Saturday, June 19, 2010

Juan Cole: Limited Israeli Easing of Gaza Blockade Greeted with Dismay

Limited Israeli Easing of Gaza Blockade Greeted with Dismay

Despite the breathless flurry of approving statements provoked by the English-language pledge issued by the prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu that the blockade of Gaza would be ‘eased,’ in fact , Haaretz reports, the Hebrew text of the communique does not indicate that the cabinet made any such decision, and there has been no change at the border checkpoint.

Even if Israel were actually doing what the English text indicated, the Palestinians, the United Nations and aid NGOs do not see the measure as going nearly far enough. PLO spokesman Saeb Erekat dismissed the announced easing as an effort

‘”to make it appear that it has eased its four-year blockade . . . In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians, continues unabated. Israel has a so-called ‘white list’ of only 114 items. Palestinian basic needs require at least 8,000 items that continue to be prohibited. These include essential materials for rebuilding and for waste-water treatment.” ‘

For one thing, how many items are let in is less important than the volume of each. The Irish Times quotes Robert Serry, the head of the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). During the first week in June, imports declined by a quarter, even though Israel expanded the list of allowed imports by 11 food and health items. OCHA says that the amount of staples and aid going into Gaza is only about 17% of the goods routinely allowed in before the blockade began. So an ‘easing’ would not even restore the status quo ante of pre-2007.

Although in public and in English Israeli spokesmen stress that the purpose of the blockade is to keep arms out of the hands of Hamas, the fundamentalist party-militia that dominates Gaza, in fact an internal document ferreted out by McClatchy demonstrates that the blockade has all along mainly aimed at punishing innocent civilians. If you think about it, the idea that Hamas can form a conventional challenge to Israel, using e.g. tanks, is ridiculous.

Professor Ian Lustick argues that Israel should just take that truce Hamas is always offering, just as Egypt and Jordan have done with their versions of Hamas– and stop trying to pretend that Israel isn’t in the Middle East or that it can change the Middle East all around at will.

The Irish Times quotes Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, to the effect that “What is needed is a complete lifting of the blockade. Goods and people must be free to enter and leave. Gaza especially needs construction material, which must be allowed to come in without restrictions.” He called lifting the bans on chocolates and potato chips “frivolous.”

Christopher Gunness, spokesman of the UN Relief and Works Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees, said: “We look at deeds not words. There is a massive amount of rebuilding to do in Gaza. Four thousand homes were destroyed, another 17,000 damaged during the [ 2008-09] war. The agency needs to repair its schools and build 100 new schools for 39,000 children.

Aljazeera English reports on the reaction of Gaza’s government. It also points out that there would be no chocolate in the Palestinian Gaza Strip if it weren’t for smuggling through tunnels. And even children’s toys had been banned, officially making the Israelis the Grinches of the Middle East....READ MORE

While homes are often targeted, Israeli authorities have also issued demolition orders against Palestinian schools, clinics, roads, water cisterns...


"Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

The housing apartheid in Palestine

Amnesty International has called on the Israeli authorities to end house demolitions which leave thousands of Palestinians living in daily fear of eviction from their homes…

According to the UN, in 2009 more than 600 Palestinians – over half of them children – lost their homes after they were demolished on order from the Israeli authorities.

“Palestinians living under Israeli occupation face such tight restrictions on what they can build and where that their right to adequate housing is being violated,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The Israeli authorities are putting Palestinians in an impossible situation. Whatever choice they make, they face homelessness.

“The majority of people are denied building permits by Israel, even after lengthy and expensive bureaucratic and legal processes, so they have little choice but to go ahead without official permission. But as they do so, they know that these buildings may soon be flattened by Israeli bulldozers.”

Demolitions are generally carried out with no warning of the date, giving no opportunity for Palestinians to salvage their possessions or find elsewhere to shelter. The UN has estimated that some 4,800 demolition orders are pending.

Under Israeli law, evicted families are not entitled to alternative housing or compensation, meaning many would face homelessness and destitution were it not for relatives, friends and charities.

While homes are often targeted, Israeli authorities have also issued demolition orders against Palestinian schools, clinics, roads, water cisterns, electricity pylons, sheds and animal shelters.

You can view and download the report here (PDF).

Israel To Demolish Homes In Jerusalem

Israel To Demolish Homes In Jerusalem

author Friday June 18, 2010 04:40author by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies Report post
Workers of the Jerusalem municipality and officers of the so-called Border Police broke in Thursday into several homes that belong to the Salah family in Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem, and handed them orders to demolish their homes.

The orders were addressed to Ismail Ali Salah, his brother Mahmoud, Mohammad Salah, and Tahani Mohammad Suleiman.

Resident Ismail Salah stated that municipality workers and Israeli soldiers broke into his home on Thursday morning and told the family that they should move to “Ramallah or Hebron”.

He added that the homes were built during the Jordanian era before Israel was established and that 43 residents are living there.

Israeli soldiers also claimed that members of the Salah family hurled stones at settlers who are currently living in a home that was confiscated from them on April 25, 2010.

They lost their home to Jewish settlers who were granted a ruling by the Israeli High court allowing them to occupy the property.



To be Palestinian
is protest-
to raise a fist
is to be rage
& to hurl a rock
is to be instigator
of an avalanched

poem copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ziad J. Asali, M.D.: Palestine is Open for Business

While No One's Looking, the Palestinians Are Building a State - By Hussein Ibish | Foreign Policy

While No One's Looking, the Palestinians Are Building a State - By Hussein Ibish | Foreign Policy

My letter to USAToday RE Israel's war is our war, too By Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas

UNWRA photo achives: Barefoot and pushing their belongings in prams and carts, Arab families leave the coastal town of Jaffa which became part of the greater Tel Aviv area in the state of Israel.

RE: Israel's war is our war, too By Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas

Dear Editor,

Palestine's struggle for real freedom and democracy should be our struggle too, for everyone's sake. Instead we have legions of pro-Israel 'experts', like Beckel and Thomas blithely ignoring Israel's flagrant violations of international law and the Palestinians' basic human rights- and ignoring the crucial importance of empowering a fair and just negotiated settlement to end the Israel/Palestine conflict and the religious extremism on every side.

FYI, here is what we really need to be noticing: "It doesn’t make sense for Palestinians to be part of the lifeline of settlements that are built on Palestinian soil and to be part of the prosperity of the settlers, who are taking a very harsh, radical and violent position against the Palestinians,” said Abu Libda.

And this: "The Oslo Accord and subsequent peace plans and initiatives such as the U.S.-sponsored Road Map required Israel to stop all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory. Yet, consecutive Israeli governments have continued to expand settlements. These settlements being deemed illegal by the international community and an obstacle to peace, has not stopped the Israeli leadership; the number of settlers has tripled in size since the signing of the Oslo Accord." Peacemaking takes courage, leaders by Mahmoud Abbas

And this "
We call on the Israeli government to reverse this decision and to immediately halt all settlement activity and all other violations of Palestinian rights. We also call on the United States and the international community to ensure that Israel abides by international law and begins to live up to its obligations under previous agreements." Christopher Hazou, Communications Officer, Palestine Liberation Organization Mission to the United States

And this: The Arab Peace Initiative .... "Emanating from the conviction of the Arab countries that a military solution to the conflict will not achieve peace or provide security for the parties"

And this "It can't, and it shouldn't be, all Gaza flotilla all the time" Hussein Ibish

And this: "ATFP (The American Task Force on Palestine) is strictly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians no matter the cause and no matter who the victims or perpetrators may be. The Task Force advocates the development of a Palestinian state that is democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and neutral in armed conflicts."

And this: "The political process would fail to meet its desired ends, he said, without a return to credibility. " This cannot be achieved unless the international community adheres to its responsibilities of ending the occupation, applying international resolutions, and securing the Palestinian right to self-determination and statehood."" Fayyad in the Galilee: We won't be hostages

Anne Selden Annab

Peacemaking takes courage, leaders

Israel must clarify Palestine's status

The Arab Peace Initiative

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

UNRWA programmes currently face a $100 million budget deficit

UNRWA Commissioner General Filippo Grandi noted that UNRWA programmes currently face a $100 million budget deficit, according to a statement released by Zain.

“The Ramadan fund- raising campaign is a prime example on how private and public entities can complement each other for one goal - human development,” more

Media campaign seeks to raise funds for UNRWA programmes

From Growing Gardens for Palestine... Darwish & Dickinson

Mahmoud Darwish
& Emily Dickinson
side by side
on my shelves
aesthetically matched
loner by loner
into a happily ever after
of commingling

Poet to poet
meeting in me

in turn in time
book by book
and page by page

libraries build character

copyright ©2010 Anne Selden Annab

Poems of Palestine as Oud Player Abado Sings in Amman

Poems of Palestine as Oud Player Abado Sings in Amman

9 June 2010

Poems of Palestine echoed in the packed auditorium at Al-Hussein Cultural Centre in Amman at the end of May, as Palestine musician Marwan Abado opened a series of concerts being held in support of UNRWA’s education programme.

"I wish for a day without victories. Without murders, without injuries, just a normal boring day. And this normal, boring day will be a feast for a land called Palestine," sings Abado on his new album Nard.

Abado grew up as a refugee in Beirut and immigrated in the late 1980s to Austria, where he studied musical and social sciences at Vienna University. He studied the oud under Iraqi maestro Assim Chalabi and shaped his own style, as he invigorated Arab music by integrating Western influences.

Funding scholarships

As a student in an UNRWA school in Lebanon, Abado's parents always instilled in him that education was their "major weapon as Palestinians." Education is, in his words: “the way for us to overcome our self-victimisation. As harsh as fate has been to us, we need to overcome it.”

The series of concerts in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon was a collaboration between UNRWA and the Society for Austro-Arab Relations. The concerts will help fund scholarships for refugee students in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

"Our ability to provide both life-saving and life-enhancing services is contingent upon the support we receive from the international community, host countries, such as Jordan, and the support from the general public," said Deputy Commissioner-General Margot Ellis.

Belonging to a homeland

The series, Palestine Remains My Melody, reflects the "strong sense of belonging to a homeland" that Abado grew up with and still holds, after living in Vienna for over two decades.

The funds raised in the series, Abado said, will “be ammunition for a weapon called science, this weapon that hits its target and gives us hope of a better future."

By Fabiano Jácome

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Elia Suleiman makes tender, funny films about Palestinian life. Why has his latest caused outrage?

"I heard these stories from my father," Suleiman says. "When he fell sick, I asked him to write them down. But I didn't think I was mature enough to handle them: it's a thin rope to walk along without falling into all kinds of aesthetic and political traps."

Elia Suleiman: stories my father told me

Elia Suleiman makes tender, funny films about Palestinian life. Why has his latest caused outrage? Steve Rose finds out more

'I refuse linear histories' ... Elia Sulieman. Photograph: Felix Clay

Helen Thomas is let go for speaking the truth on Palestine

"Thomas practiced her profession with a deep regard for the people’s right to know. To her, as Aldous Huxley noted long ago, “facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”" Ralph Nader

VOA News: UN: Lower Number of Refugees Return Home in 2009

UN: Lower Number of Refugees Return Home in 2009

The U.N. refugee agency has issued its 2009 Global Trends Report, which says the number of refugees who returned home last year was the lowest in two decades, while the number of people displaced by conflict hit a record high.

The U.N. refugee agency reports conflict and persecution forcibly uprooted more than 43 million people around the world, the most people displaced from their homes since the mid-1990s.

The report finds the number of refugees to return home hit the lowest point in 20 years. The refugee agency's protection director, Volker Tuerk, says only one-quarter million refugees went home in 2009.

"What this tells us is that obviously in many parts of the world, conflict is entrenched in such a way that it does not allow for safe and dignified returns as it normally would be the case. Once you are able to resolve a conflict, you are obviously in a much better position to effect and arrange for the return of refugees. What this shows us is that we are moving into an era of more prolonged refugee situations," he said.

The report shows overall refugee numbers remained relatively stable at 15.2 million. Of those, nearly three million were Afghans, 1.8 million Iraqis and 680,000 Somalis.

The total also includes 4.8 million Palestinian refugees who are cared for by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, not by the UNHCR.

Tuerk says most refugees are hosted by neighboring countries. He says statistics show the perception that refugees from Africa, Asia or elsewhere flood into Western industrialized countries is wrong.

"Developing countries who are host to four out of five refugees worldwide. So, that is the reality. So, it is 80 percent of the global refugee situation, of the global refugee population is in the south. I think that is an important point, especially in all these discussions that we often see occur in the industrialized world where there is all this anxiety about the flood of refugees," he said.

Tuerk says xenophobic tendencies are fueled by fear, not by reality. The statistics show refugee numbers in the industrialized world have decreased by about 70 percent during the past 50 years.

The report finds the number of people uprooted by conflict within their own country grew by four percent, to more than 27 million at the end of 2009. It says persistent conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and Somalia drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and this mainly accounts for the increase.

On a more positive note, the report finds 19 countries approved 128,000 refugees for resettlement last year.

Get Into the Game

News, analysis and more from South Africa

My letters to the Wash Post & Phil Inq RE Egypt in awkward position on Gaza following Israeli attack on aid flotilla & Egypt follows Israel's Example

RE: Egypt in awkward position on Gaza following Israeli attack on aid flotilla

Dear Editor,

EVERYONE is in an awkward position due to the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict... and we all have our own very personal and very important reasons for either speaking out or staying silent about what is going on.

I personally do not want to support and/or empower and/or apologize for HAMAS or armed Islamic resistance- or religious tyranny funded by public taxes in any way, shape or form. That includes not wanting to be forced to fund Israel's religious "scholars" and soldiers and settlers. Nor do I want to be giving to charities and organizations that help exasperate religious tensions and bigotry anywhere in the world.

I do however want to support Palestine, the rule of fair and just laws, secular democracy on all sides of every border- and a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.... for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab


RE: Letters: Egyptian marriage rule followed Israel's example by Marwan Kreidie, Executive director Philadelphia Arab-American Development Corps

Dear Editor,

I don't have a clue who Marwan Kreidie is- but if all his letters are as revealing and helpful as the one I just read [Egyptian marriage rule followed Israel's example ] I think you should give him a regular column. I very much agree that peace in the Middle East is possible- and necessary.

According to Ramallah government Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (as quoted in a delightful article announcing that President Mahmoud Abbas on an international tour, was to open a square in Paris named after the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish)...."The political process would fail to meet its desired ends, he [Fayyad] said, without a return to credibility. " This cannot be achieved unless the international community adheres to its responsibilities of ending the occupation, applying international resolutions, and securing the Palestinian right to self-determination and statehood.""

Our media really does play a large part in either advancing the truth as well as informed interpretations, or in sabotaging the peace process and the many noble efforts being made to create a real Palestinian state.

Anne Selden Annab

Peacemaking takes courage, leaders

Israel must clarify Palestine's status

The Arab Peace Initiative

UN Resolution 194 from 1948
Article 11
Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

The right to return is in accordance with legitimate international decisions, namely UN Resolutions 194, 242, 338 and the Arab Peace Initiative of 2002.... In 1948 United Nations Mediator Count Folke Bernadotte pointed out that "It would be an offence against the principles of justice if those innocent victims of could not return to their homes while [Zionist] immigrants flowed into Palestine to take their place." This is still true today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

UN: wars slow refugee returns to record low

GENEVA — Entrenched conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia and other countries prevented a record number of refugees from returning home last year, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

Only an estimated 251,500 refugees went home in 2009 — the lowest number since 1990, the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said in its annual report.

The world's total number of refugees stood at 15.2 million, according to the report. Of those, around 2.9 million were Afghans, 1.8 million Iraqis and 680,000 Somalis. That total also includes 4.8 million Palestinian refugees managed by a separate U.N. more

Elton John - Your song

Fayyad in the Galilee: We won't be hostages .... & Abbas honors Darwish in Paris

Fayyad in the Galilee: We won't be hostages
Published yesterday (updated) 13/06/2010 21:56

Ramallah – Ma'an – Ramallah government Prime Minister Salam Fayyad attended the inauguration of the Mahmoud Darwish Foundation for Creativity in the Kafr Yasif village, northern Israel on Saturday, delivering an address for the celebration.

"From the Darwish platform, I hereby assert that we will not be hostages to Israeli choices of either siege or separation," the premier told conveners, which included the late poet's family, Arab Follow-Up Committee head Muhammad Zeidan, Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraysa, Kafr Yasif local council chief Awni Tomam, Bishop Atallah Hanna, as well as Palestinian Knesset members Muhammad Barakeh, Ahmad Tibi, Talib As-Sanna, and

"As we refuse both siege and separation and we stand united in the face of siege, we should be more united to face separation because unity of our homeland is our path to freedom, independence and statehood in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the eternal capital of our state,” Fayyad said.

Fayyad described the Palestinian minority of Israel as "constant pioneers of peace efforts" in the face of adversity and discrimination, leading efforts to crystallize a just peace, and securing Palestinian rights "determined by international resolutions, particularly the right of return."

The political process would fail to meet its desired ends, he said, without a return to credibility. " This cannot be achieved unless the international community adheres to its responsibilities of ending the occupation, applying international resolutions, and securing the Palestinian right to self-determination and statehood."

The premier described the foundation in the Galilee as "an organic expansion" of Palestinian culture, stemming from Darwish's "status and creativity," adding that the Palestinian Authority will "stay committed to the promotion of Palestinian culture, following in the footsteps of Darwish and other pioneers."

Meanwhile, as President Mahmoud Abbas continues his international tour, he is expected to open a square in Paris named after the late Palestinian poet on Monday, a diplomatic source in Paris told Ma'an.

Paris or Proust with Alexandra Handal... from Nathalie Handal's new blog

Best piece of advice you were ever given, and who gave it to you?

I was in my early twenties and as I often did, I went over to my belated teta’s* house, known to her grandchildren as Ninnin, to have lunch with her. I came wearing a summery navy blue decolté* dress that had small flower patterns on it and that gave me a delicate cleavage. As I entered the living room, my teta looked at me from where she always sat and said: ‘il faut t’habillé comme ça plus souvent*’. From her facial expression and her encouraging ways, I understood her advice as ‘live your dreams, be the woman you want to be, and don’t let anyone tamper with your freedom’. I keep her spirit alive in me.

*1: grandmother in arabic *2: strapless *3: ‘You should dress like that more often’.

Paris or Proust

with Alexandra Handal

Ibish: “The last thing the Palestinians need is for Turks and Iranians, or even the Arab states, to be hijacking or manipulating their national cause"

Press Release
Contact Information: Hussein Ibish
June 14, 2010 - 12:00am

On June 8, ATFP Senior Fellow Hussein Ibish spoke at a seminar for approximately 30 students at the Elliott School at George Washington University, hosted by the National Council on US-Arab Relations. Ibish spoke about evolution of US perspectives on Middle Eastern regional dynamics and peace, and about the present strategic situation with regard to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He told the audience that the current Israeli government and some of its supporters in the United States were struggling to deal with a new reality, in which the American foreign policy establishment and military has adopted a new perspective on Middle Eastern regional dynamics which emphasizes the interconnectedness of all developments. He emphasized that “because the situation between Israel and the Palestinians has much more political and symbolic resonance than anything else throughout the region, it has therefore assumed an even greater significance in American planning.”

Ibish said this new perspective was “largely a consequence of the ongoing and unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which had forced the foreign policy and military establishments to look again at the model they were using to understand regional dynamics and to adopt a more holistic approach.” He told the students that American experts generally now recognized that because events in Palestine are more likely to impact dynamics involving Iraq, Iran, Turkey, other parts of the Arab world or even Afghanistan, than the other way around, this renews attention on the need for an end to the conflict and the occupation. He said that this means that the argument about “linkage” that began in late 1990 in the run-up to the first Gulf War has been institutionally and generationally resolved, and that linkage is now an accepted phenomenon by a consensus of the foreign policy establishment. However, he said “the form of linkage that has become a consensus is different than earlier versions that sought to simply link the Israeli occupation with US foreign policy challenges,” and that “the linkage that has prevailed in contemporary American thinking is a much broader model in which everything is linked to everything else.”

Ibish said that what this means, as a practical matter, is that, like all other Middle East actors, Israeli policies and conduct are now viewed as important elements in shaping US strategic position in the region. However, he emphasized that this is a new reality for Israel and its US supporters, since in the past the US-Israel relationship has mainly been understood in terms of the bilateral special relationship and also in terms of domestic US politics. He said “there is now a third register, that of regional strategic dynamics, in which Israel's policies and conduct are being viewed, and this new dimension has not been fully accommodated or appreciated by the current Israeli government.”

Ibish told the students all of this explains why the Obama administration has been emphasizing Middle East peace from the outset and refuses to be deterred by setbacks or false starts. He said that given this perspective, for the United States Middle East peace is not optional, it is imperative, and that the Israelis do appear to have fully understood the urgency and importance that Washington now attaches to this issue. He also said that the Palestinians and other Arabs were being judged by the same yardstick in terms of their cooperation with American peace efforts, and that the Palestinians could and should do more to present themselves as dynamic partners with the Obama administration in the pursuit of peace, whether or not Israel is being cooperative at any given stage. He added that the recent crisis over the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla and its fallout demonstrate that Turkey is interested in an expanded and possibly hegemonic role in the region and is now competing with Iran for “ownership” of the Palestine issue through symbolic and largely meaningless gestures that outbid all Arab parties. Ibish said that “the last thing the Palestinians need is for Turks and Iranians, or even the Arab states, to be hijacking or manipulating their national cause for their own parochial purposes.”