Tuesday, November 30, 2010

UN: 80 percent of Gazans depend on aid

A boy in the Gaza Strip, file photo

The UN has expressed concern that more than 80 percent of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip depend on relief supplies for their survival.

On Tuesday, the director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, John Ging, said, "The plight of the people is still desperate," dpa reported.

"…we are still at the bottom of the ladder," he added.

Gaza has endured more than three years under an all-out Tel Aviv-imposed siege, which has deprived the people of the impoverished coastal sliver of food, fuel and other necessities.

The official said the situation has not improved since May 31, when Israeli commandos carried out an attack on Freedom Flotilla -- a Gaza-bound aid convoy that was attacked by Israeli forces.

The fleet was carrying approximately 750 human rights activists and around 10,000 tons of construction material, medical equipment and school supplies, which were diverted to the Israeli port of Ashdod in the south of Tel Aviv. The assault in international waters killed nine Turkish activists and injured about 50 others, prompting international outcry.

The unyielding embargo persists while Gaza is far from recovering from the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli war that killed over 1,400 Palestinians, inflicting a damage of above $1.6 billion on the enclave's economy.

Israeli military forces, meanwhile, regularly open fire on Gazans who resort to collecting and selling rubble to be able to cope with the dire circumstances.

Carts evacuate 5 wounded workers at Gaza border

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) --
Five Palestinian workers were shot and taken to hospital on Tuesday, after Israeli forces opened fire on the group in what the injured said appeared to be a rapid succession of sniper attacks.

The men said they were collecting stone aggregates in the northern Gaza Strip near the evacuated Israeli settlement of Eli Sinai north of Beit Lahiya when the incident occurred.

Medics said ambulances could not reach the area, so the men were first evacuated by donkey cart until they were safely out of Israel's unilaterally imposed "no-go-zone" which officials say is kept clear because it is an area where attacks are launched against Israel. The lands in the zone constitute some 20 percent of arable farm lands in the Strip.

The men were transferred to Red Crescent ambulances when they were clear of the firing area, and admitted to the Kamal Udwan Hospital in Jabaliya.

With the latest round of injuries, the number of workers shot by Israeli forces rose to 12 in the previous 48 hours.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said soldiers first fired warning shots toward the group, then fired toward their lower bodies. She added that protocol dictates that the warning shots be fired with a sufficient interval for individuals in the no-go zone to leave the area. Soldiers confirmed three direct hits, she said.

French police kill Malian man with Taser

Hundreds of people have died from the use of Taser guns by police.

French police have tasered an African immigrant to death in the Paris suburb of Colombes after he allegedly resisted police who tried to check his identification papers.

Police were apparently responding to an argument that broke out between the 38-year-old Malian man and his friend at whose house he was staying.

The African immigrant was threatened with a deportation order and had been claiming that his friend owed him money.

The unnamed victim reportedly died of heart attack after he was given an electric shock with a Taser gun twice by the police.

Police alleged that the man injured officers with a hammer as they attempted to check his identity papers.

Authorities have ordered an inquiry to determine the exact cause of death.

"Only this man's autopsy will be able to say whether our pistol is responsible for his death. To date, worldwide, a Taser has never killed anyone," the director of the Taser's French subsidiary, Antoine di Zazzo, told AFP.

Amnesty International, however, refuted the claim, documenting more than 351 individual deaths by police tasering in the US alone since June 2001. It added that most of the victims were not carrying a weapon.

Other rights groups also condemned the police use of Taser guns which they assert can be deadly if misused. Police have claimed that the use of Taser guns is justifiable as they are non-lethal.

French police have already faced accusations over committing human rights violations against ethnic minorities.


Bulldozers demolish home, workshop in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Ma’an) – Bulldozers of the Jerusalem municipal council escorted by Israeli police and border guards demolished a newly constructed home and a printing workshop Tuesday in the neighborhood of Al-Isawiya, north of the Old City.

The home, under construction for two years, was a 125-square-meter building belonging to Atiyya Imteir, a father of eight and worker at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center.

While the first demolition went unopposed, the subsequent demolition of a 20-meter-square printing shop in Al-'Isawiya, owned by Robin Ulayyan, was contested by family members. Witnesses said the protest was quashed using tear gas.

Speaking with Ma'an following the demolition, Imteir said that he was given no prior notice that the building would be demolished, though family members said a "stop work order" had been delivered to the home a year and a half earlier. The owner made no mention as to whether he had initiated legal proceedings following the delivery of the papers.

The orders, known locally as "demolition orders," demand that homeowners appear before a magistrates court to defend allegations, in this case that the home was being built without a permit. Because legal action at the court rarely succeeds, the stop work orders essentially constitute a demolition order.

According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, 20,000 homes in East Jerusalem have standing demolition orders against them, while thousands of others have "stop work" orders, mandating owners to cease construction and apply for a permit to build.

Occupied in 1967, East Jerusalem was illegally annexed to Israel in the 1980s, bringing more than 225,000 Palestinians under Israeli governance. Residents must apply to a municipal government they do not recognize for permits to build. Those who do apply face discrimination, with a small fraction of residents being granted permits.

  Monday, November 29, 2010

Palestinian young woman severely
tortured by israeli soldiers

GAZA, (PIC)-- Palestinian female detainee Sumoud Karrajeh, 22, said She was violently attacked and seriously wounded by Israeli troops from Nahshon prison unit during her transfer from jail to a military court earlier this month.
Karrajeh told a human rights organization that she was transferred by Nahshon soldiers on the eighth of November from Damon prison to Ramle prison in order to take her the second day to Ofer military court for trial, but during this transfer the soldiers, composed of men and women, confiscated her belongings and wanted to strip search her.

She added that when she strongly rejected the strip search, the soldiers and female jailers started to violently beat her all over her body and pulled her up using handcuffs many times which caused her terrible pains and bruises in different parts of her body, adding they kept doing that until she almost fainted.

The young women noted that one of the soldiers, whose name was "Sahar", pulled the head cover from her head, tightened his hold on her neck, severely beat and pushed her to the floor, spat on her and dragged her with his handcuffs.

The detainee added that after this physical assault, she was locked up in a small dirty cell infested with cockroaches and stayed up all night scared and in pain lying on the floor without any blanket, sheet or mattress.

In this context, the higher national committee for the support of prisoners strongly denounced the physical assault on Karrajeh, saying this act proved the extent of violence and cruelty used by Israeli soldiers against Palestinian prisoners.

The committee emphasized that the Israeli occupation authority deals violently with female detainees and does not respect their privacy, adding that this incident was not the first of its kind, where many Palestinian women in Israeli jails were beaten and tortured as happened before with prisoner Abeer Odeh in Ramle jail.

It noted that the Israeli prison units and jailers committed frequents assaults on female prisoners, but a few of these incidents were reported by the media.

Palestinian Child Hospitalized After Being Violently Attacked By israeli Policemen

A 7-year-old Palestinian child from Silwan neighborhood, south of the Al Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, was hospitalized Wednesday, after a number of Israeli policemen violently attacked, kicked and punched him.

The child, Adam Mansour Al Rishiq, was taken to a Jerusalem hospital and was immediately sent to the Intensive Care Unit due to the seriousness of his condition.

Fakhri Abu Diab, a member of the local committee to defend Silwan land and property, stated that clashes were reported Wednesday between the police and local residents in Silwan, especially near a protest tent located between Jacob's Well and Ein Al Lowza.

The tent was installed several months ago to protest the Israeli demolition and confiscation of Palestinian and Arab homes in occupied East Jerusalem, which protesters say was carried out despite Israeli court orders protecting the homes from demolition.

Abu Diab stated that Border Guard Policemen chased a number of youth before violently attacking the seven-year-old child, and striking him with their batons on different parts of his body.

Adam’s father stated that his child was moved to the hospital unconscious and heavily bleeding, and was directly sent to the Intensive Care Unit suffering from a number of fractures and bruises.

israeli Soldiers Who Used 9-year Old As Human Shield Received No Jail Time

Two soldiers were convicted of following their actions in 2008 during Israel’s war on Gaza. Despite being convicted of using a nine-year old child as a human shield in Gaza in January 2009, but received only a demotion and 3-month suspended sentence as punishment.

The incident in question occurred during Israel’s three week war on the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009, known in Israel as Operation Cast Lead. The men were convicted of using a nine year old Palestinian boy as a human shield, by forcing him to open a number of bags that the soldiers suspected contained explosives.

The term "human shield" describes the act of a military group or personnel to either place civilians around a combat group to deter enemy fire or to literally shield their bodies using that of the civilian, and is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The Israeli military has been accused of using this tactic since the 2002 attack on the Jenin refugee camp, and the tactic was subsequently deemed illegal under Israeli law in a 2005 Supreme Court ruling. Despite this ruling, and the Fourth Geneva Convention, reports of the continued use of this tactic abound, with multiple instances reported during the Israeli war on Gaza.

Following the lenient sentences, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset, Ahmed Tibi, stated:

“The entire system conveys the message that the life of a Arab, especially the life of a Palestinian child, is worth less. It's no surprise that up to now, hundreds of Palestinian children have been killed by the Israeli army, and it has not led to any punishments or even condemnation.”

  Sunday, November 28, 2010

Officer Who Shot American Activist In Her Eye Exonerated

The Israeli District Police in the Occupied West Bank exonerated an Israeli Army officer who shot an American peace activist in her eye during a protest at the Qalandia terminal, north of Jerusalem, six months ago.

 Emily  Henochowicz - Democracy Now
Emily Henochowicz - Democracy Now

IMEMC - On May 31, the 21-year old American Art student, Emily Henochowicz, was hit in her eye with a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier during a nonviolent protest.

Henochowicz, a student at the Cooper Union College based in New York was participating in a protest against the Israeli May 31 attack on the Turkish ship, Marmara, that was heading to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies.

Nine Turkish peace activists were killed in the attack.

She was carrying a Turkish flag during the protest when a soldier fired a gas canister at her hitting her in the eye. She lost her eye and suffered several other fractures.

Her family filed a complaint to the Israeli Police arguing that the police officer deliberately fired the canister at her.

But the officer, the Border Police battalion commander and the company commander claimed that the canister hit her in the eye after it ricocheted off a barricade, Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported. They said that their claim is “backed by a video footage”.

Representing Henochowicz and her family, Israeli Attorney, Michael Sfrad, slammed the police investigation and stated that the investigation was negligent and described it as a “sewage treatment plant for the Border Police”, Haaretz reported.

Sfrad said that the police did not speak to Haaretz reporter, Avi Issacharoff, and photographer Daniel Bar-On, who were both at the scene and managed to capture the attack in print and photos, Haaretz added.

Sfrad stated that failing to question objective witnesses, who stated that the officer took direct aim at Henochowicz, is considered an obstruction to the investigation and a “confession that there is no interest in finding the truth”.

The case is currently in the hands of the district attorney’s office, the police told Haaretz without giving any further information.

Emily was studying at an Art School in Jerusalem; she holds Israeli citizenship, her father was born in Israel and her grandparents are holocaust survivors.

After arriving in Israel, she started spending time in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied territories, and her drawing started reflecting the suffering of the Palestinian life in the occupied territories.

Israel refused to pay a 37.000 USD bill for her treatment in Jerusalem and claimed that she was not intentionally shot and that she “endangered herself by participating in the demonstration”.

Full August 5 Democracy Now Interview with Emily

israel has put 200,000 Palestinians before military tribunals since 1990

MEMO - A report from the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Detainees and Ex-Detainees' Affairs has claimed that 200,000 Palestinians have been tried by Israeli military tribunals since 1990. What the report describes as "unfair and arbitrary" trials in Israel have led to thousands of Palestinians languishing in the Zionist state's prisons.

"Military court rooms surrounded by the fences of military bases have operated since the beginning of the Occupation shrouded in mystery," said the report. "Journalists are prevented from attending the trials and so the proceedings are not reported." The sentences passed in these courts don't provoke any discussion or controversy inside Israel; neither the judicial nor academic communities take any interest, it added.

The military tribunals are, claims the report, the backbone of Israel's occupation apparatus. The official and civic silence about the courts' affairs strengthens the Israeli security forces by allowing violations of international law to occur with impunity. Israel's military courts reject international law although the latter obliges occupying powers to implement its provisions.

israel aided US-backed Hariri tribunal

israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman says Tel Aviv has contributed to a US-sponsored tribunal probing the murder of former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri, a report says.

Lieberman has recently acknowledged Israel's "cooperation" with Hariri's tribunal, also known as the US-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), and said that Tel Aviv has been transparent and open to the investigation, Lebanon's al-Akhbar newspaper reported Friday.

Hariri was killed alongside more than 20 other people in a massive car bombing in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on February 14, 2005.

The US-sponsored STL was subsequently set up by the UN and the Lebanese government in May 2007 to investigate the murder. The court is expected to announce its findings by the end of 2010.

Meanwhile, the Israeli foreign minister accused Lebanon's resistance movement of Hezbollah of trying to undermine the tribunal.

The accusation has been made despite Secretary General of Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah's repeated rejection of the allegations and warnings against Israeli plots.

In an August speech, the resistance leader presented evidence proving that Israel masterminded the assassination. In his televised address Nasrallah presented footage captured by Israeli unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), as well as recorded confessions by Israeli fifth columnists, substantiating that Tel Aviv had been behind the killing.

Nasrallah also pointed out that the investigators had been infiltrating deep into Lebanon and channeling date outwards even before the tribunal took its current form.


UNIFIL to take refuge in israel at war

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reportedly plans to evacuate its wounded troops to Israel if a war breaks out in the region.

The UN-peacekeeping force set the plan ten days ago and is to implement it in a joint maneuver with the Israeli army, Naharnet cited a report the Lebanese paper al-Akhbar published on Monday.

The paper said that the Lebanese army contacted UNIFIL command to confirm the news of the maneuver. The military warned that the move would be a negative development and would demonstrate UNIFIL's siding with Israel.

On August 30, the UN Security Council decided to expand the mandate of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon for another year without modifying its rules of engagement.

The UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to monitor the border between Israel and southern Lebanon and was given a wider role after the 2006 war Israel waged against the country.

However, UNIFIL's inaction towards border conflicts and almost daily violations of Lebanon's airspace by Israeli warplanes has made it unpopular among people in southern Lebanon.

Early in July, the UN forces had to stop a unilateral maneuver in the wake of mounting protests from people in the region who blocked roads to UNIFIL troops and their armored vehicles.

The angry protesters condemned the peacekeeping forces' drills which they said were aimed at protecting Israel from possible missile attacks from southern Lebanon.

The country's popular resistance group Hezbollah also denounced the move as out of ordinary and not in accordance with the mandate of the UNIFIL, whose forces must be accompanied with the Lebanese army soldiers.


  Saturday, November 27, 2010

International Women's Day
commemorated in Palestine

MEMO - Yesterday, 25 November, women around the world commemorated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This day was particularly significant to the Palestinian women in Gaza, who came out in large numbers to march in solidarity with all those women, young or old, who had suffered and, indeed, continue to suffer under the brutal Israeli Occupation.

Palestinian women are continuously put through hardships and suffer from the daily injustices of the Occupation. While some women and their families marched through the streets of the Gaza Strip, others sat in front of the UN headquarters in Gaza, demanding justice for those who are being imprisoned in Israeli jails and called for the end of violence and abuse against the women of Palestine. A photo exhibition was also unveiled, depicting women in their various roles in the struggle against their Occupiers and the illegal siege.

Trade unions also organized a sit-in in front of the Red Cross, demanding international intervention to stop the abuse of women in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including the West Bank, where the Palestinian Authority’s security forces continue to harass and imprison women who support the Hamas movement; they are often subjected to brutal physical and psychological violence.

  Friday, November 26, 2010

erases Palestinian village of Abul Ajaj from map

JORDAN VALLEY, (PIC)-- Israeli bulldozers under heavy military protection demolished Wednesday morning the village of Abul Ajaj in the northern Jordan valley region as a prelude to expanding the settlement of Metsuwah that was established on Palestinian lands.

Eyewitnesses said that more than 30 Palestinian structures belonging to the family of Al Doais were totally removed from the area, adding that the Israeli troops have imposed a military cordon on the area since the early morning hours, while the family refused to leave their hometown.

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) had handed the residents of the village orders to evacuate their homes, which were attacked earlier more than once by extremist Jewish settlers.

In another incident, the IOF stormed in the morning of the same day the village of Bani Hassan in the Palestinian city of Salfit, and embarked on knocking down Palestinian homes and bulldozing agricultural lands.

Local sources reported that the demolitions took place in Beir Abu Ammar town, adding that the Israeli troops physically assaulted the Palestinian farmers and detained head of the municipal council Abdulkareem Rayyan.

They also said that dozens of Palestinians flocked into the town in order to stop the demolitions and clashed with the troops.

The Israeli occupation authority (IOA) had warned months ago the Palestinian owners of the lands in this town not come to their lands at the pretext they are state property and located within the area classified by Israel as C.

Citizens from the area said these demolitions were carried out in an attempt to control water resources in the area, where the settlers want to take over water wells and deprive the Palestinian villages from them.

razes Palestinian home in East Al-Quds

Maan News - AL-QUDS (AFP) -- Israeli police on Wednesday razed a Palestinian house in occupied East Jerusalem, shortly before the owner arrived home with a court order halting the demolition.

Scores of police and a single bulldozer were involved in the operation, which leveled the small house in the At-Tur neighborhood near the Mount of Olives.

House owner Abed Zablah, a father of five, showed Agence France-Presse a letter issued early Wednesday by the Jerusalem District Court ordering a halt to the demolition.

But by the time he got home with the letter, the house was already flattened, he said.

Israeli police had no immediate comment on the demolition.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops in the Jordan Valley destroyed two buildings and a tent being used by Palestinians in Massu'a, southwest of Nablus, near the border with Jordan, a military spokesman told AFP.

The buildings, which were being used to house cattle, were demolished because they had been erected illegally on public land, the spokesman said.

Permits for Palestinians to build in East Jerusalem are extremely rare, rights groups say, and Israel frequently issues demolition orders despite the sensitive nature of such operations on land the Palestinians want as capital of their future state.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the rest of the world. The state considers the whole of Jerusalem its "eternal and indivisible" capital.


6srael razes West Bank mosque

TUBAS (Ma’an) -- Israel's Civil Administration demolished a building in the Tubas area on Thursday which villagers use as the only mosque in the small town.

Residents of Khirbet Yarza, a village of less than 200 residents, said Israeli bulldozers entered the Jordan Valley area early in the morning and tore down the mosque, saying document indicated that it was demolished because it lacked a proper permit.

Local PA spokesman Ahmad As’ad said villagers had papers proving the mosque was legal, and that it was built before 1967, when Israeli forces occupied the West Bank.

A Civil Administration official said the building was demolished along with eight sheds which were built without permits in an area that Israeli forces had declared a firing zone.

"The extension on the building which workers said could have been a mosque was unsafe," he said, refuting claims that the structure had been in place for as long as villagers claimed.

"They got the evacuation order three months ago and the demolition order after that, they had a chance to appeal it in the court," he added.

The spokesman from the village, a community of farmers and herders, did not indicate that the issue had been taken to the Israeli courts.

Since 1967, Israel has designated close to 18% of the West Bank a closed military zone for the purposes of military training, according to the UN.

"Israel's planning regime in Area C directly contributes to poor living conditions confronting many Palestinians in the West Bank," said a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

According to Israeli officials, "citizens have the time to arrive and appeal at the civil administration offices," but according to the UN, few appeals succeed, being unable to satisfy severely restrictive policies.

Most recent demolitions echo similar incidents which prompted a December 2009 UN report, which notes that "Palestinian construction is effectively prohibited in some 70 percent of Area C, while in the remaining 30 percent, a range of restrictions virtually eliminate the possibility of obtaining a permit."

The UN report noted that some 39% of the West Bank falls under the category of "state land," noting that the area is "four times more than the territory taken up by the built-up are of settlements." The issue was particularly acute for residents of the Jordan Valley, the report said, "where almost all of the area falls under the jurisdiction of two Regional [settlement] Councils."

In practical terms, the UN office has noted, "in almost the entirety of the Jordan Valley, Palestinian construction is prohibited."

  Thursday, November 25, 2010

Honouring ♥Helen Thomas♥ A Great Journalist,

traduced by hacks


These remarks were delivered at a tribute for Helen Thomas, Thursday, November 18, at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington DC D.C., sponsored by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC).

I’m very proud to be asked to speak at a tribute to one of the great journalists in the history of this country - Helen Thomas. I say she is a great journalist because she was never cuddled up in the lap of the President - any president - when she was doing her job. She is someone my old friend, I.F. Stone, would be very proud of if he were still alive.

To say that she made a long succession of Presidents uncomfortable with her sharp questioning would be an understatement. Even Barack Obama, who has been advertised as a tolerant man, had to join in the denunciations of Helen. He, along with the others in the press corps, acted very much like children in a school yard. When one of the children falls down, the rest start kicking.

Helen was not necessarily done in by her statement about Israel. What she said is what I’ve been saying for years - the Zionists should get the hell out of Palestine.

Where they go when they leave there is not my concern, just as it is not the Zionists' concern where the Palestinians went when they were driven out of Palestine. She was done in because she embarrassed the group of lap dogs who call themselves White House reporters. She has been doing what each and every one of them wishes they had the temerity to do - find out what the government is doing to us on a day by day basis.

She has consistently posed serious questions to each administration in turn - questions that affect the financial and emotional and security health of our country. She refused to go along with the game played by the national press - that is, to be very, very polite to the President during his press conferences so that they may stay in the good graces of the government they are supposed to be reporting on.

I’m especially proud because now ADC has been called anti-semitic by the Director of the Bnai Brith Defamation League, Abe Foxman. You remember Dr Johnson’s saying, that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel? Well, anti-semitism has become the last gasp of the worn-out old Zionists who, instead of trying to make America a better place in which to live, make their living snarling at anyone who might criticize what Israel is doing to the Palestinians and to the Lebanese, and to the Syrians.

I once called Alan Dershowitz a snake on Al Manar television. Al Manar is Hezbollah’s news channel in Lebanon. When he found out what I had said, he wrote a column in the Jerusalem post, calling me an anti-Semite. My response has been - to him and to anyone else - that an anti-Semite is synonymous with disliking Jews, and that I do not dislike Jews, I only dislike Alan Dershowitz, and Abe Foxman, and Bibi Netanyahu.

I also know now that I should have apologized to the snakes.

As for Abe Foxman, he is the head of the B’Nai Brith, whose stated mission is to promote tolerance and to fight against racism. He demonstrated that tolerance when he came out bleating that he was opposed to a mosque being built near the World Trade Center site. And he has made a living equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, which, so far as tolerance goes, promotes only hatred and racism.
The truth is, that Israel has very little to do with Judaism, but it has a lot to do with fascism.

For the Zionist supporters of Israel, it’s OK for Israel to kill on the average of at least one Palestinian a day during its illegal occupation;.

It’s OK for Israel to use the million and a half people in Gaza as living targets in a shooting gallery.

It’s OK to bomb Syria and Lebanon any time such an attack is needed to bolster the military credentials of Israel=s politicians.

It’s OK to invade Lebanon whenever they feel like it. In my memory, Israel's military has killed at least 30,000 civilians in their Lebanon invasions. But lately, with Hezbollah standing up to them, it=s happening on fewer and fewer occasions, and fewer and fewer Lebanese are being slaughtered by Israel.

It's OK to destroy the olive groves of Palestinian farmers. It's OK to move them off their land to make room for Jewish settlements.

It’s OK for Israel to send agents to spy on the United States, and it’s OK for the Obama Administration to dismiss charges against those of Israel’s spies who have been caught red-handed.

It’s OK for Israel to commit an act of criminal piracy on the high seas by boarding a ship full of people and food and medicine on their way to help stem the starvation brought on by Israel’s policy in Gaza, and to outright murder 9 people, including an American citizen out on the high seas. Have you heard much lately about the American boy who was assassinated by the Israeli military on board one of those aid ships? Have you wondered why you haven't heard anything about it from those great American journalists who so bravely ganged up on Helen Thomas?

It's OK to do all of those things I've listed, but it’s not OK to send money and food to Palestinian refugees to help them survive.

And it’s not OK for Helen Thomas to tell Israel to get the hell out of Palestine.

And it’s not OK for anyone else to say that Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine is wrong and against the law, and that American taxpayers’ money is being used to help Israel commit these crimes against humanity. That kind of criticism brings down calls of "anti-Semitism" from the likes of Foxman and Dershowitz.

As an American citizen, I am deeply worried, among other things, about the direction our government has taken and is taking with respect to its financing of Israel’s crimes. There is no one left in the press corps to ask such questions now that they’ve drummed Helen out of journalism.

Helen's fatal, and final, sin was, during a discussion of Iran's nuclear program during a press conference, to ask President Obama if anyone else in the Middle East -beside Iran - has nuclear weapons. Of course, he didn't answer the question, which probably explains why he joined the chorus of denouncers to drum Helen Thomas out of the White House press room. He simply didn't want the question coming up again at a future press conference.

But you can easily see the service Helen performed by asking that question. As the Zionists and the Israelis are working very hard to get our country into a war with Iran, there remains almost no voice in the press or in the Congress to call a halt to this madness.

That is why we are all paying tribute to Helen tonight, and I hope, for a long time after this night. We pay tribute to all soldiers who act with bravery, and tonight, we add Helen Thomas to that company. She deserves our thanks, and she deserves the thanks of our nation.

Thank you.

James Abourezk is a former U.S. Senator, who practices law in Sioux Falls. He can be reached at georgepatton45@gmail.com.

  Monday, November 22, 2010

Unrecognized Palestinians:
Illegally Destroying Their Homes and Villages


In October, the Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, together with nine other human rights organizations, addressed a position paper on "The unconstitutionality of the state's policy of demolishing Arab Bedouin unrecognized villages in the Negev" to three Israeli officials:

-- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,

-- Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, and

-- Minister of Justice Yaakov Neeman.

Citing the illegality of home demolitions, in this case of Arab Israeli citizens, they urged halting them immediately and finding a durable solution for unrecognized village residents. In Salim Abu- Medeghem v. The Israel Land Administration (April 14, 2007), Israel's High Court proposed replacing demolitions with solutions based on dialogue, Justice Arbel ruling:

"....the difficult reality the Bedouin population faces in the State of Israel requires a systemic, complete and comprehensive solution, and the sooner the better...The time has come to formulate and implement a truly comprehensive solution to this problem."

An earlier article addressed this issue, accessed through the following link:

It explained that Israeli Arabs live mainly in all-Arab towns and villages in three heartlands - the Galilee in the north; what's called the "Little Triangle" in the center along the Israeli side of the Green Line; and the Negev in the south.

Up to 150,000 Bedouin Arabs, Israeli citizens, live in so-called "unrecognized villages," mainly in the Galilee and Negev. They're unrecognized because their residents are considered internal refugees, forced from their homes during Israel's War of Independence and prevented from returning. Thereafter, they've been relentlessly mistreated, including by repressive zoning restrictions, prohibiting construction, agriculture, and other legal rights.

They're also been denied essential services, including water, electricity, roads, transport, sanitation, education, healthcare, postal and telephone service, refuse removal and more because under Israel's Planning and Construction Law they're illegal. More recently, stepped up efforts to demolish their homes and villages are dispossessing them, making way for Jewish development, much like what's ongoing throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Adalah and the other human rights organizations want it stopped. Negev Bedouins number around 80,000. After earlier concentrating them in the desert's eastern portion, a policy of reducing their living space began in the 1990s. Today, Israel wants to remove as many as possible, disregarding their basic rights.

Since 1948, Israeli master plans completely ignored the unrecognized villages, denying their residents rights afforded Jews. The ongoing injustice continues relentlessly, today pursuing a policy of destroying entire villages, forcible displacements then following.

Examples include Al-Araqib. On July 27, 2010, at 4:30AM, the whole village was razed, its 45 homes demolished, illegal force used against men, women and children. Without warning, police stormed the village, wearing face masks and no IDs. Income Tax Authority representatives came with them, lawlessly seizing assets, purportedly to cover unverified debts.

The episode was appalling, leaving residents traumatized, their homes razed in front of their eyes, their possessions seized, and no alternative housing provided. After rebuilding four times, authorities again destroyed them.

Umm al-Hieran - Atir is home to about 1,100 Bedouins, evacuation and expulsion orders pending against them on grounds of trespassing. As a result, many village homes got demolition orders. Residents have lived there since 1956 after members of the Abu al-Qi'an tribe were expelled from Wadi Zuballa (today part of the Kibbutz Shoval). However, according to various master plans, part of their village is earmarked for a Jewish town to be called Hiran.

Al-Sura is another example, situated on Al-Nasasra tribe land, predating Israel's creation. All village houses got demolition orders, their land to be stolen for industrial development excluding them.

In August 2010, demolitions occurred in Jarabe, Abda, Abu al-Sulab, Al-Shihabi (Abu Tulul) and Baqurnub. There and in other villages, the practice has been longstanding. However, 2010 saw a dramatic rise, by early October destroying over 200 homes, properties and other possessions confiscated. Moreover, hundreds of olive trees were uprooted and agricultural crops destroyed.

More information can be found at the Negev Coexistence Forum's web site, accessed through the following link:


Israel's Lawless Disregard for Its Arab Minority

Home demolitions violate their legal rights to dignity, housing, health and life, mistreatment Israel Jews don't face. Loss of their homes also violates a Supreme Court ruling that the right to housing is part of their minimal subsistence. It's therefore part of their legal right to dignity.

In Preminger v. Mor (1997), Justice Strasberg-Cohen held that:

"human dignity is a fundamental constitutional value in our society. No one would dispute that it is necessary to safeguard a person's dignity even if he has failed or fallen into debt, and that he should not be left without a roof over his head."

In Ajouri v. Commander of IDF Forces in the West Bank (2002), the Court held that "A person's home is not only a roof over his head, but also a means for the physical and social location of the person, of his private life and social relations."

Moreover, since Bedouin life is especially harsh, authorities have an added responsibility to ensure shelter. In Commitment to Peace and Social Justice NGO v. The Minister of Finance (2005), the Court ruled that dignity included the right to minimal living conditions to ensure protection for human life. As such, the state is duty bound to care for those with meager means. Retired Chief Justice Barak ruled:

"The basic laws protect the right to dignity, including the aspect of material subsistence required for the exercise of (this right). From this viewpoint, (that entails) the right to conduct his normal life as a human being without his distress defeating him and bringing him to a state of intolerable impoverishment."

International laws also affirm these rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. ICESCR's Article 11 defines elements to adequate housing to include:

-- affordability, so that obtaining it doesn't jeopardize other essential needs;

-- a prohibition against discriminatory laws;

-- the right to privacy;

-- protection from arbitrary eviction;

-- accessibility to infrastructure and services, including health, education, and employment;

-- the right to choose residency locations; and

-- to live in culturally adaptable housing.

Other international laws specify rights for women and children, and for authorities to assure them. Evicting Bedouin Arabs and demolishing the homes and villages, based on their nationality and religion, clearly violates their rights under Israeli and international law. Worse still, it's being done solely for Jewish development, showing contempt for Arab citizens, violating basic human rights and freedoms.

Jewish Hiran will replace Umm al-Hieran. Al-Araqib will be demolished for Givot Barr. In addition, individual Jewish settlements are being approved, some in violation of planning policy. For example, in July 2010, a Negev Development Authority Law amendment passed, recognizing Negev Jewish settlers, master plans for them to follow. As a result, Bedouin rights will be trashed, fundamental laws violated, even though as Dr. Sandy Kedar explains:

Negev Bedouins are a recognized indigenous minority, their historical existence and presence predating Israel's existence. Their land and property rights are indisputable. Israel's Basic Law affirms them, requiring authorities to protect them as well as other basic rights.

Israel's Or Commission, established in October 2000, recommended that Bedouin villages be recognized and developed, saying:

"The land conflict has existed since the first days of the state....The Arab public strongly supports and identifies with the Bedouin's stance." Though Israeli citizens, their "villages are not recognized (and) have not been provided with infrastructure and services....The vast majority of residents of the unrecognized villages were required to move to a number of central towns that were planned for them....Several public associations have formed to" protect them." They deserve equitable conflict resolution.

In 2007, Israel's Housing and Construction minister appointed the Goldberg Committee to resolve this issue. On November 11, 2008, the Committee recommended that all Negev Bedouin villages be recognized. In addition, Bedouin citizens should be granted land ownership rights.

On January 18, 2009, authorities then approved Decision No. 4411, deciding that it "regards the outline proposed by the committee as a basis for resolving the settlement of the Bedouin in the Negev." Then, in June 2010, the "Investigator's Recommendations Regarding the Objections to District Master Plan 23-1404 - A Partial District Master Plan for the Beersheva Metropolitan Area" was published. It also recommended recognition.

In July 2010, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) issued its "Concluding Observations" on Israel's third periodic report, expressing concern about home demolitions and forced evictions. HRC called on Israel to respect Bedouin rights to their land and agricultural livelihoods on it.

The UN CERD Committee, responsible for monitoring the state's implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination expressed concern in June 2007 over Israeli violations, saying Bedouin village and land rights must be recognized.

In 2005, the UN CEDAW Committee, responsible for monitoring states' implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women expressed outrage over how Bedouin women were being treated.

In 2002, the UN CAT Committee, responsible for monitoring the state's implementation of the International Convention Against Torture (CAT), determined that Israel's home demolition and displacement policy constituted, in some cases, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment, violating the statute.

Adalah attorney Sawsan Zaher asked the above addressed officials to halt their aggressive policies, replacing them with constructive dialogue for acceptable solutions. International and Israeli law demand it. As in the past on all Jewish/Muslim issues, they were unresponsive. As a result, Israeli lawlessness continues relentlessly, the rule of law a non-starter, Bedouin Arab citizens victimized like other Israeli Arabs and Occupied Palestinians, justice for them still denied.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


israeli authorities raze Araqib village for the seventh time

NEGEV, (PIC)-- Israeli municipality bulldozers razed the Arab Bedouin village of Araqib in the Negev desert for the seventh time on Monday, local sources reported.

They said that dozens of police and border police forces provided protection for the municipal teams, adding that the security men forced the citizens to evacuate their homes and belongings in a short time.

The security forces encircled the village and gathered the inhabitants in the village's cemetery at the pretext of preventing any attempt to protest the demolitions.

The village's land defense committee condemned the act in a statement, describing what happened as a "crime".

  Sunday, November 21, 2010

Iranian Jews not persecuted, not leaving Iran anytime soon

Whatever they say abroad is lies - we are comfortable in Iran - if you're not political and don't bother them then they won't bother you - Hersel Gabriel
Although Iran and Israel are bitter enemies, few know that Iran is home to the largest number of Jews anywhere in the Middle East outside Israel. 
About 25,000 Jews live in Iran and most are determined to remain no matter what the pressures - as proud of their Iranian culture as of their Jewish roots. 

It is dawn in the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and Iranian Jews bring out the Torah and read the ancient text before making their way to work. 

It is not a sight you would expect in a revolutionary Islamic state, but there are synagogues dotted all over Iran where Jews discreetly practise their religion. 

"Because of our long history here we are tolerated," says Jewish community leader Unees Hammami, who organised the prayers.
He says the father of Iran's revolution, Imam Khomeini, recognised Jews as a religious minority that should be protected.  As a result Jews have one representative in the Iranian parliament. 

"Imam Khomeini made a distinction between Jews and Zionists and he supported us," says Mr Hammami. 

'Anti-Jewish feeling'
In the Yusufabad synagogue the announcements are made in Persian - most Iranian Jews don't really speak Hebrew well.
Jews have lived in Persia for nearly 3,000 years - the descendants of slaves from Babylon saved by Cyrus the Great. 

Over the centuries there have been sporadic purges, pogroms and forced conversions to Islam as well as periods of peaceful co-existence.
These days anti-Jewish feeling is periodically stirred by the media

Mr Hammami says state-run television confuses Zionism and Judaism so that "ordinary people may think that whatever the Israelis do is supported by all Jews".

During the fighting in Lebanon a hardline weekly newspaper, Yalesarat, published two photographs of synagogues on its front page full of people waving Israeli flags celebrating Israeli independence day.

The paper falsely said the synagogues were in Iran - even describing one as the Yusufabad synagogue in Tehran and locating another in Shiraz.

"This provoked a number of opportunists in Shiraz," explains Iran's Jewish MP, Maurice Mohtamed, "and there was an assault on two synagogues."

Mr Mohtamed says the incident was defused by the Iranian security forces, who explained to people that the news was not true.
And with the coming to power of an ultra-conservative like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there has been increased concern internationally about the fate of Iranian Jews. 

'Holocaust denial'

Mr Ahmedinejad has repeatedly used rabid anti-Israeli rhetoric - slogans like "wipe Israel off the map" - and most controversially he has questioned the number killed in the Holocaust during World War II. 

Mr Mohtamed has been outspoken in his condemnation of the president's views - in itself a sign that there is some space for Jews in Iran to express themselves.
"It's very regrettable to see a horrible tragedy so far reaching as the Holocaust being denied ... it was a very big insult to Jews all around the world," says Mr Mohtamed, who has also strongly condemned the exhibition of cartoons about the Holocaust organised by an Iranian newspaper owned by the Tehran municipality. 

Despite the offence Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has caused to Jews around the world, his office recently donated money for Tehran's Jewish hospital. 

It is one of only four Jewish charity hospitals worldwide and is funded with money from the Jewish diaspora - something remarkable in Iran where even local aid organisations have difficulty receiving funds from abroad for fear of being accused of being foreign agents.
Most of the patients and staff are Muslim these days, but director Ciamak Morsathegh is Jewish. 

"Anti-Semitism is not an eastern phenomenon, it's not an Islamic or Iranian phenomenon - anti-Semitism is a European phenomenon," he says, arguing that Jews in Iran even in their worst days never suffered as much as they did in Europe. 

Israeli family ties
But there are legal problems for Jews in Iran - if one member of a Jewish family converts to Islam he can inherit all the family's property.
Jews cannot become army officers and the headmasters of the Jewish schools in Tehran are all Muslim, though there is no law that says this should be so. 

But their greatest vulnerability is their links to Israel - where many Jews have relatives. 

Seven years ago a group of Jews in the southern city of Shiraz was accused of spying for Israel - eventually they were all released. But today many Iranian Jews travel to and from Iran's enemy Israel.
In one of Tehran's six remaining kosher butcher's shops, everyone has relatives in Israel. 

In between chopping up meat, butcher Hersel Gabriel tells me how he expected problems when he came back from Israel, but in fact the immigration officer didn't say anything to him. 

"Whatever they say abroad is lies - we are comfortable in Iran - if you're not political and don't bother them then they won't bother you," he explains. 

His customer, middle-aged housewife Giti agrees, saying she can easily talk to her two sons in Tel Aviv on the telephone and visit them.
"It's not a problem coming and going; I went to Israel once through Turkey and once through Cyprus and it was not problem at all," she says. 

Gone are the early days of the Iranian revolution when Jews - and many Muslims - found it hard to get passports to travel abroad.
"In the last five years the government has allowed Iranian Jews to go to Israel freely, meet their families and when they come back they face no problems," says Mr Mohtamed. 

He says there is also a way for Iranian Jews who emigrated to Israel decades ago to return to Iran and see their families. 

"They can now go to the Iranian consul general in Istanbul and get Iranian identity documents and freely come to Iran," he says. 

The exodus of Jews from Iran seems to have slowed down - the first wave was in the 1950s and the second was in the wake of the Iranian Revolution. 

Those Jews who remain in Iran seem to have made a conscious decision to stay put. 

"We are Iranian and we have been living in Iran for more than 3,000 years," says the Jewish hospital director Ciamak Morsathegh.
"I am not going to leave - I will stay in Iran under any conditions," he declares.

  Saturday, November 20, 2010

israeli authorities planning to eject
100,000 Palestinians from Jerusalem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Observers say the situation in Jerusalem is likely to explode in light of a decision by Israeli occupation authorities to demolish hundreds of Palestinian homes in the city.

Israeli legal consultant Yahuda Feinstein, during a meeting Thursday between Israel’s planning and construction committee attended by the Israeli mayor of Jerusalem and police force representatives, gave directives to partially close down a settlement outpost in the Arab district of Silwan and demolish hundreds of nearby Palestinian homes.

Silwan defense committee member Fakhri Abu Dhiab told Al-Jazeera that hundreds of residents have already received demolition notices.

Referring to sources inside Israel’s Jerusalem municipality, he added that Jerusalem mayor Nir Barakat received the green light from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to carry out the demolitions.

The committee said 340 homes are threatened to be demolished in Silwan for allegedly being built without a permit.

Israeli authorities approved only 60 building permits since the eastern part of the city was occupied in 1967.

Jerusalem attorney Ahmed Al-Roweidi said in a press release on Thursday that more than 20,000 homes in Jerusalem will be affected by decisions made in Israeli courts, adding that demolition orders against these homes would require 100,000 Palestinians to be ejected from their homes in an attempt to attract more Jewish settlers to reside in new settlements.

Roweidi said the Jerusalem district of Silwan, the Bustan neighborhood in particular, was under the greatest danger as the Israeli government threatened to take down 88 homes and evacuate 1,500 Arab residents to build a new biblical park dubbed the “King’s Park” on its place.

The Israeli occupation government is also expected to approve during a weekly meeting on Sunday a 30 million dollar plan to finish digging and construction in the Buraq Square, known by Jews as the Wailing Wall area.

Sources in Jerusalem said the plan, scheduled to stretch between 2011-2015, includes archaeological excavations in the area and tunnels near the Aqsa Mosque set to make the area accessible to the Jewish public.

The plan was complementary to an earlier 20 million dollar plan that lasted from 2006 to 2010 aimed at developing the Buraq Square and surrounding areas.

Resistance Floats - Canadian boat to break the blockade on Gaza

By Meagan Wohlberg

MONTREAL—Just months after the Israeli Defense Forces raided a humanitarian flotilla headed to Gaza and killed nine international activists on the Mavi Marmara, a team of Canadians is gathering funds and passengers for their own Gaza-bound boat, departing from the Mediterranean as soon as December.

Composed of 40 activists from across the country, this would be the first Canadian group to participate in the international effort.

“Over the past two years, many boats tried to break the Israeli siege over Gaza,” said Ehab Lotayef, part of the Canadian boat organizing group. “The Canadian presence in these efforts was nearly non-existent. Canada at the same time is, as a government, one of the strongest supporters of Israel. It stays silent when Israel violates international law or commits atrocities against the Palestinian people, and in most cases, even supports Israel in doing that.”

Sending a boat of humanitarian aid to Gaza requires a minimum of $300,000, mainly for the purchase of a boat and medicines. Organizers say they have reached a third of this goal and have received the endorsement of approximately 100 organizations.

The Canadian boat is a partner of the Free Gaza Movement, which has sailed ten humanitarian flotillas to Gaza since 2008. Two of their ships successfully reached Gaza that year, but all others since have been interrupted by Israel.

Lotayef insists the team is not perturbed by this reality.

“We are there to challenge the Israeli blockade in a passive-resistance manner,” he said. “We don’t want anybody to get harmed, we are not an army to go stand against the Israeli army, but we refuse in principle to get towed to Ashdod or redirected to Egypt.”

The boat project is virtually unprecedented in Canadian history, says Yves Engler, author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and The Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy.

“There aren’t many examples in the history of Canadian international solidarity that are being taken on the same scale as Canadian boat to Gaza...as mass opposition to a policy that the Canadian government is supporting abroad,” he said.

He cited the 1981 campaign “Tools for Peace,” which brought “people-to-people” aid to Nicaragua, as another example of Canadians providing concrete aid while broadly critiquing their government's actions.

“I think the boat to Gaza is similar to that,” he said.

While the mission aims to deliver humanitarian aid, it doubles as an attempt to attract international attention in order to pressure Israel into lifting the blockade.

“I would be surprised if they managed to reach Gaza, that’s one thing for sure,” said Michel Lambert, executive director and co-founder of Alternatives, the key sponsor and financial manager of the Canadian boat.

“But I think that politically speaking, the fact that there will be Canadian citizens on that boat will of course put the state of Israel in a difficult position.”

The Harper government has made the Canadian government one of Israel’s strongest allies in the international community. Canada was the first country to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority in 2006 and the only country to vote against the 2008 United Nations Human Rights Council resolution to call for an end to the siege of Gaza. In addition, Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon defended Israel’s 22-day campaign “Operation Cast Lead,” which left over 1,200 Palestinians dead in January 2009, taking the position that Israel acted in self-defense.

Pierre Florea, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), refused to comment on the specifics of a governmental response to the launch of the Canadian boat or any potential attacks by Israel.

“We will not speculate on hypothetical scenarios,” he said. He added that DFAIT calls on all parties to deliver aid by official channels and that “Canada recognizes Israel's legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from Hamas and other terrorist attacks.”

Despite holding back on public comments to the media, the government is closely monitoring Canada Boat to Gaza organizers. Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) agents visited Lotayef’s home twice in August in an attempt to talk about the project and his “safety,” but have not contacted him since.

“I told them that if I feel that the work I’m doing is being infiltrated or that I’m in danger from any group, I will contact the police,” said Lotayef, who knows each of the 40 working group members individually.

Lambert is not surprised at the reaction of the government.

“We’ve seen attempts last year to criminalize even informal informational activities in Canada, like the Israeli Apartheid Week,” he said. “We’ve seen people in parliament discussing the possibility of making this a crime...to say 'Israel' and 'apartheid' in the same sentence.”

The fatal attack on the Mavi Marmara in May proved to be successful in forcing Israel to weaken the embargo it has been imposing on Gaza since June 2007. After international condemnation of the raid, Israel announced on June 17 that it would “liberalize” the blockade for civilian goods.

According to the Fourth Geneva Convention, food, medicine and other aid cannot be restricted as a result of a blockade, nor can civilians be prevented from leaving the war zone. The United Nations fact-finding mission led by Richard Goldstone concluded that Israel's blockade violated international law, calling it “collective punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip.”

Israel's announcement of a “loosened” blockade has caused some, like Rabbi Reuben Poupko of the Quebec-Israel Committee, to see future flotillas aimed at breaking the siege as “misguided.”

“It’s a little after the fact,” said Poupko. “I don’t really understand why anyone feels it’s necessary. The crisis according to all objective observers is pretty much over, if there was a crisis beforehand. The border crossing is now letting in a lot more stuff and the alleged siege—the inspection protocol which Egypt and Israel had imposed upon Gaza—has been loosened dramatically. I’m not sure why it would be necessary.”

But recent news reports say that Israel’s continued restriction on allowing construction materials into the Gaza strip is barely making a dent in alleviating the housing shortage caused by Operation Cast Lead almost two years ago. According to Israeli human rights group Gisha, only about 60 trucks of cement, steel and gravel have come in each month for the past three months, compared to 5,000 a month before the blockade.

Access to medicine and outside medical treatment has also remained a serious problem, with 70 per cent of medicines donated to Gaza expiring before they make it across the border, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—an agency responsible for helping 4.7 million Palestinian refugees access health care and education—is experiencing a $90-million shortfall this year.

Canada had been supplying aid to UNRWA since 1950, but announced this January that it would stop giving core monetary support to the agency because of concerns about its “values.”

A CIDA report in 2009 stated that UNRWA represented a “low risk” for funding terrorist groups.

According to Engler, loosening the blockade has not changed daily life for those in Gaza.

“Israel still controls the waterways, the airspace, and just the fact that they can decide to lessen or strengthen their blockade is indicative that they have overwhelming control over Palestinian lives in Gaza,” he said.

The Canadian boat project has also been criticized by Montreal Muslim Council president Salam Elmenyawi, who said the money should be used for aid rather than “controversy.”

Lotayef has a difference of opinion.

“Breaking of the siege is more important in the long run than just giving people food,” he said. “The long-term interest should be above short term need.”

Both Lotayef and Lambert agree that the flotilla is not the only way to help Palestinians in Gaza and influence Israeli policy, citing it as one tactic among others—like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign and the World Education Forum in Palestine—to effectively oppose the Israeli occupation.

“I think that all together—this and other initiatives—is the best way to confront the state of Israel and its policies,” said Lambert. “It needs to be as diversified as they are because the state of Israel is quite diversified in its own ways of implementing the occupation. So you need to be in every sphere to eventually be capable to have an impact on their policies.”

Just as combating South African apartheid took a variety of social and political movements, so too will the Palestinian liberation movement, said Lotayef.

“The important thing is at the end of the day we have to voice our objection to the siege of Gaza, the blockade, and we also have to challenge our own government [and say] that this compliance and this silence is not acceptable.”

Meagan Wohlberg is a journalism student and community organizer living in Montreal. For more information about the Canadian boat: http://canadaboatgaza.org.


israel wages war against Gazan rubble collectors

17 November 2010 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza

28 year old Ibrahim Yousef Ghaben from Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza, personifies the trials of life for Palestinians and their families, and the multitude of hardships brought by Israel’s siege and violent attacks. It would not normally have been Ibrahim’s choice to collect rubble with a donkey cart as a means of providing for his sick mother, wife and 8 young children. But in Gaza, external pressures force people to make choices that anywhere else would be deemed beyond reason and perhaps beyond imagination.

The shooting on the 10th of November was the latest setback for Ibrahim, the most recent of the 10 rock collectors shot near or in the Israeli imposed ‘buffer zone’ during the last 3 weeks. The buffer zone is a 300m wide strip of land that runs along the border from where Israel justifies shooting those who enter, although according to a recent United Nations report people are at risk up to 1500 metres from the border. Ibrahim couldn’t speak because he was in so much pain, as he lay in his hospital bed with his right leg plastered and bolted.

His brother Atif described, “he was shot by Israeli soldiers stationed at a border control tower in his right leg when he was about 600 metres from the fence. Friends put him on a donkey cart and took him to an ambulance. The bones in the lower part of his leg have been shattered, and the doctors think it was a ‘dum dum’ (explode on impact) bullet. He had been collecting rubble for 5 months with his donkey cart in the Beit Hanoun border area.”

Every day hundreds of men and youth collect stones, metal, pieces of concrete and brick in the border areas despite common knowledge that Israeli snipers are at every control tower. They get around 50 shekels for a donkey cart but, like Ibrahim, many of them end up in a hospital bed with a cast wrapped around their bullet wounds.

So why do they do it? The recurring reasons given by scrap and rock-collectors is a complete lack of available work.

Israel’s siege has torn the economy apart and left 67% of the population without jobs. The few imports allowed in are costly and Israel continues to ban all exports from the Strip. The economic value in Gaza of ‘rubble’ has emerged only over the last two years, due to the huge demand for building materials and the very limited supply. Israel allows literally no concrete and building materials to enter the Gaza Strip and although inefficient, recycling the stones and rocks is still cheaper than the small amounts of high priced concrete brought in through the Rafah tunnels from Egypt.

Most of the rubble collectors are based in the North in Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahiya where incursions are frequent, hence the larger number of border side houses and other buildings that have been bulldozed or bombed by the Israeli Occupation Forces. What’s more in Beit Hanoun near the Erez crossing was the site of an industrial centre built by Israel before their forces were redeployed to the border areas in 2005, an area with a high concentration of concrete and stone.

Intensifying the dire need for building material was Israel’s operation: ‘Cast Lead’: the 3 week bombing and land assault over the new year of 2009 that destroyed or damaged beyond repair over 20,000 houses, schools, universities, hospitals, office buildings and mosques. The attack also killed 1400 people including over 400 children; a further 5300 were injured. Ibrahim’s house in Beit Lahiya was destroyed by shelling during the attacks nearly 2 years ago and on Wednesday he became the tenth rock collector in three weeks to be shot collecting rubble.

On Thursday 21st October, we met 23 year old Bassem Gassem and 24 year old and Omar Sabri Hamad who that morning had both been shot in their right foot in Beit Hanoun near to Erez crossing. They were near to the Israeli imposed ‘buffer-zone’.

“There were 50 rock collectors around the area I was shot, without a warning.” Bassem told us. “I was hot and walking so didn’t feel the pain initially, but once I came to the hospital the pain began. He had plied this trade for nearly one and a half years and still can’t see another option once he has recovered. “I used to work the markets with fruit and veg from Erez crossing when it was open but that work dried up. So I began collecting rocks after the war. This is part of life for our families, the siege, the shootings of people guilty of nothing but hard work when there are not jobs. People around the world see the circumstances we have here but they do nothing.”

His mother by his bedside explained the responsibility that was on Bassem’s shoulders: “His father was injured and paralysed during the war. There are 14 family members altogether and he’s the only one providing a regular wage for us. But he’s a strong boy; he’s been working for the family since the 5th grade. I told him not to do this job because of the danger and go back to the markets – but he knows that 30-40 shekels a day is not enough for the family.”

“I will go back there, it’s the only work there for me”, said Bassem

Omar from Beit Hanoun is married with 2 children and the bullet broke bones in his foot, requiring surgery. He will not be going back. “It was my first day collecting rubble, I need the money for my family and there’s no jobs here, no means of providing for my family. A few hundred metres from the control tower at 9am with no warning they shot me in the leg and friends had to carry me out. That’s it for me, I’ll never do that again.”

The other area with numerous border attacks is around Beit Lahiya where Nazmi Salim Tanboura, a 50 year old father of 10 was shot through his thighs at 8:15am on Sunday 31st October. He was approximately 800m from the fence when one bullet went through the back of both of his thighs. “I caught a glimpse of two Israeli soldiers stationed on a small hill. They shot me and I was shouting for my son but he was far away. A friend nearby came and put me on a donkey cart. I was taken to Beit Lahiya corner where an ambulance arrived and took me to the hospital. I’m the only one supporting the family and my sons are all married.”

Like the others, the circumstances around him had left Nazmi with no choice. “There are no jobs, there’s no work. Many people go there despite all the stories of people getting shot. My cousin was shot collecting rocks last month but I didn’t think of stopping. But I’m old now. I’ll buy a new donkey for my cart and try going back to work on the vegetable markets. I don’t depend on people on the outside because we’re always sending messages out but the world doesn’t see us or listen to us. Look how we live! I only have God to turn to here.”

Last Wednesday, as we left Ibrahim in Beit Lahiya hospital, his father was wiping his son’s brow while his 10 year old son stood crying at his bedside. There was a fear as to the ordeal still ahead for Ibrahim’s slow and painful road to recovery. Brother Atif said he and his brothers’ families would take care of him and his children but doesn’t see much hope for Ibrahim to go back to work. “The doctor said his leg is smashed and he’ll be in this condition for 6 months. We don’t know what he’ll be capable of doing in 6 months, or what he has the will to do. Before this he was a farm labourer.”

A cousin Mohammed was not hopeful that the hardships faced due to the Israeli occupation and siege would recede any time soon: “The only thing Ibrahim cared about was earning a wage to provide for his family. If the siege was ended and the concrete and building materials could arrive like in any other country, people like my brother wouldn’t be forced to risk their lives doing this. And the response – bullets while the world watches.”

Atif said that everyone faces danger no matter how they try and live in Gaza: “We have large families in Gaza and we want to work but we’re deprived of our livelihoods, our dignity. Its not just rock collecting. People in the cities are all at risk from bombing, shelling. I’m a University graduate in Psychology, I have no job and I now may work in the Rafah tunnels where there are frequent casualties from Israeli attacks, just to make ends meet.”

Middle East’s Only Democracy Crushes Dissent

By Tammy Obeidallah

Ever since becoming an activist on behalf of Palestine some ten years ago, I have found ironic humor in the label, 'The Middle East’s Only Democracy' used by American policymakers and media in describing the Jewish State. This statement is erroneous on two counts. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of a democracy knows that Israelis overwhelmingly shun the values associated with such a system; furthermore quite a few countries in the Middle East hold elections regularly. Most recently, Jordan elected a new parliament.

Of course there are those who argue that a democracy simply means “majority rule,” or that government leaders are elected, so technically Israel would qualify. “Democracy” is defined by www.thefreedictionary.com, “government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.” So in the purely political sense, as Israeli leaders are elected, they have democracy. However, the fifth definition of democracy reads “the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community,” a concept diametrically opposed to Israel’s inherently racist establishment.

Not only is Israel content merely to expand settlements on stolen land and deny Arab citizens the basic rights of religious freedom, education, health care and mobility, any form of dissent is quashed. Arab Israeli Knesset member Haneen Zoabi was stripped of her parliamentary privileges for participating in the Gaza freedom flotilla. In addition to receiving numerous death threats, Zoabi was recently shot in the back and neck with rubber bullets during a protest against a march by militant settlers in the town of Umm al-Fahm. Under Zionism, there is no such thing as freedom of assembly or free speech.

Take for instance a recent haiku contest on Facebook sponsored by El Al Airlines. Haiku is a Japanese form of poetry requiring three non-rhyming lines: the first and third line consisting of five syllables, the second line containing seven. I swallowed my pride and became a fan of the page; the possible temporary damage to my reputation seemed well worth it when considering the unwitting audience I would have. However, shortly after I began posting the haiku, a chorus of “she has to be banned” ensued.

I found out that indeed, I had been blocked from posting comments on the site after an hour or so. The El Al fan page administrator deleted all my haiku. I should not have been surprised.

This is the modus operandi of the Zionist machine. Dissent is not tolerated and must be completely obliterated, as in the case of Congressmen and women who dare try and stand up to it: Paul Findley (re-districted out), Cynthia McKinney (trumped up charge assaulting a guard who was harassing her; victim of a smear campaign and voted out), Dennis Kucinich (marginalized and belittled), Jim Traficant (jailed). Prominent figures in the media are silenced, most recently the legendary Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez, formerly of CNN. Numerous Israeli youth sit in jails for refusing to military duty in the West Bank. The most sinister, however is the way activists Rachel Corrie, Tom Hurndall, Furkan Dogan and 8 other flotilla participants were silenced, along with the untold thousands of Palestinians who have been murdered since 1948 for the “crime” of resisting occupation or while merely trying to live out their daily lives in their homeland.

Yet the legacies of these brave individuals continue, and to honor them, I put forth the haiku again in a place where the hasbara machine cannot penetrate.

Ignorant tourists
Celebrate sixty-plus years
Of ethnic cleansing.

Bustling Tel Aviv
Welcoming occupiers
Atop Lydda's graves.

Stealing Holy Land
As amid scorched olive trees
More settlements rise.

Arrogant squatters
Frolic on stolen beaches
Kids in Gaza die.

El Al transporting
Still more and more invaders
to dear Palestine.

Flight attendants' thobes
Food service is falafel
Theft of a culture.

Big jet engines scream
Not unlike those that have rained
Hell upon Gaza.

And then there was my daughter’s contribution:
El Al carrying
"Israeli" stowaways to
Steal from Palestine

El Al's jet engines
Cannot drown out the screams of
White phosphorus wounds.

Airline of the blind
You see touristy mudbaths
Not Gaza's bloodbath.

- Tammy Obeidallah contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Report: 278 Children Exposed to Torture, Beating, Sleep Deprivation in “israeli” Occupation Prisons

Ramallah, Alintiqad, Source

"Every time we try to sleep, they wake us up by beating us with the butts of their rifles. For three days. They locked us in the toilet without allowing in any food or water until we had to drink flush toilet water. They would put off their cigarette heels into our legs and yell at us continuously." This is the statement of the child captive "Mohammed Tarik Mokheimer", whose hometown is Beit Oure, close to Ramallah. He was arrested this year in July.

A sixth grader, the child Mokheimer was arrested with his classmate "Mohammed Ridwan" on charge of stoning a military patrol. They were then transported to an investigation centre in "Benjamin Settlement", where they were locked in a toilet for three days. They were kept nude and were offered no food or drink.

The mother says, "On the day of his arrest, Mohammed was late for home, so the whole family went searching for him, but we didn't find him. At 1:30 a.m., his classmate's father informed us that his son (Mokheimer's classmate) "Mohammed Ramadan" had been arrested."
The mother was perplexed in the first place; "Mohammed hasn't become 13 yet, and he has no knowledge of what a detention is and how it is, so how can they arrest children?" She added, "Nevertheless, parents and neighbors have assured me that his detention won't last and that he'll be back soon."

Continuous Torture:

The Next day, the family informed the Detainee Club of the detention of their child in a trial to hear any news of him or his classmate. The family commenced reflecting all possible cases and questioning the circumstances of their child detention until the Detainee Club informed them of the date of his trial hearing.

His mother proceeds, "I had never thought I was going to see my son like that, standing behind the bars with his hands chained, afraid, and looking on his sides every minute as if someone was after him. I tried to talk to him, but I was forbidden. He would look at me and cry all the time, and after having issued a series of charges, the court prolonged his detention."

The mother, who didn't know what exactly happened to her child, sensed that something unusual had happened. She was anxious and uneasy all the time, and she was looking for an answer to what happened to him. What she sensed had turned out to be true, for Mohammmed and his classmate were exposed to the most terrible kinds of torture; that was discovered later on through a report issued by the Ministry of the Detainees and Affairs of the Liberated.

Nude in Toilet:

Hiba Mosalha, the advocate of the Ministry of Detainees, has visited both detainees. She says, "Firstly I thought that Mohammed was exaggerating, but I spotted traces of torture on their bodies. The soldiers would put off their cigarette heels into their (children) legs, their toenails were gone because of harsh beating;" she said adding "While they were talking, they seemed scared that what occurred to them at the beginning of their arrest might be repeated."
In the statement the advocate reported, child Mohammed says, "We were arrested on Road 443 by the Separation Wall close to the village, and our whole bodies were severely beaten up with rifles and kicked until we fell down.

Afterwards the soldiers chained us, blindfolded us, and transported us to "Benjamin Settlement", which is close to the village."

There, the children were locked in the toilet and were forced to take off all of their clothes. For two days they were kept nude in the toilet without any food or drink, where the soldiers turned on the cold air conditioner all the time.

Child Mokheimer points out that the soldiers offered them no food or drink at all; thus, they suffered intense thirst and had to drink toilet water. They suffered intense cold because of being nude for two days with no cover or mattress, and every time they tried to sleep, the soldiers would wake them up immediately.

Mokheimer also pointed out that the most terrible thing that happened to them was when the soldiers entered the toilet, urinated on their heads and faces instead of using the toilet, and once done; they laughed and mocked at the two child detainees. Besides, one of the soldiers was photographing the incident.

Advocate Mosalha added, "After all this torture, the children were transported to an investigation centre, where they "forced" to confess doing things they hadn't really done upon fear of being tortured again." She proceeded that the incident of Mohammed Mokheimer and Mohammed Ridwan "isn't the only one even though it is the most horrible."

Through her meeting with the children, she heard a number speak about deprivation of sleep and eating for hours and days, in addition to being forced to sign certificates written in Hebrew and with contents the children didn't know. They were also beaten up harshly by the soldiers and weren't allowed to meet their private lawyer.

Systematic Policy:

With respect to Mosalha, torture of children detainees has become a systematic policy for the (Israeli) occupation soldiers in order to make children confess charges they have not committed, and so the soldiers would imprison them as long as possible.

With regard to official statistics, the occupation authorities hold more than 6700 Palestinian prisoners, among who are 287 children under the age of eighteen. According to the International Movement for Defense of Children, approximately 700 Palestinian children are imprisoned in the (Israeli) occupation prisons yearly.

In statements of a hundred child captive, the movement observed that 81% were beaten and kicked and that 26% were exposed to phantasmagoria; whereas 12% were threatened with sexual assault, and 4% of those were indeed sexually assaulted.