad Fattouh Ja’bari and Idreis Ja’bari.

On Friday morning, an Israeli force raided Dura, south of Hebron, detaining Abdullah Walid Sweiti, 21, and Muhammad Shahin, 21.

All five detainees were taken to unknown locations, police said.

Israeli military officials were unable to respond to requests for comment.

Israel declares Palestinian village closed to foreigners, Palestinian/international medical team to offer free clinic for a day turned away

Ma'an – Israeli forces turned away Palestinian medical teams at a checkpoint erected at Iraq Burin on Saturday morning, telling international medical volunteers that the area was a "closed military zone."

Head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Nablus Ghassan Hamdan said the volunteers tried to enter the Nablus-area village where the society had prepared to offer a free treatment day at a local clinic.

Hamdan said the team was told by Israeli soldiers at the village entrance that they must turn back because the village was a closed zone. He said that medics and society officials had made several attempts to explain the humanitarian nature of the mission, but soldiers responded saying their orders were to restrict all entry into the area.

An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that the area was declared a "closed military zone for all non-Palestinians," but said that an exception was made for the doctors at 11a.m., hours after the group arrived at the checkpoint.

Officials from the society confirmed that the Palestinian and international medical workers were permitted into the area, and condemned the delay, saying it would cause a serious reduction in available medical services for villagers.

The society regularly organizes volunteer programs for doctors, nurses and medics from around the word who donate their time and perform free checkups and treatment to Palestinians without regular access to medical services.

The declaration follows one week after the detention of two young men at a checkpoint installed in the same location the previous Saturday.

Iraq Burin, cut off from Nablus by several checkpoints and roadblocks preventing access to the nearby settlement of Yizhar and Bracha, has held regular protests against continued land confiscations by the settlements and settler-only roads. The two detained were accused of having participated in protests in previous weeks.

According to a report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, a new Israeli military order passed in January 2010 made gatherings of more than ten people illegal, by reenacting a 1967 law. The group said the law violated the right of assembly for Palestinians, guaranteed by the fouth Geneva Convention.

Israeli forces shoot three Gaza workers gathering rubble for rebuilding, one 16-years-old

Ma’an – Three Gaza workers collecting stone aggregates from rubble near the Erez crossing were hit and injured by Israeli fire in two separate incidents shortly after 9a.m. on Saturday, medics told Ma'an.

Officials said the shots were fired from watch towers near the border crossing in the northern Strip, with the number injured by Israeli fire for the day rising to 13 following a series of air strikes and artillery fire that reportedly targeted "terrorist infrastructure."

Director of ambulance and emergency services for Gaza Strip hospitals Muawiya Hassanein said two workers collecting in the same area were targeted, in addition to a solitary worker collecting aggregates to be recycled into cement in a Gaza City plant, or used for construction.

Hassanein identified the first injured workers as 16-year-old Mahdi Hammadin, who was evacuated to the Beit Hanoun Hospital with gunshot wounds, while 25-year-old Muhammad Shalabi was evacuated to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in Beit Lahiya.

A third man was shot not long after, identified by coordinator of the Gaza Strip police medical services Adham Abu Silmiyya as 21-year-old Muhammad Hasan Sa’dallah. The officials said Sa’dallah was also collecting aggregates when he was shot.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers fired at a group of men after patrols "identified a group approaching the security fence," classified by Israeli officials as a "combat zone," which includes 6.25 percent of Gaza land and an estimated 20 percent of arable lands.

She said soldiers fired warning shots into the air in an attempt to drive away the men from the area, then fired toward their lower bodies, at which point she said two hits were identified. Only one group of individuals was targeted, she added.

As Israel's siege on Gaza continues, construction materials remain prohibited for commercial and personal use. Materials like aggregates and cement have been transported into Gaza only for construction projects under the UN and other international aid agencies, even as hundreds of homes remain in ruins a year and a half after Israel's last war on Gaza.

According to the UN, at least 6,000 homes in Gaza were either destroyed or severely damaged.

Israeli airstrikes target Gaza, massive bomb hits central Gaza City injuring 17, 3 of them children

Photo by Tilde de Wandel
ISM Press Release - At around 11:30pm last night (Friday 30 July 2010), ‘The Arafat Compound’ Police College in central Gaza City was bombed by Israeli F-16s, in the area of ‘Al Montada’ injuring seventeen people, three of them seriously. Three children were also among the injured.

Those first at the scene described building debris scattered everywhere and burned out cars still parked on the street. One man had severe injuries to the eyes and head as a result of being hit by shrapnel from the bomb.

The enormous impact of the bomb was felt by ISM volunteers sitting in a nearby café.

Adie Mormech, a British volunteer with ISM said: “The blast caused buildings far from the epicenter of the explosion to shake and windows were smashed. When we arrived at Shifa hospital the scene was chaos. Family members were not allowed inside to visit while the patients were being treated. Intermittently more of the injured arrived amidst a mass of waiting media.

“Others arrived at the hospital with psychological trauma caused by the enormous impact of the bomb - some were confused to the extent that they couldn’t describe whether they had an injury or not.”

One Gazan resident described the power of the bomb as a rocket weighing more than a ton, the likes of which had not been seen frequently since the horrific three week bombardment over the New Year of 2009, known as Operation Cast Lead.

For many in Gaza, last night’s attack was a traumatic reminder of the onslaught during Operation Cast Lead when three hundred F-16 bomb attacks took place during the first 2 minutes of the campaign. The operations terrorized the entire population of the Gaza Strip and killed over 1400 people, including over 400 children.

Israel’s attack late Friday night followed a rocket that landed in Askelon, Southern Israel. that caused no injuries, and is suspected to have been fired by a small militant faction in Gaza.

As well as reports of other bombings near the Gaza City port there were also Israeli rocket attacks on Deir el Belah and Rafah.

Israeli forces attack nonviolent protestors across West Bank that include internationals and celebrities; injure many

Ma’an - Injuries were reported across the West Bank as Israeli soldiers responded to weekly non-violent anti-wall protests with tear gas, sound grenades and detentions on Friday.

Clashes erupted in Bil’in, where the wall cuts off agricultural lands from farmers despite a High Court ruling mandating its removal. This week’s rally commemorated the third anniversary of the killing of Ahmad Mousa, who was shot aged 10, and Yousef A’mirah, shot aged 18, during non-violent anti-wall protests in Ni’lin in 2008.

Villagers, joined by delegations from Spain, Germany and France, as well as US rapper M-1, from the group Dead Prez, and British rapper Lowkey, marched to the wall, and were met with tear gas grenades launched by Israeli soldiers.

One Israeli protester was hit by a tear-gas canister in his leg, while a British citizen was dragged several meters by a soldier, causing bruising and bleeding in his back, a report from the village committee said. Mohammad Al-Khatib, 18, was hit by a tear-gas canister in his shoulder.

The committee reported that two protesters were briefly detained. An army spokeswoman was not aware of any detentions in Bil'in.

In An-Nabi Salih, demonstrators protested recent settler and army attacks on the village. Israeli soldiers fired tear gas canisters at the rally, hitting a 23-year-old British peace activist in her leg. Villagers reported that Israeli soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets, raided homes and detained Walid Dief Allah, 13, from his uncle’s home. An Israeli activist was also detained, reports said.

In Irtas, near Bethlehem, a Greek delegation joined the weekly anti-wall rally, marching from the convent to the Wad Abu A’mirah area, which Israeli authorities have confiscated for construction of the wall.

The village’s popular committee spokesman, Awad Abu Suwei, said soldiers, supported by armored vehicles, have raided the village several times this week, filming and carrying out surveying work.

Dozens of Israeli settlers attack Palestinian village, torch land

Ma’an – Dozens of Israeli settlers attacked a village south of the West Bank city of Nablus and set fire to village land on Friday, reports said.

Ghassan Doughlas, a Palestinian Authority settlement affairs officer who monitors the northern West Bank, said residents of the illegal Bracha settlement raided Burin village, broke into a home which is under construction and tried to demolish it, and started a fire on the village’s eastern side, in the As-Seb mountain area.

Israeli soldiers intervened in the ensuing clashes, firing tear gas and sound bombs at villagers.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said soldiers saw a gathering of Palestinians close to the Bracha settlement, and attempted to disperse the crowd, adding that tear gas and sound grenades were fired when Palestinians threw rocks at Israeli forces. She was not familiar with any fires in the area.

Settlers, angry at their government’s demolition of a structure they had built on an illegal outpost, have launched several attacks on the village of Burin this week.

On Monday morning, armed settlers raided the village and opened fire on villagers and set fire to village land. Four settlers and two Palestinians were injured in the ensuing clashes.

The nearby Huwwara checkpoint was closed due to rioting and Palestinian drivers reported that their windscreens were shattered as settlers, stationed in surrounding hills, threw rocks at Palestinian cars.

On Monday evening, settlers set fire to village land again, destroying more olive trees.

Settler leader Gershon Mesika blamed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the "despicable" act of tearing down the structure. "This house will be built again," he said, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Nine Palestinians families homeless after being forced from their homes by Israeli settlers

Ma’an – Nine Palestinian families spent their first night in the open air on Thursday, after being forced out of their homes by Israeli settlers before sunrise the same morning.

Sami Qeresh head of a household of six dependents, said women and children "spent a night in the open air waiting for Israeli forces to carry out their decision" over documents allegedly showing Jewish ownership of the eleven-apartment building near the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem's Old City.

On Thursday, police officials said officers were examining the documents presented by two Jewish families who evicted the Qeresh families from their home. A police spokesman said Friday that he had "no idea whatsoever" as to how long it would take police to verify the papers.

If police decide the documents are authentic, the matter will be transferred to court, officials explained shortly after the eviction.

Ala’ Qeresh told Ma'an that the family filed a petition with the Israeli court demanding the immediate evacuation of the settlers from the home and expected the hearing to be held on Sunday.

UN bodies call for return of family to home

The UN Relief and Works Agency condemned the takeover of the home, which made nine families homeless.

UNRWA, whose mandate is to protect and assist Palestinian refugees, noted that two of the families made homeless are registered refugees. In a statement issued Friday, the UN office stressed the importance of protecting these families “to maintain the relative stability in this volatile area of the West Bank.”

Fatah official Demitri Delani said at the time of the eviction that many of the women and children refused to be evicted and remained in their homes with barricaded doors.

By noon, there were no Palestinians left in the home, Israeli National Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said.

The UN special envoy to the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, has also condemned the incident, which he said was an act of provocation “at a critical time in the international community’s efforts to move the peace process forward.

Israeli settlers destroy field of vegetables, sustenance for 85 people including 30 children; beat shepherd, fracturing his skull, as Israeli soldiers look on

Ma'an - Israeli settlers destroyed a field of vegetables in a Bedouin village in the southern West Bank on Wednesday night, international peace groups reported.

During the night, a report said, a Palestinian farmer from Um Al-Kher village in the south Hebron hills heard noises from his garden, and thought there were animals inside. On inspection, he saw settlers walking through his field, but did not approach them for fear they were armed, he told Christian Peacemaker Teams and Operation Dove, who maintain a presence in the area.

In the morning, the farmer said he found his vegetables had been damaged, the water pipes slashed, and the fence around the field partially destroyed.

The damaged field was the primary food and economic resource for the 85-member Bedouin community, which includes around 30 children, a statement from Operation Dove explained, adding that although the farmer filed a complaint at the police station in the illegal Kiryat Arba settlement, residents are skeptical about doing so as they have never received justice in the past.

The group of international volunteers said the village, next to the illegal Karmel settlement, suffers frequent provocations by settlers. A Bedouin neighbor said this was the fourth attack on this field in two years, adding, “We set the fence up less than one year ago to protect the vegetables from damage done by settlers several times in the past.”

Settlers recently closed the village water pipes, leaving the community without water for six consecutive days
. The settlers are the only ones with access to the water system, the statement added.

On Thursday, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem released the testimony of a farmer from the south Hebron hills who was violently attacked by settlers earlier this month. Shepherd Khaled Najar, 57 was grazing his flock on 1 July on private Palestinian land when a masked person approached him from an illegal settlement outpost near his village.

Najar told B’Tselem the man kicked him, knocking him to the ground, and then sat on him and beat his head with his fists and with a stone. The settler then went and spoke with an onlooking soldier.

After the incident, Najar called B’Tselem’s fieldworker in the area, who took video footage of the farmer’s injuries and called the Red Crescent to take him to hospital. B’Tselem reported that a medical examination revealed Najar had a broken nose, a fractured skill, and cuts to his head.

Settlers have assaulted Najar several times, he told B’Tselem, most seriously in 2001 when he was shot in the stomach and hospitalized at Soroka Hospital in Beersheva. In 2008, settlers beat Najar with a steel pipe, which unusually led to his two assailants facing indictment.

B'Tselem welcomed the filing of the indictment, but noted that it did not reflect usual practice, in which even when the authorities have advance knowledge that settlers intend to commit violent acts, soldiers do not act to protect Palestinians, and investigation is negligent, if it is undertaken at all.

Jerusalem report documents wave of demolitions of Palestinian homes and businesses

Ma’an – The Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights released a report on Thursday, documenting the demolition of several greenhouses, a car wash and a grocery in the town of Hizma during the two previous days.

On Tuesday and Wednesday of the same week, the report said, demolitions were carried out on homes and agricultural buildings, many of which were paying fines for or were in the process of appeals around charges of illegal construction in the area northeast of Jerusalem.

The center cataloged the demolitions as follows:

Flower shop and tile store owned by Abed Al-Aziz Shehada At-Tayeb, a father with eight children. The two adjacent structures, built on two dunums of land, were bulldozed.

Car wash owned by Muhammad Al-Khatib, who told the center that it was the second demolition on his property in a year. The first demolition, more than six months ago, was of a small vegetable stand. He estimated his losses at 100,000 shekels ($26,448 US) for both demolitions, and said he did not receive any demolition order for the latest incident. "The only order I was given, was one to keep the stones I sold away from the main road," he said.

Ghaleb Salah Ad-Din reported the demolition of a car wash building and an equipment shed. The father of five who also supported his parents with the earnings from the small business, said he was worried about the future of his family.

A greenhouse and roadside garden shop belonging to Jamal Salah Ad-Din was also demolished. Bulldozers took down two structures built on four dunums of land. The owner estimated his losses at 200,000 shekels ($52,896 US), and said he had no idea the demolition was about to happen, as he was still paying off a fine for illegal construction of 430 shekels per month. He said he had paid the fines regularly since last year after the issue was brought to court.

Greenhouse and construction materials shop belonging to the Mohammad Fayez Subeih family, with ten children. Subeih said he received a demolition order less than one year ago, but he could not afford court fees. The two structures were bulldozed and the materials and plants were confiscated.

Greenhouse and shed belonging to Afeef Ahmad Suleiman Askar built on five dunums of land. Askar said a demolition order was previously issued by the Israeli municipality, which had also fined him three times for the infraction.

Video: Israeli border officials harass, summon Bethlehem University professor (formerly of Yale) for interrogation

Email from Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh:

After attending a workshop on developing curricula for nonviolence/popular resistance, I returned with a harrowing 12+ hour experience at the crossing from Jordan to the occupied Palestinian territories.

 This included being served with an order/warrant for an appearance at the apartheid colonial ‘security’ offices in ten days and rifling through the books I brought back. I recorded a 10 minute video telling of this experiences (common for Palestinians):

San Francisco group alters billboards to expose American taxpayers' blank check to Israel - $7 million daily

[Following is satirical press release disseminated by the group that altered the billboards] 

For Immediate Release
San Francisco, California – July 28, 2010

New Billboard Alterations Salute Israel Following Raid on Gaza Flotilla

The California Department of Corrections (CDC) has unveiled a new campaign of billboard alterations on behalf of the State of Israel.

On July 28, 2010 a total of nine billboards were apprehended, rehabilitated and discharged throughout San Francisco, including the intersection of Guerrero and 18th Street (see attached photo). Additional billboards were discharged into Polk Gulch, the Tenderloin, South of Market, the Mission, the Haight, Potrero Hill and Bay View/Hunters Point. The nine billboards represent the number of civilian fatalities incurred during Israel’s May 31st raid on a flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza.

The CDC released the billboards to highlight the two month anniversary of the raid. The billboards also cap the month of July which saw a White House reception for Israel’s Prime Minister followed by an Israeli military investigation of the May 31 incident. The White House visit reaffirmed America’s unbreakable bond with Israel, and the army investigation exonerated Israeli soldiers of any wrongdoing during the raid. As a compliment to these public relations activities, the CDC has contributed its specialized services to defend Israeli soldiers facing international scrutiny.

The CDC recognizes that our colleagues in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) may require additional support and financing as they expand Israeli jurisdiction into international waters. Annual US aid to Israel will increase to only $3.15 billion by 2013. Although our Israeli allies are thankful for such generosity, the CDC believes that America can do better. In order to encourage additional tax-supported financial donations for Israel, the CDC launched the “Blank Check” billboard campaign.

The corrected billboards read, “THANKS FOR THE BLANK CHECK, AMERICA,” featuring a US Treasury bank note for $7,000,000. The amount is a daily average of America’s $2.70 billion aid package for Israel in fiscal year 2010.

Reflecting Israel’s national colors, the blue and white billboards also include the following caption along with a discreet Israeli flag:
“In May 2010, Israel was attacked by an unarmed flotilla carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza. Decisive action by Israeli soldiers stopped this assault. Though only 9 people were killed and hundreds were detained, Israeli prestige came under fire. With your support, Israel can prevent future attacks. Our troops are waiting to execute anyone entering Gaza, but the cost of ammunition will strain daily U.S. aid of $7 million. Your additional tax dollars can overcome this challenge. Please contribute generously and help us bring peace to the Middle East.”
As a private correctional facility, the CDC recognizes the need for control and security in areas under Israeli jurisdiction. Therefore, the department salutes our Israeli colleagues in their efforts to maintain Gaza as the world’s largest open air correctional institution, exposing Palestinians to the safety, efficiency and discipline found in California facilities.

The California Department of Corrections is a private institution dedicated to the alteration, rehabilitation and improvement of California’s most criminal advertising. Initiated in 1994, the department is operated by individuals who feel that California’s correctional facilities have been insufficiently managing the state’s most criminal elements.

For additional information on department programs and policies, contact the CDC Office of Communications at

[The action appears to be inspired by an upcoming campaign by If Americans Knew and the Council for the National Interest.]

Weekly Report: Israeli forces killed 1 Worker, injured 4 protesters & 1 journalist injured, abducted 21 civilians, conducted 25 major incursions, continued to fire at farmers, etc

IMEMC - In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for the week of 22-28 July 2010, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights found that Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian worker in the northern West Bank.

In addition, Israeli forces continued to use force against peaceful protests in the West Bank. Four international human rights defenders and one Palestinian photojournalist were injured.
Israeli forces abducted twenty-one civilians, including twelve international human rights defenders, one of whom is EU leader Luisa Morgantini.

Israeli forces continued to fire at Palestinian farmers and workers in border areas of the Gaza Strip. One Palestinian civilian was seriously wounded in the northern Gaza Strip.

Israeli attacks in the West Bank:

In the West Bank, on 22 July 2010, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian worker from Qalqilya, near "Burkan" settlement, west of Salfit. Israeli military sources claimed that "a military unit observed two Palestinians, one of whom was armed, when they attempted to cross the settlement's fence. When the two Palestinians did not obey orders to stop, the soldiers fired at them, killing the unarmed one and wounding the armed one, who was able to escape." Investigations conducted by PCHR refute this claim and confirm that none of the targeted persons were armed and that the two men were looking for jobs.

During the reporting period, Israeli forces conducted at least twenty-five military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, during which they abducted thirteen Palestinian civilians.

During the reporting period, Israeli forces used excessive force to disperse peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians in protest to the construction of the Annexation Wall and settlement activities. As a result, three international human rights defenders, including one from Israel, and a Palestinian photojournalist were injured. Israeli forces also violently beat a number of demonstrators. Israeli forces also abducted twelve Israeli and international human rights defenders, including Luisa Morgantini, Former Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament, four photojournalists and five Palestinian civilians, including a woman.

Israeli troops stationed at military checkpoints and border crossings in the West Bank abducted nine Palestinian civilians, including six children and one woman.

Israeli forces have continued to take measures at creating a Jewish majority in Jerusalem. During the reporting period, officials of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem, accompanied by officials of the Property Tax Department, waged a wide-scale campaign against Palestinian stores in Shu'fat village, northeast of Jerusalem. They searched stores and verified their licenses and documents, creating significant tension in the area. Also during the reporting period, officials of the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem waged a campaign against Palestinian street vendors. Dozens of officials, accompanied by the Israeli police, were deployed in the streets and they attacked streets vendors and confiscated their goods. It is worth noting that the Israeli Municipality of Jerusalem wages repeated campaigns against streets vendors in an attempt to exert economic pressure on Palestinian civilians in the city.

Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip:

In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian civilian was shot and seriously wounded by Israeli forces while on a tract of land belonging to his grandfather. At approximately 06:30 on Friday July 23rd, Israeli troops stationed at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the northern Gaza Strip fired at Akram Tayseer Sa'ada, 19, from Beit Hanoun, when he was on a tract of land belonging to his grandfather, nearly 150 meters away from the crossing. He was seriously wounded by a bullet to the chest.

On Monday morning, 26 July 2010, Israeli warplanes bombarded tunnels along the Egyptian border, south of Rafah. They also bombarded and destroyed a plastic and iron pipe store in the central Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported.

Israel has continuously closed all border crossings to the Gaza Strip for approximately three years. The illegal Israeli-imposed siege of Gaza, which has steadily tightened since June 2007, has had a disastrous impact on the humanitarian and economic situation in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Annexation Wall:

During the reporting period, Israeli forces used excessive force against peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders in protest to the construction of the Annexation Wall and settlement activities. As a result, three international human rights defenders, including one from Israel, and one Palestinian journalist were injured. A number of demonstrators also suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises. Israeli forces also abducted twelve Israeli and international human rights defenders, four Palestinian photojournalists and five Palestinian civilians, including a woman.

Following the Friday Prayer on 23 July 2010, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders, including Ms. Luisa Morgantini, Former Deputy Speaker of the European Parliament, organized a peaceful demonstration in protest against the construction of the Annexation Wall in Bil'ein village, west of Ramallah. They moved towards the Annexation Wall. Israeli troops stationed in the area fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at the demonstrators. As a result, Enat Gotman, 30, and Israeli human rights defender, was hit by a tear gas canister to the head. Additionally, Israeli forces abducted Ms. Morgantinti and Copi Zants, 34, an Israeli human rights defender, but released them later. Dozens of demonstrators also suffered from tear gas inhalation and others sustained bruises as they were beaten by Israeli troops.

Also following the Friday Prayer on 23 July 2010, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international and human rights defenders organized a peaceful demonstration in Ne'lin village, west of Ramallah, in protest against the construction of the Annexation Wall. They clashed with Israeli forces troops positioned near the Wall. Israeli forces troops fired rubber-coated metal bullets, sound bombs and tear gas canisters at demonstrators. As a result, dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation, and others sustained bruises. Israeli troops also prevented two photojournalists, Mousa al-Sha'er and Lu'ai Sababa, from photographing the demonstration.

On Friday afternoon, 23 July 2010, after Israeli settlers set up a tent on a hill in al-Bwaira area in the east of Hebron, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international human rights defenders demonstrated in the area in protest to this action. Israeli troops attacked the demonstrators, injuring two of them. Israeli troops abducted four demonstrators, including a woman, but released them later:

They also detained two photojournalists and prevented them from carrying out their work: Yusri Mahmoud al-Jamal, 32, working for Reuters; and Hazem Jameel Bader, 42, working for France Press Agency.

On Saturday afternoon, 24 July 2010, dozens of Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders demonstrated in the center of Beit Ummar village, north of Hebron. They moved towards Zaher al-Brahish area, where Israeli forces plan to confiscate areas of Palestinian land to the north of the Israeli settlement of "Karmi Tsur." Israeli troops attacked the demonstrators and fired tear gas canisters and sound bombs at them. As a result, four civilians (an old man, two international human rights defenders and a photojournalist) were injured.

At approximately 16:20 on the same day, the Youth Commission against Settlement in Hebron organized a peaceful demonstration in protest to continued closure of al-Shuhada Street in the center of the town. A number of international solidarity activists participated in the demonstration, which stopped near the entrances of "Beit Rumano" settlement outpost in the north of the old city. Israeli troops attacked the demonstrators and abducted ten international solidarity activists, releasing them later. A number of demonstrators sustained bruises during the arrests. At approximately 18:00, Israeli troops abducted 'Eissa Isma'il 'Amru, 30, a member of the Youth Commission against Settlement, when he was on his way back home in the old city of Hebron after the demonstration.

Israeli settlement activities:

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

On 26 July 2010, Israeli forces moved into Ethna village, northwest of Hebron. They handed written notices issued by the Higher Organization Council of the Israeli Civil Administration to Palestinian civilians ordering a halt on construction work for six houses and a farm stable.

On the same day, dozens of Israeli settlers, escorted by Israeli forces, moved into the east of Nablus. They conducted Jewish rituals in Joseph Tomb. They left the area at approximately 05:00.

Also on 26 July 2010, dozens of Israeli settlers from "Brakha" settlement, south of Nablus, attacked Palestinian houses in the northwest of Bourin village, south of the city. They threw stones at houses and set fire to the area surrounding the homes. A group of olive trees were burnt and windows of a number of houses were broken.

Also on the same day, dozens of Israeli settlers from "Yits'har" settlement, south of Nablus, attacked Palestinian houses in the west of Hawara village, south of Nablus and threw stones at the houses. No injuries were reported.

Recommendations to the international community:

Due to the number and severity of Israeli human rights violations this week, the PCHR made a number of recommendations to the international community. Among these were a recommendation that human rights organizations, bar associations, unions and NGOs continue their role in pressuring their governments to secure Israel's respect for human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to end its attacks on Palestinian civilians.

The PCHR calls upon the international community to pressure Israel to lift the severe restrictions imposed by the Israeli government and its occupation forces on access for international organizations to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Full Report

Gaza kids break second world record in week - fly 7,202 kites

Thousands of Palestinian children fly kites over the Beit Lahiya beach in the northern Gaza Strip. The previous record was registered in Germany where  710 kites flew at the same time. [MaanImages/Wissam Nassar]

Ma'an - For the second year in a row, Gaza children at the UNRWA Summer Games smashed a world record, flying 7,202 kites in the sky simultaneously on Thursday.

Gathering on Gaza Beach, the children launched their kites one by one with the help of UNRWA staff, breaking their own world record, set the summer earlier with some 3,000 kites in the air together.

A delighted UNRWA Gaza Director John Ging said, “We still have to await final confirmation from the Guinness Book of World Records, but according to our figures the kids have done it, what an amazing achievement, two world records in a week.”

The first world record of the week was set the week earlier in Gaza City, when over 7,200 children bounced 6,000 basketballs simultaneously for five minutes. The official world record approval from Guinness Book is pending.

“Like children anywhere in the world”, said Ging, “Children here must have a sense of normality, despite the abnormality they face in their daily lives, today’s achievement has lifted the spirits of the entire population here in Gaza."

Video: Hundreds to protest razing of Palestinian village that left 250 men, women and children homeless, warn of more demotions to come

Ma'an - Residents and supporters of the Al-Araqib village, where 35 homes were demolished on Tuesday, were preparing for demonstrators on Friday, following calls for a mass protest against the demolitions.

Residents say 250 men, women and children were left homeless by the move, when Israeli tractors accompanied by an estimated 1,500 police officers entered the Bedouin village and destroyed homes it said were built illegally.

Protesters will demand recognition of Bedouin villages across the Negev, many of which existed before the state of Israel, but go without access to water, electricity and medical services.

"It is difficult to describe the pain and horror when such force is used to destroy your roof. The helplessness. The forces arrived before dawn, at 5:30am. By 9:00am the meager dwellings were all just piles of rubble," protest organizers said of the demolition incident.

Protest groups say a new governmental plan to recognize some Bedouin villages "includes the erasure and resettlement of at least half of the unrecognized villages, concentrating the population into a handful of to-be recognized other villages."

Organizers said they were worried that the demolitions in Al-Araqib were only the first wave of displacements and warned that without action, more would come.

UN Envoy Robert Serry condemns Israeli settlers' "provocative" takeover of Palestinian building, home to 9 families

Ma'an - Robert Serry, the UN special envoy to the Middle East peace process, condemned the takeover by armed settlers of a building in occupied East Jerusalem on Thursday.

Two Jewish families, protected by Israeli police, entered the building, home to nine Palestinian families, with documents claiming that they owned the property. Israeli National Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said police were examining the documents “to determine whether they are accurate or not."

Fatah Revolutionary Council Member Demitri Delani said many of the women and children refused to be evicted and remained in their homes with barricaded doors.

By noon, however, Rosenfeld said he believed there were no Palestinians in the home.

In a statement, Serry called on Israeli authorities “to remove the settlers from the property and restore the status quo ante.”

Citing this incident, and the destruction Wednesday of a number of Palestinian commercial structures on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, the senior UN official added that “These provocative acts come at a critical time in the international community’s efforts to move the peace process forward.”

"Right to Live" - Palestinian farmers from villages across Nablus region demonstrate against Israeli attacks

Ma'an - The Union of Agricultural Work Committees in the northern West Bank village of Aqraba organized a large march Thursday toward lands confiscated by Israeli settlements.

The march, organized under the Right to Live banner, was supported by Norwegian People's Aid and attended by members of the UAWC from villages across the Nablus region, who showed support and solidarity with the Aqraba farmers.

Protesters were angry over an incident that occurred the week before that saw settlers from the nearby Itamar settlement confront farmers from the village who were tending their lands.

Organizers said the march, which saw protesters return to the site of the incident en masse, was a demonstration against intimidation and a demand to allow Palestinian farmers access to their lands.

Israeli forces shoot Palestinian youth, abduct two

IMEMC - Local sources reported on Thursday evening that a Palestinian youth was shot and wounded by Israeli military fire at the Atara Roadblock, north of central West Bank city of Ramallah.

The sources said that undercover forces of the Israeli military ambushed a vehicle at the roadblock at opened fire at two youths wounding one. The two were kidnapped and were taken to an unknown destination.

The Israeli army claimed that the soldiers attempted to kidnap a resident but he refused to adhere to the soldiers’ demands to stop.

The army added that the youth was shot “after he attempted to flee the scene”.

He was moved by an Israeli ambulance to the Tel Hashomer Hospital in the center of the country.

Israeli newspaper columnist - "Where is the Jewish Mind... we suffer from intelligent but primitive political-security thinking"

[While we find the following column bizarre, we are posting it because we feel it reveals a way of thinking in Israel useful for the public to be aware of.]

Ha'aretz - Yehezkel Dror ....The survival of the Jewish people and its flourishing in exile prove the existence of a collective "Jewish mind"......

Hypotheses about the nature of the "Jewish mind" in the Diaspora contain explanations for its absence in the political-security arenas in Israel. According to some of these hypotheses, the difficult conditions of the Diaspora led to the development of talents that fit the circumstances, either as cultural traits or as individual, quasi-genetic traits. Some of the hypotheses emphasize the role of demanding, elitist Torah study.

.........In other words, we lack a tradition of statesmanship, of educational institutions aimed at developing leadership, and of a quasi-"aristocracy" from which democratic leadership grows. The years of the state's existence are too few to fill this gap.

The result is a "primitively intelligent" political-security culture. Many of the officials are intelligent. There is no lack of common sense, since complicated problems require complex thinking.
But such thinking has not developed enough here. Instead, we suffer from intelligent but primitive political-security thinking that cannot deal with challenges.

Study: Gov't policy prevents building permits in Arab communities

Ha'aretz - About a quarter of Arab towns and villages lack detailed development plans, study shows

The dozens of illegal buildings that were demolished this week at the Bedouin village of al-Arakib constituted a small fraction of the 45,000 structures in Negev villages that were built without permits.

'Israeli Arabs have no choice but to build illegally'

Ha'aretz - Israel's Arabs [Palestinians in Israel] are forced to build illegal housing due to the government's refusal to recognize many of their communities as official towns or to grant them permits for legal construction, according to a study released by the Dirasat - Arab Center for Law and Policy.

The dozens of structures Israel razed earlier this week in the Bedouin town of Arkaib are among the 45,000 illegal constructions in unrecognized villages in the Negev.

According to Knesset figures, some 1,500 structures like these are built annually in unrecognized villages.

The Dirasat study concludes that this phenomenon will continue for years as a result of the obstacles imposed by Israel's planning committees.

Approximately one-quarter of Arab communities have neither a local nor privatized master plan and thus are not eligible to receive building permits. As such, says the study, the national master plan short-changes the development authorities and stunts their progress. Communities that do have a master plan are often given last priority for construction permits due to their flailing infrastructure, says the study.

The Dirasat report, which was conducted by attorney Kais Nasser of Hebrew University's law faculty, is one of the most comprehensive studies in Israel examining the reasons for the high rate of illegal Arab construction.

Partial data from the study indicates that the number of Arabs in Israel has multiplied by seven since the state was established in 1948, but their municipal communities take up only 2.5 percent of state land.

Some 1,000 Jewish settlements have been established since 1948, says the study, but not a single Arab town aside from the seven Bedouin communities consolidated for residents that has previously been scattered across the Negev.

"The Arab citizen in Israel does not suffer from a 'syndrome' or find pleasure in illegal construction," said Nasser. "Like any citizen of the state, the Arab citizen would build legally if he were guaranteed within a planning framework that enabled him to receive a permit."

The study points to three types of institutional, planning and legal obstacles facing Arabs. 

Niece of prominent Zionist told 'not Jewish enough' to marry in Israel

Ha'aretz - "Sokolow's niece 'not Jewish enough' to marry here" 
Hillary Rubin felt she was living out her ancestors' dream when she decided to move to Israel in 2006. Now she says she is being forced to leave the country to fulfill her own dream - getting married.

"Zionism runs in my family," the Detroit native says, adding that her grandfather's uncle was Zionist leader Nahum Sokolow.

But after filing for a wedding license and being told she needed to prove the Jewishness of her maternal lineage for four generations, she is wondering whether she made the right decision in immigrating to a Jewish state that doubts her Jewishness.

"I'm furious with this country right now," the 29-year-old international relations student told Anglo File this week. "I'm the great-great-niece of a prominent Zionist and I am always a supporter of this country, but this really frustrated me and I can totally understand why a lot of my Anglo friends left this country."

Rubin, who was raised in a Conservative household, produced letters from four Conservative rabbis and one Chabad rabbi attesting to her Jewishness. But the Herzliya Rabbinate said the letters were not enough and asked her to bring ketubot, or religious wedding contracts, as well as birth or death certificates of her mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother. 

"It was made very clear that without ketubot and without birth certificates from four generations, I would need to go to the Beit Din [local rabbinical court]," Rubin told Anglo File this week. "I told him, time and time again, that my grandparents are Shoah survivors [and thus their ketubot no longer exist] and I was told that wasn't his problem."

The Herzliya Rabbinate responded that it kept to strict standards "of Moses and Israel" for affirming one's faith.

There is no civil marriage in Israel, forcing couples to either go through a local Rabbinate or marry abroad. The Chief Rabbinate recently enacted new guidelines automatically sending marriage candidates whose parents did not wed in Israel to a local rabbinical court to determine whether they are really Jewish.

Book condoning murder of non-Jews has another rabbi in hot water

Ha'aretz - The police's Unit of International Crime Investigations on Thursday detained rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, the president of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar in connection to a book that condoned the killing of non-Jews.
Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg
Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg

Ginsburg was detained for questioning days after the alleged author of the book, rabbi Yitzhak Shapira was arrested for inciting to violence. Shapira is also a rabbi at the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva.

The book, named "The King's Torah," deems the killing of non-Jews who threaten Israel as legal. "It is permissible to kill the Righteous among Nations even if they are not responsible for the threatening situation," the book says, adding: "If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandments - because we care about the commandments - there is nothing wrong with the murder."

Ginsburg, who recommended the book to his students, is a follower of Chabad. He has faced prosecution in the past for incitement to racism after having published a book insisting that there is no place for Arabs in the state of Israel. The charges were dropped after Ginsburg issued a clarification letter.

Ginsburg is a well known radical in his views on Israel's Arab public. The police declined to comment on the ongoing investigation against him.

The Od Yosef Chai yeshiva issued a letter on Thursday condemning the police, saying that in any other enlightened country it would be inconceivable to question such an admirable man as rabbi Ginsburg.

Israel demands that it have full control over eventual Palestinian "state" - Etzioni recommends slightly different approach

Ha'aretz - Amitai Etzioni - "The Vienna Treatment - In the last week alone, the prospects for direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have improved. The Associated Press reported that the White House is pressuring Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to agree to such talks with the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The premiers of the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy all also called on Abbas to drop his preconditions for direct negotiations. The pressure may have been connected to yesterday's meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo. The Israeli government, too, recently reaffirmed its position that the negotiations should be direct. Indeed Netanyahu was reported to have traveled to Jordan to urge King Abdullah to pressure Abbas to agree to just that.

When talks finally open, among the main stumbling blocks will be Israel's demands for West Bank security arrangements, after the establishment of a Palestinian state there. What Israel will be seeking was outlined in a document first released in early June this year by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Its main author is Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon, who was joined by four reserve generals as co-authors. The same document was released in Washington, D.C., in late June, just days before Netanyahu's meeting with President Obama.

The document calls, in effect, for turning the West Bank into another Gaza: a demilitarized state, in which Israel would control everything entering by land and air, as well as the electromagnetic spectrum and much else. Over several pages, it lists controls that would have to be imposed on the Palestinian state to ensure that it is demilitarized - controls that, according to the document itself, go well beyond what is usually understood by this term. These measures are by nature restrictive and confining. One can argue about whether all are essential, but even if they are, they would deprive the new Palestinian entity of what many people consider to be the most fundamental quality of a state: the right to act like a sovereign - and to be treated with basic respect.

Even if all the other issues are somehow settled - issues that have been discussed before and for which many believe reasonable compromises can be worked out (such as some redrawing of borders, an obfuscatory formula about Jerusalem, monetary compensation for refugees denied the right of return ) - the new demands for such extensive control of the West Bank after independence are likely to scuttle the negotiations.

An approach that is much more likely to win support from America and other nations, one the PA as well might be more able to consent to - and which would still meet Israeli security needs - is one modeled on the power-sharing arrangement in place in post-World War II Vienna. Between 1945 and 1955, the U.S., U.K. and France patrolled the center of Vienna jointly with the USSR, which was already emerging as a Cold War adversary. Although the arrangement was not without friction, overall it worked quite well. Small units, composed of military police from the four powers, jointly patrolled the streets and ensured public safety. There were no reports of any violent conflicts among the forces, although disagreements about how to deal with infractions (for instance, of curfews ) did arise, and their resolution had to be negotiated. Call it the "Vienna treatment."
[note: why not similar treatment for Israel?]

A similar security arrangement was agreed upon between the government of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestine Liberation Organization, as part of the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement. It called for Palestinian border-crossing officials to examine the passports of all those who wanted to enter Palestine, while "invisible" Israeli security officers, in a back room, would vet the clearance given in the front. A similar arrangement had been agreed upon regarding the flow into the fledgling state of commodities, whose entry could be delayed up to 48 hours for Israeli inspection.

As I see it, the legitimate security needs specified in the Ya'alon document could be met if they were to be framed as a joint Israeli-Palestinian security arrangement. Thus, the report calls for fighting terrorists. The PA is building a respectable track record in this regard, and its forces should be treated as a security partner rather than as a troublesome appendage. And, as the Vienna experience suggests, joint border controls and patrols are another option, and these could be extended to the airspace. The demand to stop incitement in the educational system and media, too, could be reframed - to great benefit - to apply to both states. [Again, given that studies show that the Israeli education system incites far more than the Palestinian one, why does Etzioni not suggest similar treatment of Israel?]

This is much more than a matter of public relations. True, it would likely be highly beneficial if such a new framing of the security issue would make the Israeli position more acceptable to opinion makers - at least in the United States - and far less humiliating to the Palestinians. Mainly what is called for, though, is a different way of thinking, one in which Israel's legitimate security needs are fully attended to [but ignores the security needs of Palestinians and others in the region], but also one that [allegedly] treats the Palestinians as a partner in a new Israeli-Palestinian Cooperative Security Alliance.

Amitai Etzioni is a professor of international relations at the George Washington University and the author of "Security First" (Yale Press, 2007).

Israel continues to keep archives on 1940s expulsions, Mossad operations in foreign countries, nuclear research, etc sealed - exposure would reveal criminality

Ha-aretz - "A State Afraid of Its Past" - About two weeks ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed regulations restricting access to government archives. As Barak Ravid revealed yesterday in Haaretz, 50-year-old materials that were to be opened to the public for historical study will now remain classified for two more decades. Jerusalem convent The Jerusalem convent after the 1948 Independence War.

The decision was preceded by intense pressure from the defense establishment and intelligence services on the state archivist, Prof. Yehoshua Freundlich. The archivist accepted their position, and said "these materials are not fit for public viewing."

The information that remains classified deals, among other things, with the expulsions and massacres of Arabs in the War of Independence, Mossad operations in foreign countries, surveillance of opposition politicians by the Shin Bet security service in the 1950s and the establishment of the Biological Research Institute in Nes Tziona and the Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. 

The material was not accessible to the public previously, and the new regulations merely put a retroactive stamp of legality on the closure of the archives, which until now was sealed illegally. The state archivist warned that some of the classified materials "has implications over [Israel's] adherence to international law."

His words suggest that the state will be seen as an outlaw if the past deeds of the security and intelligence services are made public. But his explanations are not reasonable. Israel, which this year celebrated its 62nd birthday, can and must confront the less than heroic chapters in its past and reveal them to the public and for historical study. The public has a right to know about the decisions made by the state's founders, even if they involved violations of human rights, covering up crimes or harassing political opponents by security means. The country is mature and strong enough to absorb the criticism that could arise if, for example, previously unpublished testimonies are discovered about the events at Deir Yassin.

The role of the security establishment and intelligence services is to protect the state in the present, not to hide the past. The new regulations, prepared in response to petitions by journalists to the High Court of Justice, reverse the trend of openness set in the Freedom of Information Law, which the Supreme Court called "a guiding law." Israelis should study history as it happened and as it was documented, not just a censored and prettified version.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red Cross: Israeli policies make many West Bank Palestinians worse off than Gazans; children's growth stunted, deaths because Israeli forces block access to medical care


Photo: Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN
Shepherd Abdul Rahim Bsharat, 59, holds his two youngest daughters, Samoud, three (blonde) and Assia, five
 - The road to al-Hadidiya village in the northeastern West Bank district of Tubas is dotted with boulders etched with a warning in Hebrew, Arabic and English: “Danger - Open Fire Area”.

The boulders arrived about six months ago, and are positioned at the entrance to Palestinian villages, indicating that chunks of the Jordan Valley have become a closed military zone claimed by the Israeli army. They signal a further squeeze on the Bedouin communities here.

Shepherd Abdul Rahim Bsharat, 59, and his family have lived and farmed in al-Hadidiya since the 1960s. At that time, he said, there were 400-500 families there. Now, there are 17, who stay on despite having no access to water or electricity. Every building in the village has an Israeli demolition order on it.

On 21 June, the Israeli military gave Bsharat notice that his house and animal shelters could be destroyed at any time. When Bsharat’s house was previously demolished in 2002, his water tank was confiscated too. “If they destroy my property again, I’ll come back and rebuild it again. This is my land,” he told IRIN.

Bsharat’s home is a canopy of sewn-together sacks propped up over bare ground. It can easily be rebuilt. His other problems are more difficult to solve.

Photo: Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN
Bsharat in front of his home, which has an Israeli demolition order against it
Al-Hadidiya is in a part of the West Bank under complete Israeli control, known as Area C. The estimated 40,000 Palestinians living there are unable to build or repair their homes, schools, hospitals or sewage systems under Israel’s strict permit system, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In a region where almost all families are herders, Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian access to and development of agricultural land mean thousands are going hungry, aid agencies say.

A report published recently by Save the Children UK entitled Life on the Edge, warns that many parts of Area C have plummeted into a humanitarian crisis more acute than in Gaza.

Al-Hadidiya is surrounded by three expanding Israeli townships, Ro’i, Beka’ot and Hemdat. Its land is directly adjacent to Ro’i and the community collects any over-flow from the water pumps irrigating the settlers’ crops in rusting tins.

Despite a lengthy petition from Bsharat, Israeli authorities have not permitted al-Hadidiya to be connected to the main water network. There is no health centre and no permit to build one. The nearest hospital is several hours away in Jericho.

Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints mean that reaching a doctor can take hours. In 2002, Bsharat’s then two-and-a-half-year-old son was hospitalized for 16 days when a common cold turned into pneumonia. In the same year, his eight-year-old son was badly injured falling off a tractor. It was six hours before a car could get through to al-Hadidiya to get him to hospital. He died from blood loss.

Israel has suffered deadly suicide bombings launched from the West Bank in the past and says strict rules on Palestinian movement enforced through checkpoints and roadblocks are necessary for its security. [The suicide bombings occurred after Israeli forces had invaded, confiscated more Palestinian land, and killed numerous Palestinians.]

According to the Israeli military, homes in al-Hadidiya and much of the Jordan Valley are being demolished because they have either been built illegally, without an Israeli building permit, or are located in “closed military areas”. 
[in reality, according to the Hague Geneva Conventions, internationally agreed upon, it is the Israeli occupation is illegal.] Around 18 percent of the West Bank is now a closed military zone. 

Photo: Phoebe Greenwood/IRIN
Bedouin children wander away from their home in al-Hadidiya village, which is now within a closed military zone claimed by the Israeli army
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) found that in Bedouin communities like al-Hadidiya, rates of stunting are more than double those in Gaza. Almost half the children have diarrhoea, one of the biggest killers of children under five in the world, and three quarters of families do not have enough nutritious food.

Save the Children works with local NGO Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) to help families in al-Hadidiya repair damaged buildings and farmland, when possible. But the strict restrictions on building and access mean that the Palestinian Authority and aid agencies are limited in the help they can offer families anywhere in Area C.

“In recent weeks the international community has rightly focused on the suffering of families in Gaza but the plight of children in Area C must not be overlooked. Many families, particularly in Bedouin and herder communities, suffer significantly higher levels of malnutrition and poverty,” Salam Kanaan, Save the Children UK’s country director, said.

“It’s now urgent that steps are taken to ensure children here have safe homes and proper classrooms, enough food to eat and clean water to drink.”