Today in Palestine! ~ Headlines ~

Cultural suppression / dehumanization

Israel bans celebrations of Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture 2009 throughout country
Israeli Minister of the Interior Avi Dichter issued an order to cancel the Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture events planned for the Israeli city of Nazareth, and ordered all other events planned in commemoration throughout Israel on Friday. The order that was handed over Nazareth Mayor Ramez Jarayesa who said it banned celebrations for Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture everywhere within the borders of Israel. The decision elicited angry responses from residents, who described it as “racist” and said it affirmed the harsh policies forced on a population under occupation.

Israeli soldiers arrest balloon launchers in Jerusalem; stamp out cultural events
Israeli police stormed a school, community center and arrested several Palestinian cultural officials in Jerusalem in efforts to quash popular celebration of the Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture kick off events scheduled for Saturday. Police stormed the Burj Al-Laqlaq Society buildings in the northern sector of Jerusalem’s Old City and raided the buildings. They detained director Imad Aj-Ja’ouni and ordered the employees to shutdown plans for the celebration. Another Israeli police force detained Arij D’eibes, the official translator for the Palestinian President, after stroming her home in Beit Hanina in Jerusalem....

MK Baraka: Israel's attempt to stomp out cultural events effort to quash Palestinian identity
Cancelling celebrations of Palestinian heritage in Jerusalem and other Arab-majority cities is another Israeli “attempt to eliminate the city’s Palestinian and Arab identity,” Arab member of the Israeli Knesset Mohamad Baraka said Friday ... In a statement Baraka called the decision a “rude assault on the freedom of political and cultural work” noting that “this [Israeli] government is not only against peace but against anything that is human, cultural and modern. It is afraid even of the words, culture and art so considers such activities as threatening.”

Gaza church accuses de facto gov't of banning Jerusalem Capital of Arab Culture events in Strip
The de facto government in Gaza banned celebrations of Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture 2009, accused Father Manuel Musallam pastor of the Catholic Church in the Gaza Strip on Saturday ... The de facto government had earlier held a kick-off celebration in the name of Al-Quds Capital of Arab Culture 2009, two weeks ahead of the events in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, scheduled for Saturday. Though both the caretaker and the de facto governments planned to hold events in honor of the claimed Palestinian capital, there has been no indication that the sides are cooperating over joint celebrations.

Racist and sexist Israeli military shirts show the fruits of Israeli militarism
is continuing to divulge soldier testimonies from Gaza. You can find the fullest report yet here. The messianic fervor that fueled the Israeli policy of collective punishment is laid bare.I'm not going to comment on it yet, just go read it.There is another report in today's Ha'aretz that I do want to comment on. Uri Blau's article "'No virgins, no terror attacks'" describes the practice of Israeli soldiers getting custom clothing printed with their unit's insignia along with graphics and text. Below are some examples of shirts that were printed, along with some of the images. These images only appeared on Ha'aretz's Hebrew-language website:

Jews sans frontieres: Herrenvolk humor
(with photos of some of the T-shirts) I bet you noticed this article. The obscene jokes mentioned in it are listed at MondoWeiss. On the right, shirt ordered by the demolition unit of the Regiment 13 from the Golani Brigade, depicting the demolition of a mosque and the punch line (or shall we say 'the dynamite line'?), "Only God forgives." On the left is a shirt made for the "graduates" of a sharpshooting course. It shows a child holding a gun in the crosshair with the text, "Smaller is harder."

Land theft

ARIJ study: "Settlements increased by 173% in 20 years"

A field study conducted by the Applied Research Institute (ARIJ) reported that the Israeli state had significantly increased the illegal construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank with a percentage that reached 173%. ARIJ [also] reported that the number of settlers currently living in the occupied West Bank is more than 500.000 compared to 240.000 in 1990. This number is a 109% increase in the number of settlers living there. There are 2.5 million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank which represents 8537 persons living in each kilometer.

Shaikh Sabri: 78,700 settlement units are under construction in WB and J'lemt
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Sheikh Ekrema Sabri, the head of the higher Islamic authority, stated Friday that 5,700 Israeli housing units are under construction in occupied Jerusalem and 73,000 in the West Bank in order to accommodate more than one million Jews. During a Khutba (sermon) delivered in the Aqsa Mosque, Sheikh Sabri warned that the expansion of settlements and apartheid wall are aimed to judaize Jerusalem, isolate it from the West Bank and endorse its annexation as Israel's capital.

In their own words (end of the two-state solution edition)
The New York Times covers Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat's US barnstorming tour today. During a description of the mass house demolitions taking place in Palestinian neighborhoods Ethan Bronner quotes Yakir Segev, the person Barkat has put in charge of East Jerusalem: "Jerusalem is a laboratory. If we succeed in solving the conflict with the Arabs of Jerusalem, it will also be possible to solve it everywhere in Israel." Bronner explains that this refers to "both improving services for the Palestinians and ending any ambiguity about Jewish dominance." The first point is questionable, the second, not so much.

Arrests / attacks / siege / protests

Al Ma`asara: Two women injured by Israeli soldiers in anti-wall protest
Hundreds of demonstrators came out to the village, which has had more than 1,700 dunnums (425 acres) of village land confiscated for the construction of the separation wall, and chanted slogans calling for a halt to construction.  When the group arrived at the construction site, Israeli soldiers attacked the lead women, identified as Leila Zawahra and Su’ad Fawaghra. They were treated in the field for severe bruising.

Two photojournalists injured by Israeli soldiers in Jayyus
Two Palestinian photojournalists identified as working with Reuters and Ma’an were hit with rubber coated bullets while covering the weekly protest against the separation wall in Jayyus Friday. The two photojournalists were identified as Khalil Rayash, working with Ma’an and Basher Nazzal with Reuters.

Two Americans, one Palestinian shot with rubber-coated bullets in Bil`in
The residents of Bil'in marched towards the wall after the Friday prayer, joined by international activists.  Israeli soldiers launched several tear gas canisters into the crowd to disperse it, and fired volleys of rubber-coated steel bullets. Two Americans, known only as Mike and Michael, were injured, along with one Palestinian. They were treated in the field for light injuries.

Six injured, one critically, at Ni`lin weekly protest

Demonstrators carried banners in support of the American supporter, Tristan Anderson, who was critically wounded in last week's protest. Anderson is still at an Israeli hospital receiving treatment. Doctors are currently saying that he will live, but with severe disabilities resulting from the injury to his head. As soon as locals and international supporters arrived in the part of the village where Israel is building the wall, soldiers showered them with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets; also firing live rounds of ammunition. Six were injured, one critically when he was hit in the head by a rubber-coated steel bullet. Dozens were treated for gas inhalation.

In village, Palestinians face gas with rocks
NILIN, West Bank — The orchard was carpeted with a riot of wildflowers [photo]. Butterflies flitted around, keeping low to the ground. But the seemingly idyllic scene on the edge of this Palestinian village in the West Bank was deceptive. Camouflaged among the olive trees and the cactus bushes were khaki-clad members of the Israeli security forces armed with guns and ample supplies of tear gas, the canisters stored in large metal drums.

Military checkpoint at Beita stops traffic south of Nablus
Israeli forces set up a military checkpoint at the Beita crossroad south of Nablus city on Saturday morning. Eyewitnesses reported seeing Israeli patrols set up the checkpoint and search vehicles coming in and out of the village and checking the ID cards of citizens.

Rafah crossing to remain closed
Adel Zo'rob, spokesperson for General Administration of Crossings said on Friday morning that the Rafah crossing will remain closed until obstacles to crossing are overcome. The Ministry of the Interior announced on Thursday that the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip will remain closed to all groups in protest against what they described as Egyptian control of travel.

Al Mezan: Israeli siege kills another child patient in Gaza
Seventeen-year-old Maher Mohammed al-Sheikh died in Gaza on Sunday 25 January 2009 waiting for the Israeli government to give him clearance to receive treatment for his leukemia in Israel. On 8 May 2008 Maher was diagnosed with leukemia at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. He was granted a referral to Israel and after waiting for 40 days he was able to travel with his father to Tel Hashomer Hospital outside Tel Aviv on 17 June 2008.


Wa'ed society: Israeli prison officials placing the criminally insane in confinement with Hamas members
Media spokesperson of the society Abdallah Qandil called the practice Israel’s latest tactic to push the prisoner swap issue and secure the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. “This is an expected action,” Qandil said in a statement, “especially after the Israeli government aborted the swap deal.”

Imprisoned Hamas leaders condemn international community for silence around latest abductions
Salfit – Ma’an – Members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) detained by Israeli forces in 2006 released a statement holding the international community responsible for Israel’s most recent snatching of five more Hamas PLC members. Ten Hamas leaders were taken from their homes and offices earlier this week, five of them were elected members of the PLC. The men are being held in Israeli custody without charge or on suspicion of being a member of a military organization.

War crimes / Testimonies

PCHR Report: Aftermath (5) - Coming home
One of the most important factors in recovery from trauma is the ability to find sanctuary in the comfort of one’s home. The right to safety and security. For many people in Gaza, this right has been repeatedly violated, in the form of the destruction of their personal property, often wantonly, by Israeli military forces ... A stairwell in Rashad Helmi As-Samouni’s house a few doors down the road includes the following sentences written in chalk: “There will be a day when we kill all the Arabs” “Bad for the Arabs is good for me” “A good Arab is an Arab in the grave” “Peace now, but between Jews and Jews, not Jews and Arabs” While much of the graffiti is inflammatory and disturbing, there are also more human expressions written by weary Israeli soldiers such as: “How much longer will we be here…?” “Until when?” “We want to go home” and “I have no other country.”

Israel admits war crimes

By "Skeptic" - An increasingly disturbing picture of the Israeli Defense Forces' (IDF) misconduct in the Gaza invasion has emerged as confessions from Israeli troops describe wanton destruction of Palestinian homes, humiliation of civilians, and loosened rules of engagement that resulted in high civilian casualties. An Israeli defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to make the information public, said the IDF used 120-mm mortar rounds, among the largest, on a large group of civilians who had taken refuge for safety in a hospital. At least five blast patters indicating direct hits were found on the hospital floors. [looks as if the word is getting out now even to small American towns]

Reserve IDF generals: Gaza ethics probe necessary but difficult to carry out
"The IDF has neither the tools nor the culture to carry out inquiries into ethical dilemmas. In fact, no army in the world has such a thing," said Maj. Gen. (res.) Ami Ayalon, the former head of the navy and Shin Bet security service. "We shouldn't be surprised that such stories come to light. Whoever has lived in this country for the last 20 years, unless he has closed his eyes and ears, should not be surprised. The IDF never knew how to investigate such things, and in recent years, the problem has become more difficult because there are more such incidents."

MK Baraka: Testimonies of Israeli soldiers enough to indict their leaders
"Today, we read only little of the many things we know about the war crimes committed by the Israeli soldiers in Gaza Strip with clear and direct orders from the Israeli occupation government, the Israeli war minister, and the army leadership", underlined Baraka, describing the soldiers' confessions as "self-indicting" evidences. Baraka said that Israeli occupation leaders should be put on trial for the war crimes they had committed against the Palestinian civilians, deprecating the international community's position that did not even blame Israel.

Israel disputes PCHR's statement on Gaza offensive death toll
The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) based in Gaza, published the names of 1.417 Palestinians killed in the Israeli war against the Gaza Strip. Israel disputed the list and claimed that most of its targets were “legitimate”.

The crimes we witnessed in Gaza
By Radhika Sainath. Two days after Israel ended its 22-day invasion of the Gaza Strip, a friend and former clinical law professor in Jerusalem, Huwaida Arraf, asked me: "What do you think about organizing an emergency legal delegation to Gaza?" ... A week later, eight National Lawyers Guild members and a documentary filmmaker landed in Egypt. We crossed into Gaza through the Rafah land crossing on 2 February 2009.

Speaking truth to power
We were back at Faraheen this morning accompanying farmers again, eyeing the jeeps driving along the Israeli border while our farmers removed the irrigation pipes from one of the fields we have visited regularly. Since Mohammed was shot in the leg, the farmer here has decided to give up on this field, its convenient well, and its half-grown parsley crop - 200,000 shekels worth - in case of further injury or death of harvesters. It was a quiet morning, thank goodness.

War-hit children struggle to lead normal life
"I visited psychological support programmes in northern Gaza run by Unicef in partnership with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society [PRCS] which include art therapy, singing, and stress relieving activities," she said. "At the centre the children were drawing missiles that were aimed at their houses. One little girl drew a black area at the bottom of her picture, saying 'This is where the dead people are' - perhaps indicating a cemetery."

Negotiations / Diplomacy / Internal divisions

Cairo calls factions back to Egypt in wake of meeting with Washington
An urgent meeting of Palestinian factions in Cairo was called Saturday by Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman. The head mediator of the Palestinian unity talks resume national talks had just returned to Egypt from meetings in Washington with the Obama administration and called delegates back to Cairo so unity talks could resume and all parties could be informed of the outcomes of the Washington meetings. A diplomatic source noted the meeting will take place Saturday or Sunday, and that it will also have on the agenda some of the sticking points from the last round of talks.

Palestinian factions to resume talks in Cairo next week
Palestinian factions are set to resume their internal talks next week in an attempt to achieve a deal after the latest nine days of talks failed to achieve a comprehensive deal for internal unity.

Mustafa Barghouti: Israel again tries to derail Palestinian unity talks
Barghouthi said that there has been a breakthrough in national reconciliation and the nature of the transition government functioning until the end of the legislative council's mandate. Barghouthi accused Israel of trying again to derail the Palestinian national unity as it did in 2007, through aborting the exchange of prisoners and launching a campaign of arrests against the Palestinian deputies and leaders. He condemned the recent arrests by the Occupation authorities.

US to spend $1 million on accommodations for Mideast envoy George Mitchell
U.S. officials said Friday the State Department will spend about $1 million to renovate, reconfigure and furnish the Washington workspace of special Mideast peace envoy George Mitchell and outfit satellite offices for him in Jerusalem and in New York, where he lives.

Fatah blasts Hamas-supported bank
The Palestinian Authority announced the illegality of the "Islamic National Bank" which is the first bank to be licensed by the Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip ... The PMA announcement regarding the illegality of the bank means that it will operate independently solely within the Gaza Strip.

Abbas fires ambassador to Moscow for attending Hamas's rally on Gaza
MOSCOW, (PIC)-- The veteran Palestinian diplomat Afif Safia, who serves as Palestine ambassador in Moscow, was "arbitrarily" fired from his post by former PA chief and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas for attending a rally organized by Hamas Movement on Gaza tragedy, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper revealed Thursday.

Fatah youth post banners 'No to the Iranian intervention' around West Bank
The same slogan is repeated on more than 1,500 billboards, banners and posters line the streets to Ramallah, intermittently condemning interference from Iran, Syria and Qatar. The banners were sponsored and erected through an effort of the Jerusalem branch of the Fatah Youth Organization, and refer to suspected interference from states aligned with Hamas, and not with the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority.

Other news

PA police find missing soldier during Nablus-area search
The Israeli army announced a comprehensive state of alert Friday evening after an Israeli soldier disappeared near the illegal settlement Shavi Shamron west of Nablus ... Head of village and municipal affairs office in Nablus district Ghassan Dughlus said “the soldier appeared suddenly after three hours of searching for him by the PA security forces who handed him to the Israeli side safe and sound with his rifle and military uniform.”

Poisoning attack mastermind sent to jail
Military court sentences Nablus resident Eihab Abu Rial, who conspired to poison customers at Ramat Gan restaurant where he worked as a cook, to six years in prison. Defense counsel says his client was in distress over broken heart,7340,L-3689571,00.html

Palestinians say Lebanon soiled Iran food aid
TRIPOLI, Lebanon, March 21, 2009 (AFP) - Palestinian factions in Lebanon accused the army on Saturday of contaminating Iranian food aid destined for a refugee camp by using sniffer-dogs to search the shipment. "Camp residents refuse to eat what the police dogs have soiled," several Palestinian factions in northern Lebanon, including the Islamist groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, said in a statement received by AFP. It referred to a shipment donated by Iran for residents of the Nahr al-Bared camp in northern Lebanon

King of Bahrain: Jews welcome to return
Kashmiri Nomad reported that King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa of Bahrain "officially extended a warm invitation to any expartiate Bahraini Jew to return to the Arab kingdom." ... His majesty is no recent judeophile. He appointed a Jewish woman, Huda Azra Nunu to be Bahrain's Ambassador to the United States, the first Jewish woman to serve in such a capacity in the Arab world, according to Kashmiri Nomad.

Anti-Solidarity, Collaboration

George Galloway banned from Canada
Anti-war MP George Galloway has been banned from Canada, it emerged today. A Canadian spokesman confirmed that the Respect MP had been deemed inadmissible on national security grounds and would not be allowed into the country ... Alykhan Velshi, [immigration minister Jason] Kenney's spokesman, said that the act was designed to protect Canadians from people who fund, support or engage in terrorism. "We're going to uphold the law, not give special treatment to this infamous street-corner Cromwell who actually brags about giving 'financial support' to Hamas, a terrorist organisation banned in Canada," he said.

Opinion / Analysis

The Israeli terror
By David Rovics. When I first visited Israel in 1999 I was struck by what a nation of trauma survivors it was. I was reminded immediately of my first visit to Ireland some years before, where the great famine that wiped out half the population over a century before seemed like it had happened perhaps a generation ago. In Israel the Nazi Holocaust seemed to have happened yesterday, and in the mindset of many Israelis it seemed as if it were carried out by Palestinians rather than Germans. I encountered anti-Arab racism daily in Israel. When I sang songs about the horrors of the sanctions against Iraq (around a half million Iraqi children dead as a direct result at that point according to UNICEF) I was told by middle-class, middle-aged Israeli folk music fans that killing Iraqi children was OK because they were just going to grow up to become terrorists anyway.

James Zogby / From Belfast to Jerusalem: Lessons from Northern Ireland for Israeli-Palestinian peace
On the day after St. Patrick's Day, a panel was convened on Capitol Hill to discuss the lessons learned from the Irish peace process, and reflect on their applicability to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict ... During the discussion, several similarities were noted between the Irish and Middle East conflicts: the competing narratives of victimhood; the ways that the "other" was demonized, making trust more difficult; the role played by of external enablers in the "diaspora" in perpetuating the conflict, and the nagging sense of the conflict's intractability that sometimes led to despair. These were all overcome in Ireland. The process, and its outcome, though imperfect, has produced results. This was in evidence in the response to the recent acts of violence, which witnessed leaders and majorities, on both sides, come together in support of the hard-won peace.

Jonathan Cook / Bedouin villages left in the dark ages
Little Ashimah Abu Sbieh’s life hangs by a thread -- or more specifically, an electricity cable that runs from a noisy diesel-powered generator in the family’s backyard. Should the generator’s engine fail, she could die within minutes ... The desperate plight of Ashimah’s parents is shared by thousands of other Bedouin families caring for chronically sick relatives who live in communities to which Israel refuses to supply electricity, said Wasim Abas of Physicians for Human Rights in Israel. The organisation’s latest report, titled “Sentenced to Darkness”, calls the state’s denial of essential services, including running water and electricity, to 83,000 Bedouin in the southern Negev desert, “bureaucratic evil”.

Netanyahu would deny Palestinians 4 rights of any sovereign state, and the Washington Post won't tell you that
I am continually amazed by how the internet has empowered non-writers to become equal players in the discourse to writers. As someone who loves writing, I celebrate this process (though it's sure doing a number on the press, and my income!). To wit, Bruce Wolman, a Bethesda doctor, speculates that the American press may be unconsciously preparing to make Bibi Netanyahu warm and acceptable, as they once did for Ariel Sharon. Dr. Wolman wrote yesterday to Howard Schneider, who penned this piece in the Washington Post on the likely clash between Netanyahu and Obama. Here's Wolman's beautiful letter

Khaled Diab: The Middle East media frontline
The media should be a channel for creative and novel approaches to the conflict, as well as a conduit for debate. It should highlight positives and not just fixate on negatives. Although we all know that violence makes headlines, non-violence should also be given prominent coverage. There is a lot of demonisation going on. Journalists can help to counteract this by humanising the people on both sides of the divide. Bloggers, online forums and social networking sites are playing a crucial role in this respect.

Khalid Amayreh / Our ambassador to Poland
Many of our so-called ambassadors around the world are really unqualified for the job. They simply lack the required professionalism and experience to communicate the plight of our people and justice of our national cause to a world community that is heavily bombarded by Zionist lies around the clock

Gilad Atzmon / War on terror within: the end of Jewish history
The issue I am going to discuss today is probably the most important thing I've ever had to say about Israeli brutality and contemporary Jewish identity ... More than anything else, the Israelis and their supportive Jewish communities are terrorised by the brutality they find in themselves. The more ruthless the Israelis are, the more frightened they become. The logic is simple. The more suffering one inflicts on the other, the more anxious one becomes of the possible potential deadly capacity around. In broad terms, the Israeli projects on the Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and Iranian the aggression which he finds in himself. Considering the fact that Israeli brutality is now proved to be with no limit and with no comparison, their anxiety is as at least as great.

Rannie Amiri / The Middle East's jittery monarchies - why Morocco cut ties with Iran
...These apparently unrelated grievances put forth by the Moroccan government are indicative of the anxiety and pressure many Middle Eastern monarchies are increasingly feeling these days (especially in the aftermath of the Gaza war). In order to deflect attention away from the (il)legitimacy of their rule, the old canard of “Persian” interference is once again being employed.


Greg Moses / The art of peace - Winter Soldier comes to Texas
First to speak today is Dr. Dahlia S. Wasfi, M.D. whose grandparents include a Sunni Muslim, a Shia Muslim, and two Holocaust Jews.  She therefore begins her story with a memory of the Abraham who once upon a time walked with Allah in Iraq.  Dr. Wasfi's cousins will sometimes boast that they walk the same ground as Abraham, but it has been hard ground lately ... Dr. Wasfi presents a slide of what the Hanging Gardens must have looked like when they counted among the Seven Wonders.   Do we seriously think that such a people from such a land actually need our outside assistance to figure out how to be great or to do great things?  Well there is one thing the Iraqi people could use that we could give them, says Dr. Wasfi, and that is immediate and unconditional withdrawal.

'I took a picture to show my dentist' - the first package tourists arrive in Iraq
yesterday the first group of western package tourists to visit Iraq's capital and second city finally arrived in Baghdad - tired, uninsured and a little exasperated, but happy - after a 17-day tour that would have been unthinkable 12 months ago.

Security developments in Iraq, March 21
March 21 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq at 1400 GMT on Saturday. MOSUL - Iraqi police said they found the body of an ex-army officer dumped in central Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad. BAGHDAD - Two successive roadside bombs wounded three people including a policeman in central Baghdad on Friday, police said.

Iraqi widow sues former Blackwater employee and company over shooting
The suit alleges that the employee got lost after the 2006 party and, after confronting Raheem Khalaf Saadoon, shot him for no reason. Saadoon, 32, was a bodyguard for an Iraqi vice president.,0,1644166.story
For further information contact Shadi Fadda

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