Friday, February 22, 2013

The European Union Renews its Support to Improve Mental Health Services in Gaza


Friday, 22 February 2013

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip will be able to access mental health services more easily in the coming years thanks to renewed support from the European Union. A new grant of nearly €600,000 designed to improve the training of medical staff and promote the well-being of local communities is being launched involving the International Medical Corps and four Palestinian organisations[1].

Research has shown that living conditions in Gaza - such as restricted movement, reduced access to education and health care, poverty and unemployment - can create stress and feelings of isolation and ultimately impact on the level of mental disorders within the population there. According to the UN, psychological trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder in the Gaza Strip has dramatically risen following the escalation of violence last November. The recently-launched 'Self Help – Self Heal' programme has been specifically designed to target populations living under prolonged conflict conditions and will empower people in Gaza to take care of their own individual and family mental health needs.

"The EU has been working with Palestinian civil society for many years to guarantee appropriate mental health care for those in need in the Gaza Strip as well as in other parts of the occupied Palestinian territory. Thanks to this new grant we will be able to promote more effective methods to deal with severe emotional and mental distress within the population in Gaza", said the EU Representative Mr. John Gatt-Rutter. "Of course our work in this important area must go hand in hand with efforts by all partners to restore normal socioeconomic and living conditions in the Gaza Strip" he added.

Children, adolescents, elderly people and those with pre-existing mental health issues are particularly at risk of severe psychological distress during crises. Families rarely know how to identify and respond to these symptoms. By training parents and caregivers and setting up peer support groups, the EU and International Medical Corps will help families to manage the mental health consequences of life in the Gaza Strip. The impact of the programme will be multiplied by training Palestinian health care and rehabilitation staff and other professionals in Gaza to deliver this level of support and training to families affected by mental health issues. The programme will reach more than 2,300 people through community centres in the Gaza Strip and more than 230 health professionals will receive training.

Establishing stronger community support networks for people in need of mental healthcare services in Gaza is in line with the 2010-15 'Plan of Organisation of Mental Health Services in the occupied Palestinian territory' and with global WHO policy guidelines. Since 2010, the EU has invested almost € 4 million to work in partnership with the PA Ministry of Health as well as WHO and Palestinian NGOs to improve mental health in the oPt. Moreover, in the Gaza Strip, the EU supports UNRWA in providing health services to Palestine refugees and provides psychosocial support mainly to children through its humanitarian assistance office (ECHO).

[1] Gaza Community Mental Health Program (GCMHP), Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS), Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and Palestinian Centre for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (PCDCR)

Jordanian Diplomat Marwan Muasher (his country’s first ambassador to Israel, where he made many friends) points out the importance of The Arab Peace Initiative... & the fact that Obama Should Try to Help Solve Conflict:


Muasher: Obama Should Try to Solve Conflict in a 'Few Months'

By: Akiva Eldar for Al-Monitor Israel Pulse. Posted on February 21.
Read in Hebrew

Marwan Muasher addresses the General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 27, 2004. (photo by REUTERS/Jeff Christensen)
Among reports about President Barack Obama’s intention to restart the diplomatic process, which he will bring with him to Jerusalem and Ramallah on his visit next month, one especially prominent report says the senior visitor plans to pull the Arab Peace Initiative out of his hat. This initiative offers Israel a groundbreaking deal: “in exchange for a complete withdrawal from the occupied territories (including East Jerusalem) and a ‘just settlement’ of the Palestinian refugee problem (based on U.N. Resolution 194), all Arab states will recognize Israel and declare a normalization of relations with Israel.

The surprising regional peace plan, known as “the Saudi Initiative”, took off at the end of 2001, a short time after the September 11th terror attacks.

Those were three days that changed the face of the conflict in the region. On March 27, 2002, Passover eve, a Hamas suicide bomber murdered 30 Israelis who were sitting around the Seder [ceremonial Passover meal] table at the Park Hotel in Netanya. On the 28th, the Arab League summit, convening in Beirut, approved the Arab Peace Initiative. On March 29 the Sharon government decided to launch Operation Defensive Shield, in which the IDF reconquered the towns of the West Bank.

The Arab League decision, as well as its adoption by the summit meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) which took place in Tehran several months later (Iran abstained), were relegated to the back of the news. The annual reconfirmation of the initiative at Arab summit meetings, even after the Arab Spring, is greeted in Israel with a yawn.

On its way to Beirut at the time, the initiative stopped off in Amman, where it underwent upgrading and remodeling in the hands of Marwan Muasher, who was Jordan’s foreign minister at the time. The man who served as his country’s first ambassador to Israel, where he made many friends, worked day and night to draft the document with the intention of bridging between the aspirations of the Palestinians and Israel’s security interests. Since then he has been promoted to the position of deputy prime minister, and then went off to far-away Washington where he served as vice president of the World Bank, before being named as vice president of the prestigious Carnegie Institute. But wherever he went, Muasher was haunted by frustration and regret at the waning of the initiative, of which he was one of the instigators.

In a special interview with Al-Monitor, Muasher stresses that despite the upheavals in the Arab world, his approach toward the initiative has not changed. But he warns that its failure will signal the end of the “two-state” paradigm.

To what extent (if at all) is the Arab Peace Initiative valid, given that several leading regimes who stood at its cradle are gone?
The API cannot be considered valid forever. It has so far shown its resilience, with no Arab country having withdrawn its support from it. But it cannot be on the table forever. The Arab uprisings have changed the landscape. Egypt will not pursue an active policy to promote the API. Syria is not in a position to do so. And, most importantly, the one Arab leader that can keep the API together, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, is sick and old. The time to bring about a permanent settlement to the conflict based on the API has come. Waiting for a better constellation is to wait in vain. Israel’s concern that it better wait for the dust to settle before it moves on peace because of a hostile neighborhood will become a self-fulfilling prophecy if no movement is made to bring about peace in a very short span of time.

Can we learn from the support of the API at the recent IOC conference in Cairo, that the Moslem Brotherhood has decided to adopt this approach, including normalizing relations with Israel?
“I don’t think the new Egyptian leadership will stand against the API. No country has withdrawn its support of the API so far. The question is not whether countries will withdraw their support, but whether they will actively work to implement it. I doubt that Egypt will adopt a proactive policy towards the API now.”

How do you see the linkage between the Arab Spring and the Palestinian- Israeli conflict? Did it make the conflict more central or rather pushed it aside?
“I see many linkages. One is what I mentioned above, in that it highlights the urgency of a settlement now before events make it impossible. Two, I think that the United States policy of supporting change with the Arab world will not be seen as credible if it tells Egyptians or Syrians or Libyans or Yemenis or Tunisians yearning for freedom that the United States supports them but tells Palestinians yearning for freedom that it is complicated. In other words, if the United States wants a new relationship with the Arab world based on support for democratic change and U.S. values, it will face a difficult time if that support excludes Palestinians.”

If the API fails, what will be the new Arab attitude towards Israel and the Palestinian question?
“Emerging governments in Arab countries undergoing transitions will not be as accommodating vis-à-vis Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, and will be more responsive to their streets. I do not think the Egyptian-Israeli or Jordanian-Israeli peace treaties will be abrogated, but the Arab world will be far more critical of Israel at both the official and popular levels.”

It seems that the Saudis, who submitted the API to the Arab league, are losing interest in it.
“The Saudis were hugely disappointed when the API did not receive the attention they felt it should both by the international community (U.S., EU) or Israel. They are also not interested in any incremental steps that in their view have only postponed a resolution of the conflict, but made it more difficult while Israel changed facts on the ground. King Abdullah is also sick and the Saudi transition process has in many ways already begun. Short of a very serious effort by the US administration to convince the Saudis it is serious, not about launching a new peace process but about moving to a resolution of the conflict, the Saudis will not engage in another effort.”

Do you believe that the Arab regimes can do more to "sell " the API to the Israeli public?
“I believe when the API initiative was launched, there was a chance to speak directly to the Israeli public that was not taken. I also believe the Israeli government at that time (under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) was not interested in the API at all, and did not try to market it to its own public. The current Israeli government does not even see a peaceful settlement as a priority, let alone being interested in the API.”

Is there a real chance to move the Israel-Palestinian negotiations in the old bilateral mechanism, without a regional component?
“The short answer in my view is no. Both sides have needs the other cannot meet on their own. The Palestinians cannot resolve thorny issues such as Jerusalem or refugees without Arab support. The Israelis will argue they need an agreement not just with the Palestinian Authority, but also with Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria. This is the beauty of the API. It provided both sides with the cover they need to make a settlement not only possible, but even desirable.”

As you know, there is a group in Israel that is trying to keep the API alive. Are there similar groups in the Arab side?
“I am not aware of an active Arab group. The prevailing popular view in the Arab world is that, just as Israelis believe, there is no partner on the other side, and that the API has been very forthcoming in offering Israel collective peaceful relations with the whole Arab world, security guarantees with all Arab countries, an end to the conflict, and an agreed solution to the refugee problem. There is a sense of despair on the Arab side that Israel is not interested in a viable resolution to the conflict but seeks a solution that meets its needs, even when it talks about a “nominal” Palestinian state, but not the needs of the Palestinians.”

How do you see the future of the Middle East, including the situation in the West Bank, and the relationship between Israel and Jordan?
“If there is no attempt to affect a two-state solution today, then I see a period of no-solution for a decade or two, in which we will witness more turmoil and bloodshed. The Palestinians, then, will opt for the only possible recourse - asking for equal rights within the state they live in today, i.e. Israel. All other solutions, such as Jordan’s control over the West Bank and Egypt’s control of Gaza, or other variations of this, unilateral disengagement or forced transfers of Palestinians, fall under wishful thinking at best. If there is no two-state solution, the relationship between Jordan and Israel can only get worse, and will heighten Jordanians’ feelings that Israel will attempt to solve the conflict at their expense.”

What would you advise President Obama in advance of his visit to the region?
“I only have one advice. He should either indicate, in deeds not in words, his intention to engage in a serious effort to try to solve the conflict within few months or not say anything at all. Giving the impression that he will start another “endless peace process” will be met not just with skepticism, but also with scorn on the Arab side, and would be counterproductive. "

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Poll: Large Majority of Palestinians Want Immediate Elections

 Published on Thursday, 21 February 2013

A large majority of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank support holding immediate presidential and legislative elections, a new poll published Thursday said.

The poll, by the Arab World for Research and Development (AWRAD) and reported by WAFA, said 95% of Gaza residents and 82% of West Bank residents support the holding of immediate legislative and presidential elections.

The results found that support for Fatah is back to the same level as it was in July 2012 and reached 42%, up from 37% in December 2012, while support for Hamas has declined by four percentage points to 18% since December.

Approval rate for President Mahmoud Abbas stood at 58% in the new poll compared to 45% for Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh. Approval rate for Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stood at 39%.
In a two-way presidential race, Abbas could receive 64% of the votes compared to 36% for Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal or Haniyeh.

For the position of a prime minister in a national unity government, 28% prefer Haniyeh while 23% prefer Fayyad.

Fayyad is more popular in Gaza than in the West Bank, so is Fatah, according to the poll results.
The poll said 68% of respondents support a return to negotiations with Israel if it were to stop settlement building in the West Bank.

At the same time, 69% said popular protest activities such as the erection of the Bab al-Shams camp could have real impact on ending the Israeli occupation, while at the same time 65% said they oppose a new Intifada.

The belief that the UN vote admitting Palestine as a non-member observer state has advanced the Palestinian cause declined from 68% to 44%.

The poll included 1200 Palestinians from around the West Bank and Gaza from across socioeconomic groups.  It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

American Task Force on Palestine Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Announces Oct. 29 Gala

ATFP Celebrates 10th Anniversary, Announces Oct. 29 Gala

Press Release
February 15, 2013 - 12:00am

Feb. 15, Washington DC -- The American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) today celebrates the end of its 10th year of operations and the beginning of its second decade. Since its founding in 2003, ATFP has built on a clear mission: to advocate that a negotiated end-of-conflict solution that allows for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace, security and dignity is in the American national interest.

ATFP is gratified that there is now a consensus in Washington and the American foreign policy establishment that peace between Israel and the Palestinians is indeed a vital American interest. Since 2003, a commitment to the two-state solution has become not only established American foreign policy, but also the position of the Middle East Quartet, which represents the views of the international community as a whole. We are proud to have played a small part in developing this policy consensus and imperative, which is without doubt a historic achievement. ATFP will continue to urge the international community as a whole to assure the implementation and realization of the two-state solution. We are well aware that much of the hardest work remains to be done, and ATFP is committed to continuing to pursue its efforts on behalf of peace and Palestine until the two-state solution finally becomes a reality.

The past decade has seen a broad range of achievements and an unprecedented degree of access and influence for the Task Force, nationally and internationally. These successes have been beyond our expectations, as ATFP has become a fully-fledged part of the policy conversation, with a seat at the table in multiple venues across the world.

The Task Force owes a huge debt of thanks to the past and present members of its Board of Directors, staff, interns, volunteers, and countless friends, sponsors and supporters around the country and across the world who have made our work possible and without whom we could not have completed such a successful first decade of operations.

On this 10th anniversary of the founding of the Task Force, ATFP is pleased to announce its Seventh Annual Gala, which will be held on October 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. As always, the ATFP Gala will celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of Palestinian Americans and welcome a who's-who of current and former policymakers, opinion leaders, diplomats, journalists, activists and engaged community members. More information about the 2013 Gala will be forthcoming in the near future.

ATFP looks forward to a second decade of dedicated work in pursuit of peace based on the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the continued support of countless people of goodwill around the country and the world.

 ATFP 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.
 Please help sustain ATFP's work and independent decision-making by donating here.

Statement of the General Delegation of the PLO on Qisra Village Attacks & Statement on Commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The General Delegation of the PLO to the U.S. strongly condemns the raid by Israeli occupation forces and settlers on Qisra village, destroying public and private properties including electricity poles and several residents’ vehicles.

This continued pattern of provocation by Israeli occupation forces, as well as settlers’ violence against Palestinians, threaten the basic elements of Palestinian life and the credibility of human rights laws and regulation, especially in light of the deafening absence of international accountability for Israeli crimes.

The residents of Qisra sought to defend themselves nonviolently, but were provoked by the illegitimate actions of Israeli occupation forces and settlers.

The General Delegation of the PLO to the U.S. calls upon the international community to take practical steps ensuring an end to the threat of occupation forces and settlers to Palestinian life, guaranteeing the national aspiration and human rights of the Palestinian people.
Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals, these are the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose legacy we commemorate today.

The General Delegation of the PLO to the US recalls his eloquent expression of that timeless human aspiration for freedom and equality. His famous words “I have a dream” resonate deeply with our dream for independence and freedom in Palestine.

We remember the difficulties that Dr. King and those with him endured for so many years and yet they did not tire or give up. We are inspired by their courage and resilience.

Dr. King symbolized the universal value of human dignity. His struggle for the rights of African-Americans did not touch the lives of an oppressed minority here in the United States alone. It transcended to defend the rights of all oppressed peoples in the world.

The General Delegation of the PLO to the US believes that the commemoration of Martin Luther King Day should not only be an American occasion, but one for the whole world to celebrate.

Portrait of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photo by Walter Bennett/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)


Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday

By Julian Pecquet - 02/20/13 05:30 PM ET

John Kerry is meeting with the Palestinians' chief peace negotiator on Thursday for the first time since taking over as secretary of State.

Saeb Erekat will lead a delegation that's expected to urge Kerry to press President Obama to present his own peace initiative when he makes his first presidential visit to Israel and the West Bank next month, Israel's Haaretz reports. The White House has sought to downplay expectations ahead of Obama's trip, but the Palestinians are likely to press him for more engagement after sharply criticizing the administration's failure to revive the stalled peace process during Obama's first term.

“My understanding is these are consultations very much in keeping with the planning for the president’s trip,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

The visit comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed renewed interest in peace talks following his conservative party's drubbing during recent elections. This week, he announced that former opposition leader and foreign minister Tzipi Livni would join his government and lead peace talks with the Palestinians.

Kerry has made reviving talks toward a two-state solution an early priority of his term in office, calling both Netanyahu and the Palestinian Authority's Mahmoud Abbas the weekend before he took office. Negotiations have been on ice for the past three years because of disagreements surrounding Israeli settlement activity and the borders of a future Palestinian state.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Oscars-bound Palestinian film-maker describes 'unpleasant' LAX detention: Emad Burnat, who made 5 Broken Cameras, said US officials doubted his credentials and threatened to send him home

 "Although this was an unpleasant experience, this is a daily occurrence for Palestinians, every single day, throughout the West Bank. There are more than 500 Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other barriers to movement across our land..."
Emad Burnat, right, with his Israeli co-director Guy Davidi. Five Broken Cameras is nominated in the documentary category. Photograph: Damian Dovarganes/AP

An Academy-nominated Palestinian film-maker has spoken of the "unpleasant experience" of being detained by US immigration officials when he arrived for this weekend's Oscars ceremony.

Emad Burnat said that he was held for about an hour at Los Angeles airport on Tuesday, along with his wife and youngest son Gibreel, who plays a central role in Oscar-nominated documentary 5 Broken Cameras.

Burnat said that he thought that US immigration officials – who apparently doubted his credentials – would send him back to Palestine. He compared the incident to daily life for Palestinians under the Israeli occupation.

"Immigration officials asked for proof that I was nominated for an Academy Award for 5 Broken Cameras, and they told me that if I couldn't prove the reason for my visit, my wife Soraya, my son Gibreel and I would be sent back to Turkey on the same day," Burnat said in a statement.

"After 40 minutes of questions and answers, Gibreel asked me why we were still waiting in that small room. I simply told him the truth: 'Maybe we'll have to go back.' I could see his heart sink."

Five Broken Cameras chronicles the events surrounding Israel's creation of a separation wall in Burnat's West Bank village of Bil'in. Burnat, a farmer, initially bought the camera to capture Gibreel's development before using footage for the documentary.

Burnat said his experience was "a very minor example of what my people face every day."...READ MORE

Palestinian children and teachers at Qurtuba school in Hebron say getting to class past Israeli soldiers and settlers is like navigating a minefield every day.

Stranded in Shuhada: Hebron's Qurtuba school

Published Friday 15/02/2013
Vandals scrawled racist graffiti on a mural on Qurtuba school, in the
West Bank city of Hebron. (MaanImages/Salam Muharam)

HEBRON (Ma'an) -- Children and teachers at Qurtuba school in Hebron say getting to class past Israeli soldiers and settlers is like navigating a minefield every day.

The school, for children aged 7 to 16, is adjacent to the illegal Jewish settlement of Beit Hadassah in the center of the West Bank city.

Israeli forces fenced off the school's stairs with barbed wire in 2002. Now the only route to the school is a muddy path up a steep hill.

Some pupils live beside the school, but have to walk two kilometers around a circuit to reach the entrance, Najah Abu Munshar, a teacher in the school told Ma'an.

Across the street from the school, "Gas the Arabs" has been scrawled on a door. Next to the school gates, a mural of a girl holding a book, painted by a French activist, has been covered by racist graffiti. A gallery in a school corridor shows photos of Israeli soldiers and settlers assaulting students.

International volunteers escort children to and from school as a protective measure, but pupils and teachers are still frequently harassed and assaulted on their way to the school, which has been vandalized and set on fire.

"School students start their day by crossing the checkpoint of Shuhada street. I can only describe daily life at Qurtuba school as suffering and struggle," school principal Noura Nasser told Ma'an.

Teachers must also pass an Israeli checkpoint and metal detectors to get to work, and Israeli soldiers decide whether to let them pass each day.

Pupil Yasmeen Ghareb, 12, says settlers have assaulted her and her siblings. "Sometimes they say bad words to me, and sometimes they throw fluids at me on my way to school."
Yasmeen Ghareb stands in front of a checkpoint on her way to school
(MaanImages/Salam Muharam)
 Other students told Ma'an that settlers have attacked them with stones, water and rotten vegetables.

Najah Abu Munshar has taught at Qurtaba school for 15 years. "The settlers used to let their dogs attack the students, and when settlers attack a student, I try my best to calm him or her down, and if he or she has any wounds, I provide first aid," she told Ma'an.

The Ministry of Education hired a psychological counselor for the school, to work with children suffering psychological trauma which often manifests as bed wetting, Nasser, the school principal, told Ma'an. "The school focuses on the extracurricular activities and days of joy."

Nasser said settler attacks were usually heightened during periods of political instability.

A grid of walls, fences and checkpoints divides Jewish settlers and Palestinians who live in close proximity to each other in Hebron, which was divided into two sections in the 1997 Hebron Agreement.

The Palestinian Authority controls the larger area, while Israeli forces control the city center, including the old market, the Ibrahimi Mosque and the historic Old City.

Qurtaba school lies on Shuhada street, a once-bustling thoroughfare and now a shuttered ghost town, with a military checkpoint restricting Palestinians' access to this part of the city.

Israel started restricting access to Shuhada street after an Israeli settler Baruch Goldstein broke into the Ibrahimi Mosque and shot dead 29 Palestinians.

During the second intifada, Israel closed the street to traffic and many traders were not even able to collect their goods before their shops were welded shut.

Palestinian families who remained on Shuhada street must climb through side doors and across rooftops to get to their homes.

Waed Zeidan al-Sharabati, a 9-year-old pupil at Qurtuba school who lives on Shuhada street, recounted to Ma'an how settlers assaulted her and her cousin in 2011 when they were harvesting almonds nearby.

"They threw stones on us... The settler kidnapped my cousin, and I called the neighbor to come check the situation. My neighbor talked to the settlers, and after a long argument, my cousin was returned. One settler threw a stone on my leg. They tried to take me another time, but I escaped to my neighbor's wife, and she hid my inside her home, and closed the door."

"I got used to it, and at the beginning I used to be scared, but now I am not scared of them," she told Ma'an.
Ward al-Sharabati, 9, lives on Shuhada street, a hub of settler violence
in the West Bank (MaanImages/Salam Muharam)

In photos: Palestinian children growing up under the shadow of expulsion & the threat of more Israeli firing zones

(MaanImages/Eva Pilipp) IN PHOTOS

SEE MORE In photos: Growing up in Firing Zone 918

In Khirbet al-Tabban, a village in the south Hebron hills, four-year-old Rimas Obeid is growing up under the shadow of expulsion.

Last year, the Israeli government said it intends to move the Palestinian residents of Tabban and seven other villages to make way for an army training ground it calls Firing Zone 918. The case is pending in the High Court.

Rimas, her three sisters, two brothers, and the two older generations of her family know no other life than farming and herding.

Available records date the Palestinian communities of the south Hebron hills to the early 19th century. Once semi-nomadic, moving between seasonal homes during the agricultural cycle, many families then settled in the caves that dot the landscape.

Rimas' father Nasser, who was born in the family's cave in Tabban, vows: "We are not going anywhere."

Doted on by her father, Rimas bounces around the village helping her brothers with the sheep, playing with the family dogs, and getting in her mother's way.

Not long ago, she slipped out from under her mother's gaze and walked through the desert to find her father, who was drinking tea in a village on a neighboring hill.

She startled the gathering of men, Nasser chuckles. But Rimas already knows these hills far too well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Israeli Soldiers Order Bethlehem Villagers To Leave Their Lands

Monday Feb 18; Israeli soldiers handed two Palestinians from Nahhalin village, west of Bethlehem, military warrants ordering them to leave their own lands as the Israeli army intends to take the lands away under the claim of “military considerations”.
Israeli soldier aiming his gun at a Palestinian farmer
Head of the Nahhalin Village Council, Jamal Najajra, told the Radio Bethlehem 2000, that the villagers found military orders placed on their lands in the areas of Ein Fares, Al-Kabbarat, Qornat Ad-Da’mas, Wadi Salem, near Beitar Elit, Daniel and Gahovut settlements.

The military orders instruct the residents that they are not allowed to enter these areas, not allowed to plow or plant them, and also informed them that the army also intends to illegally confiscate another 40-Dunam section that belong to the families of Fannoun, Zayed and Ghayata.

Najajra further stated that the violations do not stop here, as a number of extremist settlers living in a settlement in the Gush Ezion Settlement Bloc, flooded with waste-water, large areas of lands that belong to Nahhalin town, in Khallit Al-Dalia and Wadi Al-Mrabba.

The flooded area 350 Dunams, is planted with grape vines and olive trees, Najjar said.

He added that extremist settlers repeatedly flood Palestinian farmlands with wastewater to sabotage the ruin the plants in an attempt to cause the Palestinian farmers further destruction of lands, property in addition to huge financial losses.

This is beside that the fact that the waste-water they flood Palestinian farmlands with also causing sickness among the residents who will be trying to save their orchards, their main, and on many cases, the only source of livelihood.

My letter to the LA Times RE Maen Rashid Areikat's Moving past stalemate in the Middle East: The U.S. must push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just manage it.

 Martin Luther King Jr
RE: Moving past stalemate in the Middle East: The U.S. must push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just manage it.,0,7659433.story

Dear Editor,

Delighted to see Palestine's The American diversity Rubicon is crossedThe quiet tsunami of diversification in American society and power structure might mean that what many think they know about the United States and how it works is, in fact, completely wrong. If so, not only is reconsideration necessary to avoid miscalculation, it's also required in order to follow a damn good example."

While our civil rights hero Martin Luther King Jr successfully helped create a more real democracy here in America, Israel choose to go in the exact opposite direction by cruelly persecuting, oppressing and forcibly displacing countless native non-Jewish Palestinians, a nefarious practice that continues to this day. 

As America has been steadfastly promoting and investing in true freedom and equality and respect for 'others', Israel has been actively promoting and investing in Jews-preferred narratives, housing and jobs and pursuing a plethora of punitive anti-Palestine policies.  That truth is not an excuse or even a reason to call for erasing or destroying Israel, because ending slavery and Jim Crow laws certainly did not destroy America... That truth should simply help more people worldwide understand the crucial importance of promoting and investing in a fully secular two state solution to actually end the Israel-Palestine conflict- for everyone's sake.

Anne Selden Annab

"The Israeli occupation has lasted too long. Hollywood gets it; Washington should too." Palestine's Maen Rashid Areikat... The U.S. must push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just manage it.

Outcry over Israeli soldier's photo of boy in crosshairs: "Every Palestinian mother is concerned for her child ..."
Beltway Foreign Policy

My Bittersweet Homecoming to Jerusalem by Mayse Jarbawi for MIFTAH

How long can this charade continue to function politically?

Israeli settlers pump sewage into ancient Palestinian village

Economist: An Arab village is asked to bow to the wishes of Israel's Jewish settlers

The American Task Force on Palestine today warmly welcomed reports that following a year of holds and delays, Congress appears to be preparing to release all outstanding US aid, totaling more than $500 million, to the Palestinian Authority.

"I have no memory of a time without struggle" Emad Burnat is a Palestinian farmer and director of the Oscar-nominated documentary "5 Broken Cameras"...  "
As the world listens, Gibreel, I want to say to you: I am from Palestine. I have lived my whole life under military occupation, and I have no memory of a time without struggle. But you, son, you will know better times. Someday, you will make new, happy memories.... And that will be the true award."

Global hotspots top agenda as UN chief meets with new US Secretary of State: "We all need to make special efforts to forge a two-State solution "
Rising From Ruins: Even as Israel neglects a major archaeological site in the West Bank, it is preventing the Palestinian Authority from tending to it.

Kerry seeks to unblock $700 million in aid for Palestinians

Pope Benedict tells Abbas that hope for Mideast solution is "a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming negotiations between the parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both"

ATFP News [& Commentary] Roundup, February 11, 2013: Pres. Obama's upcoming Middle East trip stirs hopes for peace.

Amidst a brutal war, Syria’s Palestinian community finds itself seeking refuge yet again—this time, in Lebanon’s famous Sabra and Shatila camps.

Number of Palestinian refugee deaths in Syria increasing, UN agency warns

Palestinian family home demolished by Israeli forces in Jerusalem

Letter sent to my elected leaders: Peace and Palestine need to be taken seriously by American leadership now more than ever.

Palestine's Amb. Maen Rashid Areikat: Bias against Palestinians on display at congressional hearing

ATFP Hosts Washington Briefing on Israeli and Palestinian Schoolbooks

Palestine developing school curriculums that teach coexistence, tolerance, justice, and human dignity

Palestinian leadership on Wednesday welcomed US President Barack Obama’s announced plans to visit the region in March.

RAJA SHEHADEH: More Than a Land Grab ...Settlers increasingly impinging on Palestinian lives: Jewish settlers aren't just taking empty space, they're destroying Palestinian property and threatening their lives.

Israel demolishes yet anouther Palestinian home in East Jerusalem

Foriegn Policy: An interview with Palestinian negotiator-in-chief Saeb Erekat 

PBS: Mariam Said on the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra

".... it being clearly understood that nothing
          shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
          rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine..."
"Legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Thomas Jefferson

The Office of International Religious Freedom (   Given the U.S. commitment to religious freedom, and to the international covenants that guarantee it as the inalienable right of every human being, the United States seeks to:
Promote freedom of religion and conscience throughout the world as a fundamental human right and as a source of stability for all countries
Palestinian Refugees(1948-NOW) refused their right to return... and their right to live in peace free from religious bigotry and injustice.

The Golden Rule... Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home - so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world." Eleanor Roosevelt

Palestinian refugees must be given the option to exercise their right of return (as well as receive compensation for their losses arising from their dispossession and displacement) though refugees may prefer other options such as: (i) resettlement in third countries, (ii) resettlement in a newly independent Palestine (even though they originate from that part of Palestine which became Israel) or (iii) normalization of their legal status in the host country where they currently reside.  What is important is that individual refugees decide for themselves which option they prefer – a decision must not be imposed upon them.

UN Resolution 194 from 1948  : 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 Israeli occupation has lasted too long. Hollywood gets it; Washington should too." Palestine's Maen Rashid Areikat... The U.S. must push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just manage it.

"The potential for an agreement is there; we just need to create the conditions for it to succeed. The two sides can capitalize on progress made since the Taba talks of 2001. Everybody knows the parameters: a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders with mutually agreed-upon land swaps similar in size and quality, a shared capital in Jerusalem, acceptable and legitimate security arrangements and an agreed-upon and just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem based on the 1948 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. The success of any political process depends on clear terms of reference, a clear time frame and a clear endgame."

Maen Rashid Areikat is chief representative of the general delegation of the Palestine Liberation Organization to the United States.


Moving past stalemate in the Middle East

The U.S. must push to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not just manage it.

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during his ceremonial swearing in at the State Department in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong / Getty Images / February 6, 2013)

February 19, 2013

With the U.S. administration's foreign policy team shaping up and planned visits by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East, there are renewed hopes for movement on the political process. While welcoming these developments, we believe the effectiveness of the U.S. role in the region hinges on a robust and sustained policy pushing toward the resolution of the conflict as opposed to just managing it.

Although the recent Israeli elections showed how passive and indifferent Israelis have become about resolving the conflict with the Palestinians, I believe many outside observers are misreading the situation. The Israeli public is sheltered, even blinded, from seeing the immense and imminent danger facing Israel if the two-state solution collapses. The relative calm along with economic prosperity are contributing to the false impression that all is well, when the reality is quite different...READ MORE

Outcry over Israeli soldier's photo of boy in crosshairs: "Every Palestinian mother is concerned for her child ..."

Israeli Sniper Posts Pic of Child in Crosshairs
Tue, 19 Feb 2013 09:16 GMT
Source: reuters // Reuters 

JERUSALEM, Feb 19 (Reuters) - An Israeli soldier has provoked an outcry by publishing a photograph that appeared to show the back of a Palestinian boy's head seen through the crosshairs of a rifle.

Israel's army said on Tuesday it would hold an investigation into the conduct of the soldier, who posted the picture on the online photo-sharing website Instagram.

Israeli media identified the soldier as a 20-year-old conscript serving in the occupied West Bank.
Palestinian officials, who want the West Bank as part of a future state, condemned the publication of the photograph, saying it showed Israeli forces believed they could act with impunity.

"Every Palestinian mother is concerned for her child ... because of the picture that is now known and seen worldwide," said Palestinian government spokeswoman Nour Odeh on Tuesday.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Beltway Foreign Policy

"On Israel-Palestine, as with Iran, Obama began with some fresh ideas only to retreat. He tried to stop Israeli settlement expansion. Then he gave up when the domestic price looked too high. The result has been drift... “The Dispensable Nation” is a brave book. Its core message is: Diplomacy is tough and carries a price, but the price is higher when it is abandoned." Roger Cohen in The New York Times promoting Vali Nasr's upcoming book “The Dispensable Nation”

April 23, 2013: Former State Department advisor for Afghanistan and Pakistan and bestselling author Vali Nasr delivers a sharp indictment of America's flawed foreign policy and outlines a new relationship with the Muslim world and with new players in the changing Middle East.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My Bittersweet Homecoming to Jerusalem by Mayse Jarbawi for MIFTAH
 February 13, 2013

I was born in Jerusalem but spent my whole life in Ramallah, a city which is a mere 40 minutes away from Jerusalem. However, since my adult life began, I have only been able to enter it roughly 10 times.

Ever since I acquired my Palestinian ID card when I turned 16, Jerusalem became nothing more than a dream. The number of minutes it takes to reach Jerusalem was no longer relevant. Now, it was all about being Palestinian – apparently a threat to Israel’s national security. People like me began looking for connections that would help to obtain a permit, with the hopes that you would be lucky enough to get one that allows you to be in Jerusalem for more than three hours. Then even after the permit was in hand, Qalandiya had to be crossed, with all the questioning and hassle passing through an Israeli checkpoint entails. I envied my classmates who had a Jerusalem ID, wishing I also had a home there, a reason to feel welcomed in and familiar with that special place. It was way out of reach though, and I learned that hope was my only fortune.

My freshman year of college I met three incredible Jewish people my age, who soon became my closest friends. I respected them because their perspective on Israel was not biased; they freely admitted that the occupation was illegal, wrong and defies the ethical construction of modern human civilization. They were not pro-Palestine per se, but were definitely not pro-Israel. However, despite their personal beliefs, I soon became aware of the fact that all three of them were going on a “birthright” trip [designed for Jewish youths from around the world to get ‘introduced’ to Israel] the following summer. When I asked one of them why she wanted to be a part of such an opportunistic and fabricated program, her answer was limited to: “because it’s free!”

My friends continued to justify their decision by explaining that a Jewish American would find no reason to turn down an exclusive complimentary 10-day tourist trip in order to make a political statement. I could feel my heart constricting and my tears felt like fire on my face. Indignant whispers were roaring in my head; who are they to be able to enter Jerusalem and be treated like royalty? What do they know about Bab Al-‘Amud [Damascus Gate]? Or Jerusalem’s favored sesame bread? Have they heard the song ‘Zahrat Al-Mada’in’ [The Flower of all Cities] by Fairouz? The racial luxury Israel was granting them left me powerless and wondering where my birthright was in all of this.

After several failed attempts over the past five years and after waiting for hours in long lines in the settlement of Bet El [where permits for Palestinians are issued], I was finally allowed a permit to enter Jerusalem for one day last week, from 8am until 5pm. After such a long hiatus, I could not really complain. I was too happy.

In order to reach Jerusalem, Qalandiya checkpoint must be crossed. All the Palestinians are made to stand in a long passage made of metal bars with cameras at every corner. Once one reaches the end of the passage he or she must go through a big prison-like gate followed by a security booth. When I got to that point, I had to show my ID and permit along with other official documents to an 18-year old blonde Russian so-called Israeli soldier, who then nodded in approval, waving me through. I felt so humiliated and seriously thought of turning around and going back to Ramallah. At Qalandiya, you feel like a rat in a big corporate laboratory run by sadistic scientists.

Once I arrived, I could smell the holiness of Jerusalem in the air. I couldn’t hide my smile. I felt so proud to be Palestinian and so grateful to all the Palestinians who persist and remain in Jerusalem despite their horrible living conditions.

However, the feeling of homecoming and euphoria did not last long. After about an hour I began to feel suffocated and stressed. Too much agitation and tension fill the streets of Jerusalem, probably because of how many Israeli soldiers prance around carrying bulky rifles at every corner. People are on edge and angry and there is no sign of peace anywhere.

I will always love Jerusalem, even if my “homecoming” was bittersweet. The conflicting feelings I felt towards this beautiful city were mixed with a heavy dosage of guilt. “I miss Ramallah,” I caught myself thinking, and begged for that thought to vanish. It’s so sad what Jerusalem has become.

Mayse Jarbawi is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

How long can this charade continue to function politically?

"How long will the Palestinian people sit by and watch with hope and anticipation these implausible efforts to fit the square peg of Hamas's attitudes and policies - intransigence towards Israel, commitment to armed struggle and religiously reactionary attitudes - into the round hole of the leadership in Ramallah which is secular, nationalistic and committed to a negotiated peace agreement with Israel? How can there be unity where there is no consensus on any major issue?

Palestinians seem to have little faith in any of their national leadership groups, and they came by it honestly. Hamas has been a disaster in Gaza, imposing quasi-theocratic and frequently misogynistic social policies, and engaging in reckless armed struggle with Israel at the expense of the lives of innocent people under their rule. The PLO appears to have largely run out of ideas other than symbolic efforts at the United Nations and other multilateral institutions that often carry more practical costs than benefits." Hussein Ibish Another round of Palestinian talks fail to deliver on unity
Palestinian Statehood