Saturday, March 26, 2011

German woman devoted to removing Nazi graffiti

German woman devoted to removing Nazi graffiti

BERLIN – Irmela Mensah-Schramm stopped abruptly at the crudely sprayed swastika on the wall of a pedestrian underpass. Whipping out a can of spray paint from her cotton tote bag, she quickly made short work of it, turning the neo-Nazi symbol into a nondescript black splotch.

For the 65-year-old retiree, it's all in a day's work.

"I scratched off the first sticker in 1986, at a bus stop in front of my house," Mensah-Schramm said as she ambled through the streets armed with her spray paint and metal scraper. It demanded "Freedom for Rudolf Hess" — Adolf Hitler's deputy, who at the time was still alive and in prison in Berlin.

"The sticker was there all day and I couldn't understand why nobody else took it off — people can be so ignorant," she said.

For 25 years, Mensah-Schramm has taken it on herself to clean Berlin of neo-Nazi propaganda scrawled by skinheads and other right-wing groups. She calls herself the "political cleaning lady of the nation" and during one of her recent tours of the city she said that in the last four years alone, she has scratched away more than 36,000 right-wing stickers.

She said seeing racist slurs sprayed on walls across the German capital with its atrocious Nazi past made her angry and she felt a personal responsibility to do something about them.

"Freedom of speech ends where hatred and racism begin," Mensah-Schramm said.

Since her retirement in 2006, Mensah-Schramm, who worked helping students with special needs, tromps the city six days a week, trying to track down all possible Nazi propaganda in the German capital.

Before she makes the racist slogans disappear, she documents everything, taking pictures of all the "evil stuff" she has found. She keeps several folders with hundreds of stickers demanding "foreigners get out," "Jews into the oven" or "Sieg Heil" — the infamous salute used by the Nazis.

The number of far-right extremists in Germany are small — some 26,000 according to the most recent estimate from country's domestic intelligence agency — and when neo-Nazis hold demonstrations they are invariably dwarfed by counter-protesters....READ MORE

Riz Khan - The Arab Street

Seeking justice: East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian homeland

Jordan Times Editorial
Seeking justice

Arab experts plan to go all the way to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to seek justice over ongoing Israeli archaeological excavations underneath Al Aqsa Mosque and the continued efforts to Judaise the Old City of Jerusalem.

Arab archaeologists, conservationists and Arab and Muslim heritage experts met in Amman last week under the auspices of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation and the Jordanian Department of Antiquities to compile evidence on the Israeli excavations that aim to lay the basis for Judaising the Old City of Jerusalem by denying or erasing all traces of Arab and Muslim heritage sites.

Israel is also being charged with going ahead with the “City of David Project” that entails the construction of a park right in the centre of Silwan, a key suburb of East Jerusalem populated by Palestinian Arabs.

Seeking justice from the ICJ on this issue may end up being more academic than real, and in any case unnecessary since it is a well known fact that East Jerusalem is an integral part of the Palestinian homeland and universally recognised as a city containing very important Islamic and Christian sites.

The UN General Assembly as well as the Security Council have adopted a string of resolutions confirming that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory and called on Israel to cease and desist from altering its status, either by unilaterally annexing it or otherwise.

International law also forbids an occupying power from carrying out any demographic or cultural changes in occupied territories, including any form of excavation that aims to alter its historical, political, religious or cultural status.

Under the circumstances going to the ICJ may not be necessary to assert Palestinian rights in East Jerusalem, including the prevention of any alteration, physical or otherwise, in the status of East Jerusalem and its religious or cultural heritage.

The ultimate solution to this problem is to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands including East Jerusalem, once and for all.

25 March 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Women against fundamentalism and for equality | The Elders

Women against fundamentalism and for equality | The Elders

PLO DELEGATION Press Release RE the recent cycle of violence in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem & the urgent need to end the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Friday March 24, 2011

Press Release:

The recent cycle of violence in the Gaza Strip and Jerusalem indicates the urgent need to end the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict and the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian people. The deaths of 8 Palestinians on Tuesday, (including innocent youth ages 11, 16 and 20 who were playing football with a middle-aged man watching close by), and the subsequent bus explosion which left innocent civilians dead only serve to confirm the volatility of the current state of affairs. The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian National Authority have condemned of all acts of violence against civilians by Palestinians and Israelis alike in the strongest terms. The General Delegation of the P.L.O to the United States urges the U.S. administration and the international community to condemn the killings on both sides in equal and unequivocal terms. Ignoring violence perpetrated by the Israeli army and fanatical settlers against Palestinians civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will only encourage further violence and counter-violence.

Additionally, this week’s attempts by the Israeli government to escalate conflict are deliberate efforts aimed at diverting attention from Israeli actions on the ground and will only undermine prospects for reconciliation between our two peoples. We call upon the United States, the United Nations and the world community to exert pressure on Israel to cease its illegal settlement activities and numerous other acts of aggression which remain in flagrant violation of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. Violence cannot and will not change the reality that the Israeli military occupation sits at the core of the conflict and remains the primary reason for the lack of peace and stability in the region.

Le Trio Joubran: AsFâr – with "a compelling, intuitive style that allows the Arabic lute [oud] to be heard in a new way..."

Le Trio Joubran: AsFâr – review

(World Village)

This is the first international release that does full justice to three of the most original musicians in the Arab world: Samir, Wissam and Adnan Joubran are brothers and oud players from Palestine who have developed a compelling, intuitive style that allows the Arabic lute to be heard in a new way, not just in backing work or solos but as a trio instrument in complex, emotional and remarkably varied compositions.

Their last album was a poetry-and-music set, dominated by the writing of the late Mahmoud Darwish and aimed largely at the Arab world, but this recording displays their instrumental work at its best.

Their playing is backed by percussion and the occasional drifting scat vocal from the Tunisian musician Dhafer Youssef, and their oud work changes within every track: sturdy, stately passages develop into improvisations that echo jazz or blues; brooding, atmospheric pieces like Dawwâr El Shames could easily be used as classy film music; quietly epic tracks like Sama Cordoba build up into rapid-fire complex arrangements.

In order to sound spontaneous, they chose not to rehearse before going into the studio.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Palestinian Refugee Children Perform Fable for Hope

Forget the headlines and the sound bites – what do young Palestinian refugees really want to say?

Children from Shatila, a Palestinian Refugee Camp in Beirut, will perform Peter Mortimer’s fable, Croak, the King and a Change in the Weather, on Wednesday 6 April in Edinburgh.

Croak, the King and a Change in the Weather tells the story of how a cruel and dictatorial monarch is brought down by the forces of nature using live music, dance and mime. Having already performed in Gateshead’s The Sage and then set for Liverpool on the 8 April this is an experience quite different to the usual confines of their squalid refugee camp. Investment from Creative Scotland has now helped bring the young performers to Scotland all of whom have never left the camp before.

Emma Turnbull, Development Officer for Creative Scotland said; ‘The Shatila project is an exciting and important piece of work. The performance of ‘Croak, the King and a change in the weather’ will offer performers and audiences a rare opportunity to look at complex universal issues through the medium of a modern fable. It is a refreshing and energetic project which embodies the spirit of hope, change and second chances.’

With a constant wave of change echoing out from the younger generations, it seems a passionate allegory gives voice to their optimism for the future of their plight and the Storytelling Centre is proud to host the event as Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre explains:

“We talk a good game in Scotland about creativity releasing and empowering, but these Palestinian youngsters have never been abroad and rarely outside Shatila Refugee Camp. Aided by Newcastle based writer and director Peter Mortimer, the youngsters make an age old Palestinian tradition, now deracinated, their own, and bring it to life for us as part of Ceilidh Culture. The Storytelling Centre is a place you can make connections, between story, song, music and drama; between cultures; between generations, and across barricades. Storytelling is a grassroots art and taps into the sources of common humanity. There is political edge in this visit as Palestine remains a besieged and partitioned country. But sometimes amidst ideological discord the notes of humanity are more clearly heard through art. Surely the young of every culture deserve their chance.”

In late 2009, after a year of dedicated fund-raising in the UK, the original cast of Palestinian youngsters travelled to North East England and gave eight performances of the play to large and appreciative audiences. Spurred on by this success, in February 2011, with a new cast of Shatila children and the support of a choreographer, stage manager and musicians, Peter staged a full week at Theatre Monot in the mainly Christian East Beirut. For Palestinian young people to perform in a professional theatre in East Beirut is a landmark of some significance.

And the significance in their approach to the piece speaks volumes, as explained by Frances Guy, Ambassador to the Republic of Lebanon, Beirut;

“In the original version of the play, the tyrant and his assistant pay the ultimate price for their abuse of power. But the Shatila kids asked Peter to change the ending to give the King a second chance. To preserve that sense of humanity and forgiveness beyond the planks of the theatre is pertinent to our times. But beyond that, the performance of these enthusiastic kids from a Palestinian camp that in its history has seen the worst of atrocities is exhilarating. These kids, whose daily life is a battle against overcrowding, damp, fallen electricity wires, lack of income and long term medical problems, show us a humanity that many in the Middle East and beyond are lacking.”

Children, in themselves symbols of resilience and optimism, should not have to chase after sanguinity. Neither should they have to trust in it blindly. The play accumulates a multiplicity of significance because it is performed by children and because of their enjoyment in what they have invested in it. Described as a “fable on how the mighty are undone,” it’s even more a plea, an exemplar and a rebuke. It calls for change, though it never once asks for it categorically.

Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad: 'An Independent Palestine Is in Israel's Interest'

"...The Israeli daily Haaretz recently described you as Israel's enemy number one -- because you're nice, you're not corrupt, and you're successful. What does that say about Israel and the Palestinians? The important thing is the substance. We're doing our best to achieve our goals, but the context in which we're operating is so challenging that you can't allow yourself to get distracted by characterizations on either side. We're getting ready for a State of Palestine and are doing everything we possibly can to expedite the end of the Israeli occupation. We Palestinians have to get out of the mood of waiting for something to happen. We're doing something positive and constructive from the Palestinian point of view, but also from the Israeli point of view. A stable, peaceful Palestine is in everybody's interest. It will be a state founded on universal values like respect of others, non-discrimination and religious, gender and ethnic equality.

So you're trying to catapult the Palestinians into a Middle Eastern role model?
All we want is a state of our own. If in the process we manage to do it with such high standards, all the better. Our right to freedom has always been seen as something we somehow have to earn, which is unfair. But if we can show the world a stable Palestine with a well-functioning infrastructure that provides reliable services to its residents, we'll have created the reality of a state. It will be very hard for the world to ignore it, and will kickstart the political process...."

Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad: 'An Independent Palestine Is in Israel's Interest'

"On August 26 there will be a Palestinian state, and it will be open to all," says Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in exclusive Metro interview. By Elisabeth Braw, Metro World News, Ramallah.... READ MORE

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) Deplores Violence, Warns Against Escalation of Conflict

Press Release
Contact Information: Ghaith al-Omari
March 23, 2011 - 12:00am

Washington, DC, March 23 -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) has been following the escalating violence between Palestinians and Israel over the recent weeks with growing alarm. ATFP reiterates its unequivocal condemnation of all forms of terrorism and the killing of innocent civilians no matter who the perpetrators or the victims might be and no matter in what cause such actions are rationalized. The particularly indefensible and contemptible killing of children must especially be condemned without reservation.

The recent violence targeting Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank, the increased firing of missiles against southern Israel, Israeli attacks that have caused civilian casualties in Gaza, and today’s terrorist bombing in Jerusalem are all creating an explosive situation that could spiral out of everyone’s control. As ATFP calls for investigating and punishing those involved in terrorism and violence against civilians, the Task Force also urges all sides to restrain their actions and rhetoric to avoid a descent into war and all-out confrontation that cannot serve the interests of any responsible parties and would further damage the prospects for peace.

Joharah Baker: Palestinian Women Deserve Celebration

"More and more Palestinian families are sending their daughters to university because more Palestinian girls are demanding an education.

We still have a long way to go, though. Social change is always slow but once the ball is rolling there is no stopping it. Here in Palestine, we still battle sexism, prejudices against women and female-related issues such as early marriage and female school dropout. But the change is happening and we Palestinian women who know what independence looks like in a society that does not always celebrate it will surely pass that down to our daughters and to our sons so they honor and respect the women in their lives. It is only logical that a strong society needs strong men and women as its driving force. Palestine surely has both." Joharah Baker

Joharah Baker is the Director of the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

Daoud Kuttab: Palestinian Authority recalibrating its strategy

"Supporters of the Fayyad plan note that the Palestinian prime minister has never called for a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, but rather for a unilateral declaration of a de facto state. The idea is that such a state would have all the institutions of a state without the de jure recognition, which would relieve Israel of its responsibilities.

A more radical approach will also be discussed in the upcoming Central Council meeting, namely the fact that if serious talks do not produce agreements on borders by next fall, the Palestinian Authority should simply dissolve itself and turn over the keys to the Israeli occupiers. The idea is that unless Israel bears the full cost of and responsibility for occupation, it will not be able to make constructive and fair compromises towards the end of its military occupation." Daoud Kuttab

Palestinian Authority recalibrating its strategy

Miral, a New Film about the Palestinian Experience, Screens in NY, LA, DC and Other Select Cities!

Miral, a New Film about the Palestinian Experience, Screens in NY, LA, DC and Other Select Cities!

On Friday, March 25th, in New York City and Los Angeles, director Julian Schnabel and distributor Harvey Weinstein are releasing a new film, Miral, based on the autobiographical novel by Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal. The movie narrates the personal and political experiences of three generations of Palestinian women as the social landscape in which they live changes with dramatic developments: the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, the first Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1987, and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. The American Task Force on Palestine believes that since Miral deals with important topics that have rarely been addressed in major American motion pictures, the film should be widely and openly screened, debated and discussed. Both Schnabel and Weinstein have emphasized the need for Americans to be exposed to Palestinian narratives in order to better promote peace in the Middle East.

ATFP encourages its friends and supporters to attend screenings of the film in theaters in New York City and Los Angeles this opening weekend to send a powerful message that Miral deals with an important subject matter that must be part of our American conversation, and that there is strong public appetite for movies that deal with the Palestinian experience. Opening weekend success will increase chances for more mainstream Americans to see Miral by helping to determine its schedule for distribution in the rest of the country.

Please get your tickets ASAP. Special Q & A's screenings with Julian Schnabel will be held in NY & LA and these events should prove particularly fruitful and engaging. Group events are the best way to sell-out theaters, and ATFP encourages its friends and supporters to consider organizing them. For special Group Sales information, please contact David Hinjosa at the Weinstein Company on 212.845.8650 or email him at

To view the trailer and read more about the film, go to

MIRAL will be released by The Weinstein Company in NY and LA on Friday, March 25th. Opening in select cities on Friday, April 1st.

Q&A's with filmmaker Julian Schnabel after the below showings:
Friday : Lincoln Plaza: After their 5:50PM show / Angelika after their 8PM show
Saturday : Angelika after the 5:45 / Lincoln Plaza after their 8:00 PM show
Sunday : Lincoln Plaza after their 3:30PM show / Angelika after their 5:45PM

Miral Opening Dates & Theaters (Please note that schedules are subject to change)

New York, CT-NJ-NY-PA
-- Lincoln Plaza
-- Angelika Film Center 6

Los Angeles, CA
-- The Landmark
-- ArcLight Hollywood 15

New York, CT-NJ-NY-PA
-- Clairidge Cinemas 6

Los Angeles, CA
-- Town Center 5
-- Playhouse 7 Cinemas
-- University Town Center 6

Philadelphia, DE-NJ-PA
-- Ritz East 2

San Francisco-Oakland- San J
-- Landmark Embarcadero
-- Century Regency Cinema

Boston, MA-NH-VT
-- Kendall Square Cinema 9

Washington, DC, DC-MD-PA
-- Bethesda Row Cinema

Detroit, MI
-- Uptown Birmingham 8

Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI
-- Lagoon Cinema

San Diego, CA
-- Hillcrest

Chicago, IL-IN
-- Landmark's Century Center

Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX
-- Angelika Film Center (Dallas)
-- Angelika Film Center (Plano)

Houston, TX
-- River Oaks Theater

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Palestinian Women: Narrative Histories and Gendered Memories... & more from This Week in Palestine

Palestinian Women: Narrative Histories and Gendered Memories

By Fatma Kassem Zed Books, Forthcoming (March 2011), 224 pages, $125.95
Fatma Kassem has made the empowerment of Arab women inside Israel, and the wider region, her life’s work. As a lecturer in behavioural sciences at Ben Gurion University in the Negev, she has published several texts on the subject, and her activism led her to a directorship in ESCWA (United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia). She also serves as a board member of the association for promoting higher education among Bedouin women in the Negev.

The majority of Kassem’s published work has dealt with current issues, such as Knowledge, Action and Resistance: The Selective Use of Pre-natal Screening Among Bedouin Women of the Negev (2001). With Narrative Histories and Gendered Memories she turns her attention to the thorny subject of the 1948 Nakba, and specifically the mark it left on Palestinian women who lived through it. It represents the first serious attempt to “document the experiences and the historical narrative of ordinary Palestinian women who witnessed the events,” through a series of fascinating interviews encompassing a diverse range of perspectives.

Kassem analyses why these voices have not been heard over the past 60 years, dealing with Israel’s systematic repression of unwelcome historical accounts. This repression is most extreme when addressing the Nakba, which Israeli schools are forbidden to teach. She provides deeply personal accounts of women’s trauma and loss, filtering them through the prism of her own experience, using the insights gleaned from decades of working in Israeli academic institutions. She also examines the continuing role that events of 1948 play in Palestinian and Israeli society today, finding that guilt, fear, denial, and hatred colour attitudes and are passed down through generations. She argues that without recognition of this dark chapter of history, relations between populations will remain poisonous.

The author allows her sources to speak for themselves without much of the patronising, interpretative leaps that undermine other academic approaches to the Palestine/Israel conflict. By allowing female witnesses an unreconstructed voice she gives their previously overlooked perspectives greater authority, and she and readers are rewarded with powerful, original accounts.

Most fascinating are the passages dealing with how witnesses chart the evolution of resistance movements from 1948 to the present day, how Nakba victims inside Israel seek to preserve their identity and reject historic injustices despite the mounting pressure they face to assimilate and forget. The witnesses’ need to manage daily realities while maintaining deeply held values is touchingly observed.

Kassem also devotes attention to her specialist subject of women’s subordination in the region, so that history marries the present day, but this important and fresh approach to 1948 should not be dismissed as generic feminism. Available from March 29, this should be on every bookshelf.

Palestine: A Land of World Heritage Sites
Bethlehem in watercolor
The terrace landscape of Battir. Photo by Federico Busonero/ UNESCO Photo Archive.
Roman ruins of Sebastia. Photo from Palestine Image Bank.
Samir, Wissam, and Adnan Joubran, three brothers from Nazareth, represent the cutting edge of a musical dynasty that stretches back generations. Their award-winning oud melodies have enraptured a global audience throughout a series of hit albums, international tours, and imaginative collaborations. Now their highly anticipated follow-up to Majaz (2007) has arrived and should win the Trio fresh legions of followers

Areikat: Israelis, Palestinians would gain from end of conflict

"Israel cannot justify its military occupation of Palestine nor defend its policies toward the Palestinian people at a time when the United States and the whole world are supporting democratic movements in the region. The continued subjugation of millions of Palestinians by Israel against their will is not acceptable, and Israel needs to understand that the demise of its occupation is inevitable. The sooner they reach that conclusion the better off Israelis, Palestinians and the rest of the world will be.

When the Palestine Liberation Organization took the historic decision in 1988 at the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers to recognize Israel, Palestinians hoped for a courageous Israeli leadership that would recognize Palestinian independence. Instead, we have witnessed the systematic consolidation of Israeli occupation and the denial of Palestinian liberty under various pretexts. The foundation of security is peace, and the foundation for peace is Palestinian freedom..." Maen Rashid Areikat

Monday, March 21, 2011

EU: Time for refugees to return home
EU Representative to the Palestinian territories Berger and UNRWA
Commissioner-General Grandi arrive at a signing ceremony for a large
donation to UNRWA, in the West Bank village of Al-Walaja on March 21, 2011.
[MaanImages/Mimmi Nietula]
Click above for more images of the event

EU: Time for refugees to return home
WALAJA, Bethlehem (Ma'an) – The EU Representative to the Palestinian territories said Monday he hoped for "all the refugees to go home" as soon as possible, during a visit to West Bank village Al-Walaja.

Speaking at a school run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), Representative Christian Berger announced a €40 million European Union contribution to the organization.

The donation to UNRWA’s core activities will help reduce threats to refugees' livelihoods and loss of land, he explained, stressing that these vulnerabilities "require the help of the international community."

"We want UNRWA to go away as soon as possible," Berger said.

The agency was established in the aftermath of the 1948 creation of the state of Israel and, funded mostly by voluntary member state contributions, currently provides assistance to around 4.8 million Palestinian refugees across the region.

Established as a temporary body, as the lack of resolution to the situation of Palestinian refugees continues, the UN General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate.

Almost 100 percent of Al-Walaja’s current residents were displaced in 1948. The village was cut down to about 30 percent of its former size, with limited numbers later re-settling the village, while most remain disbursed in the region's refugee camps.

In Al-Walaja, UNRWA supports a school and health facilities, and more recently a job creation program, giving work to the members of some 91 families. In the works for 2012 are a water recycling and gray-water program, which will help farmers with little access to water sustain their crops.

Located just 10 km south of Jerusalem, Israel’s separation wall is being constructed on village lands, and the planned route threatens to entirely surround the village and cut off a further half of its land, rendering homes and farm lands inaccessible.

"The people of Al-Walaja are refugees. They were forced to leave their original village, which is not far from here. The people of Al-Walaja rebuilt their village here, with the help of UNRWA, which helped to alleviate a measure of their suffering," head of the village council Saleh Khalifeh told those assembled for the announcement.

"You know better than I that the refugees are the victims of a very long injustice," UNRWA Commissioner-General Fillipo Grandi told the villagers, "an injustice that 62 years later has yet to be addressed."

Refugees "must be given opportunities during this time of political stagnation," he said.

Referring to current attention by the ‘Arab street’ to the plight of Palestinian refugees, Grandi called on the international community to “reflect on the plight of the villagers of Al Walaja and the Palestinians as a whole, and learn salutary lessons about the urgent need to address their historic grievances.”
Israeli bulldozers clear land near the West Bank village of Awarta to set up a Jewish settlement outpost near the Jewish settlement of Itamar, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

Palestinians examine their damaged room after an Israeli army raid in the West Bank village of Awarta, Wednesday, March 16, 2011. (AP Photo/Nasser Ishtayeh)

The West Bank Jewish settlement of Kedumim is seen in the background as a Palestinian shepherd rides a donkey alongside his sheep near the village of Jeet, west of Nablus March 17, 2011. REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY ANIMALS)

A boy flashes the victory sign as he waves a Palestinian national flag during in a weekly protest to show solidarity with Palestinians against a Jewish settlement in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem March 18, 2011. REUTERS/AMMAR AWAD (JERUSALEM - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

A Palestinian man lights candles during a gathering in the West Bank city of Jericho to show solidarity with the people of Japan March 18, 2011. Japan's unprecedented multiple crisis of earthquake, tsunami and radiation leak has unsettled world financial markets, prompted international reassessment of nuclear safety and given the Asian nation its sternest test since World War Two. REUTERS/Ammar Awad (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS)

An Israeli man walks near a house, which was damaged by a mortar shell fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza and exploded in Kibbutz Kissufim, just outside the central Gaza Strip March 19, 2011. The Israeli military confirmed dozens of mortar shells had landed in Israel, one hitting a house at an agricultural community close to the border, and that two people were hurt making it one of the heaviest barrages launched by militants for months. Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip wounded five Hamas security officers and a boy on Saturday after militants launched mortar bombs into Israel, lightly injuring two people, Gaza medics and the army said. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

A Palestinian woman looks out of a window during a parade for the Jewish holiday of Purim in the West Bank city of Hebron March 20, 2011. Purim is a celebration of the Jews' salvation from genocide in ancient Persia, as recounted in the Book of Esther REUTERS/Baz Ratner (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS RELIGION SOCIETY)

UNWRA: Worrying increase in home demolitions

Worrying increase in home demolitions

21 March 2011

The latest numbers from the United Nations show a two-fold increase in the number of Palestinian homes and agricultural buildings destroyed by Israel order this year, causing concern among officials.

The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) recorded 70 demolitions since the start of 2011, displacing 105 Palestinians, of whom 43 were under the age of 18. The demolitions were carried out across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and ordered by Israeli police, municipal officials and by mandate of the Civil Administration.

Commenting on the jump, UNRWA spokesman in Jerusalem Chris Gunness told Ma'an that officials were concerned, comparing the number to the average of 24 demolitions per month since 2000, when the Agency began monitoring.

"The High Commissioner for Human Rights described this as discriminatory," he said, referring to comments of Navi Pillay who visited the region last month. She said: "All settlement-related activities, and any legal or administrative decision or practice that directly or indirectly coerce Palestinians to leave East Jerusalem, including evictions, demolitions, forced displacements and cancellation of residence permits on a discriminatory basis, should be halted and restrictions on access to East Jerusalem by other West Bank inhabitants should be lifted," in a statement on her final day in the region.

"Pillay clearly related these demolitions to the peace process, to human rights," Gunness continued, calling the process of demolitions a "triple humiliation, with families forced to build illegally, faced with the demolition of their homes, a process that all too often occurs in front of the faces of their children."

In East Jerusalem, Israel has zoned 13 per cent of the city for Palestinian building, "most of which is already incredibly built up," Gunness noted. "They are forced to build without a permit."

In the West Bank, Palestinians are prohibited from building in zones declared by Israel to be military training zones, firing areas, state land, near settlements, or areas otherwise declared to be "Area C", which falls under Israeli Civil Administration. According to UN numbers, more than 60 per cent of the West Bank falls under one or more of these designates.

'Slow demolition of the peace process'

In the context of peace talks stalled since September 2010, the recent announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of another 500 settlement homes in the West Bank in reported retaliation for the slaying of a settler family by unknown assailants, and the consequent spike in settler violence against Palestinians, Gunness said of the parallel increase in home demolitions:

"We are seeing the bulldozing of people's hopes in a peaceful future and the slow demolition of the peace process itself."

Bedouin village receives demolition orders

The most recent demolition orders to hit Palestinians were delivered to the Auda family, an extended network of Bedouins living in the Arab Ar-Rashayida village.

Family members told Ma'an on Friday that at least a dozen tents and animal shelters were included in an order delivered by representatives of Israel's Civil Administration.

Ali Auda, the head of the family, said the orders "say we are violating the borders of Israel under the Oslo Accords ... we are more than 450 metres away from where they put the signs."

He said if their homes were taken down, the family – 50 members in all – would have nowhere else to go.

"It is the farce of the 21st century, imagine, an occupying state telling Palestinians they are violating their own land."

Auda said he believed that his family was served eviction notices because "Israel wants to rid the area of its residents."

A spokesman for Israel's Civil Administration said he was unaware of any recent orders being delivered to the area.

Story courtesy of Ma’an News Agency

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Specialized radio station promotes rights of Palestinian women

Hamada al-Hattab, Ahmed Fayoomi
March 9, 2011 - 1:00am

On March 8 the International Women's day, Women FM, a new radio station based in Ramallah in the West Bank, is broadcasting special programs on Palestinian women's situation to celebrate the day.

Women FM, which had its first broadcast last July and broadcasts programs on Palestinian women's position and the difficulties they are facing in the society, is the first Arab language radio station in the Middle East of its kind to defend women's rights.

Maysoon Oudeh, director of the radio station, told Xinhua that Women FM is a commercial and a nonpolitical specialized radio station that aims at entertaining, educating the Palestinian women through programs, music and opening discussions.

"Our station focuses on women affairs and enabling them to talk about their aspirations and daily problems, mainly in their families and in the society as well as on the Israeli measures against women on checkpoints and in prisons," said Oudeh.

The founders of the radio station are looking forward to make the radio station a bridge between the society and the Palestinian women. "The radio station is always working on developing and improving its programs. It targets women of all ages and social levels," said Oudeh.

Rabeeha Diab, minister of women affairs in the Palestinian National Authority (PNA), said she considers Women FM as a forum for women to express their views, talk about their daily problems and follow up their causes as well as trying to ease their pressure.

"The position of women is elevating after they managed to get lots of their rights despite humiliation and repression they faced either at home or in the streets by the Israeli occupation forces, " said Diab.

The PNA had earlier issued a decree that offers women working in all public and local fields a day off with pay on March 8.

The Palestinian women managed to occupy five portfolios in the Palestinian government, in addition to the post of Ramallah governor and the chairwoman of the Palestinian Central Statistic Bureau. However, the Palestinian women are hoping to achieve and gain more rights and progress and join the social and political life.

Layla Ghannam, the first ever woman who serves as Ramallah's governor, told Xinhua that the Palestinian women live in a special situation as they live in an area that is under the Israeli military occupation, adding that the Palestinian women suffer from hard living conditions over the past several years.

The Palestinian Central Statistic Bureau said that the Palestinian women represent 15 percent of the Palestinian labor force in 2010, while the percentage was 10 in 2001.