Monday, March 6

MCC Palestine Update #119

MCC Palestine Update #119

6 March 2006

Standing in Bardalah

There is much that has not changed over the years in the village of Bardalah in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank. The Palestinian residents of this village continue to live very close to the land, depending largely on agriculture for their subsistence.

Recently, Mennonite Central Committee along with Catholic Relief Services (http://www.crs.org/) partnered with the Palestinian Hydrology Group (http://www.phg.org/index1.html) in a hydrology project in this small Palestinian village. Bardalah sits on about 400 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) of land and is home to about 2700 Palestinians. They have there own school and a medical clinic and rely on the land for much of their livelihood. Growing fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, cauliflower, and squash can be challenging in the climate of the Jordan Valley. That is why projects such as these go a long way.

This project in particular saw the building of 4 cement pools in Bardalah. These pools, which will collect rainwater in the winter season and store water in the summer, will supply water to 60 dunams of farmland, benefiting 90 farmers. In addition to the pools, 500 meters of new irrigation pipes were installed as part of the project. This is the third phase of a joint hydrology project to provide emergency assistance to Palestinian farmers affected by the separation wall. It has included projects in Bardalah’s neighboring village of ‘Ein el-Beida, in the northern Jordan Valley, and in the West Bank village of Jayyus where the separation wall has cut off over three hundred families from their farm lands, having a serious economic impact on this village that relies heavily on agriculture.

Palestinian livelihoods continue to be devastated in the process as more land is being expropriated for the construction of this 430-mile / 700-km separation barrier that has little to do with security and terrorism, built not on the internationally recognized boundary referred to as the “Green Line” but instead on Palestinian land, cutting deeply into the West Bank (“Under the Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to Enable Israeli Settlement Expansion in the West Bank,”
http://www.btselem.org/english/Publications/summaries/
200512_Under_the_Guise_of_Security.asp; “B’Tselem: Fence route directly linked to plan for settlement expansion,’” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/685938.html).

When the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank began in 1967, the Israeli military began to dismantle and prohibit the water well pumping facilities the villagers of Bardalah depended on for their agricultural development, leaving them only with the option to buy water from Israeli water companies. Israeli policy of time and supply constraints on the water supplied to these communities has made it very difficult for farmers to irrigate their fields. These pools will help farmers to not need to buy as much water from Israel, providing them with free access to water for their lands.

Though this story of occupation and dispossession is unfortunately also something that has not changed over the years, neither has Palestinian resistance to this injustice.

Between 1976 and 1988, MCC was engaged in a rural development program that focused on protecting Palestinian land and water rights, both of which were under attack from the Israeli occupation. “In the context of aggressive Israeli policies of confiscating Palestinian land for settlements and weakening the Palestinian agricultural sector,” MCC worker Ibrahim Matar described the objectives of this program as “to develop the land and water resources, increase food production, increase income, self-reliance and steadfastness of the farming communities on their land. These objectives are intended to counter the policies of the authorities of land seizures, dispossession, displacement and impoverishment” (See Alain Epp Weaver and Sonia K. Weaver, Salt & Sign: Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine, 1949-1999 (MCC, 1999), 56)

Only recently, five families in Bardalah were dispossessed, expelled from the homes they lived in for 40 years.

As continues to be the case now, the lack of an adequate water supply for farming was due not simply to the limited amount of available groundwater and spring water, but also to the Israeli military refusal to allow Palestinian farmers permission to drill wells.

The village of Bardalah was the sight of one of the first projects in this program, mainly due to their outdated irrigation methods, and to the fact that their lands were under threat of confiscation from nearby settlements. In addition to introducing drip irrigation methods and providing material at a cheaper cost, MCC also conducted training for farmers in how to fit and maintain drip systems, distributing the necessary tools so that farmers could be self-sufficient in the assembly and repair of pipes (Salt & Sign, 57).

Had it not been for these efforts, not only would Bardalah have faced the serious danger of running out of water for agriculture, Ibrahim Matar believed that their land also would have been expropriated. “The Israeli settlement of Meholah, for example, had made moves on the lands of Bardalah village. With the support of MCC, Bardalah villagers were able to surround the settlement with fields supplied by drip irrigation systems, stymieing land confiscation” (Salt & Sign, 57-58).

And to this day, despite the destructive effect of Israeli army tanks driving through the farmland of Bardalah, 3 km of drip irrigation line installed with the support of MCC in the mid-1970’s continues to function.

In this context, the seemingly mundane tasks of farming become a form of resistance.

***

In addition to the threat of settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley, today there is also the impact of the separation barrier to the north that has also served to maintain the Palestinian experience of dispossession by expropriating more Palestinian land (“The Eastern Wall: Closing the circle of our ghettoization,” http://stopthewall.org/analysisandfeatures/1042.shtml; “Palestinians stand up against expulsion from Jordan Valley,” http://stopthewall.org/latestnews/1101.shtml).

Israeli colonization and annexation of the Jordan Valley has been made clearer in several recent reports (“Israel cuts off eastern West Bank from rest of West Bank,” http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/681938.html; “Israel excludes Palestinians from fertile valley,” http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1709278,00.html; “Israel ‘has annexed Jordan Valley and shut out Palestinians,’” http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/
article345298.ece; “Israel has de facto annexed the Jordan Valley,” http://www.btselem.org/English/Settlements/20060213_
Annexation_of_the_Jordan_Valley.asp)

In fact, these intentions have been recently reiterated by Israeli acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who has stated that Israel will soon move to define its international borders to include the major Israeli settlement blocs illegally built on occupied Palestinian territory as well as the whole of the Jordan Valley (“Olmert vows to set final borders,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/4709834.stm; “Olmert: Next Knesset must determine Israel's final borders,”
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/682351.html; “Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state,” http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1705021,00.html; “Report: Olmert would keep 3 settlement blocs, Jordan Valley,” http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/679959.html).

Interestingly, Israel is one of the only states in the world without defined international borders. But Israel’s moves to define its borders is happening unilaterally, without consideration for the Palestinians it will effect, and in violation of the international communities call—laid out most recently in the “Road Map”—not to take any unilateral steps that would impact a final solution. However, there is nothing new with this agenda, as it is in line with Ariel Sharon’s vision of “maximum territory, minimum Arabs.” (“Maximum Territory, Minimum Arabs,” http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=11389; “The Paradox of Jerusalem,” http://www.miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=7697&CategoryId=5; “The Road to Bantustan,” http://miftah.org/Display.cfm?DocId=2718&CategoryId=5).

Such a move only reflects the reality of the “facts on the ground” already established by illegal Israeli colonies and the illegal separation wall. The construction of the wall itself has been a unilateral move by an occupying power in violation of international law, not a negotiated or agreed upon “border” between two sovereign states. Unfortunately, this wall along with the annexation of the Jordan Valley will become the de facto border of a Palestinian “state” composed of about 7 to 11 isolated “reservations” on roughly 40 to 50 percent of the West Bank, completely surrounded by Israel.

***

Indeed, much has not changed over the years for the people of Bardalah. And the witness that Mennonite Central Committee has borne over the years has become part of that story—a story of ongoing occupation and dispossession accompanied by ongoing resistance to injustice and persistent hope for a better future. May the future of Mennonite Central Committee in Palestine continue to bear witness to a commitment to resist injustice for the “least of these” (Matthew 25).

‘From the Desert May Bloom Justice and Peace’ – A Meditation for Lent

There are traditionally forty days in Lent which are marked by fasting, both from foods and festivities, and by other acts of penance. The three traditional practices to be taken up with renewed vigor during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and almsgiving (justice towards neighbor). The theme of justice defines the status of these relationships.

We would like to leave you with a meditation and a prayer as we begin this lenten season. May it also be a challenge as we move through these days of prayer, repentance, fasting, almsgiving, and abstinence.

‘From the desert may bloom justice and peace’ - a meditation for Lent (http://www.christianaid.org.uk/worship/403lent/reflection.htm)

Help us, Lord, to face our demons, our powers, as you faced yours. You were a man of power who could change stones to bread, conquer kingdoms and fall from the Temple roof without harm. You spent forty days searching for the way to use your powers for the coming of the Father's Reign of Peace, Justice and Holiness.

Help us to use our baptismal powers in the same way. Help us to use our anger at injustice in ways that will effect change, get things done and give witness in word and deed to the Reign you so ardently desired. Help us to use our lust not to abuse or exploit but rather to discover what are our deeper hungers and thirsts so that from the desert may bloom justice and peace.

Help us to overcome our sloth so that from indifference we may turn to deep concern for others who suffer and die because there is no one to turn the stones of hunger into bread, to build a society founded on justice and solidarity and to practise true religion which defends the widow and orphan and gives shelter to the stranger.


Peace to you all,

Timothy and Christi Seidel
Peace Development Workers
Mennonite Central Committee – Palestine


Attachments and Links:

· “Fears of new Israeli settlement as wall completed around Bethlehem,” OpenBethlehem.org, 28 February 2006
· Aluf Benn, “Olmert to seek int'l support for West Bank withdrawal,” Haaretz, 5 March 2006
· John Petrovato, “Waiting for the Palestinian Gandhi,” Palestine Chronicle, 1 March 2006
· Daoud Kuttab, “Arab peoples’ right to choose,” The Jerusalem Post, 26 February 2006
· Paul Oestreicher, “Israel's policies are feeding the cancer of anti-semitism,” The Guardian, 20 February 2006
· Gideon Levy, “As the Hamas team laughs,” Haaretz, 19 February 2006
· Amira Hass, “In Ze’evi’s footsteps,” Haaretz, 15 February 2006
· Amira Hass, “Israel cuts off eastern West Bank from rest of West Bank,” Haaretz, 13 February 2006
· Gideon Levy, “Enlightenment in Eli,” Haaretz, 12 February 2006
· Moshe Behar, “Singling out the Palestinians? Reciprocal demands are the key to peace,” The Electronic Intifada, 11 February 2006
· Chris McGreal, “Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state,” The Guardian, 8 February 2006
· Omar Barghouti, “Israeli Apartheid: Time for the South African Treatment,” PACBI.org, 28 January 2006
· Alison Weir, “Anatomy of a Cover-Up: When a Mother Gets Killed Does She Make a Sound?” IMEMC.org, 27 January 2006

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Open Bethlehem
Fears of new Israeli settlement as wall completed around Bethlehem

28 February 2006

The final section of Israel’s wall separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem will be completed in a matter of days.

The wall around Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem will not only sever the connection between the region’s most holy Christian sites, but will also herald the creation of a new ‘fact on the ground’ - an illegal Jewish settlement which will be home to some of Israel’s most extremist religious groups.

The ultra-orthodox Kever Rahel Fund announced last year that it intended to build about 400 apartments at the site. This week their work has begun. Settlers are planning to move into houses around the tomb as soon as the wall is completed.

Bethlehem’s population fears that town will become another Hebron– where Jewish extremists have expelled Palestinians from their homes and with the support of the Israeli army, intimidate and harass the local population. Hebron was once the busiest shopping town in the region, but is now a ghost town. Christian Peacemaker Teams have a permanent presence there to monitor and report abuses by the army and settlers on local people.

A former member of the Israeli parliament, Hanan Porat, was quoted today in Israeli newspaper Haaretz : "With the help of God we are progressing toward maintaining a permanent Jewish presence and a fixed yeshiva in Rachel's Tomb, as Rabbi Kook [religious Zionist fundamentalist] urged, and bringing Israelis back to where they belong."


Please read more at http://www.openbethlehem.org

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Haaretz
Olmert to seek int'l support for West Bank withdrawal
Aluf Benn

5 March 2006

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is planning to enlist international support for a unilateral Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank, if he wins the elections. Olmert believes that the first objective of the next government will be to create a supportive international environment for implementing Israel's national goals: setting its borders and ensuring a Jewish majority.

Olmert will try to persuade the American administration and the key players in the international community that unless Hamas alters its positions, they must support a unilateral Israeli move to determine the border in the West Bank. In his view, Israel has managed to muster broad international support for the conditions it imposed on the Hamas government, and this must be kept up until after the elections. Only then will it begin to promote the unilateral initiative.

Since the Hamas victory in the Palestinian legislative elections, Olmert has been referring less and less to the "road map" peace plan. Some of his advisers told him to stick with that plan, which enjoys American support and is accepted in the international community as the basis for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. But Olmert thinks he would make a fool of himself were he to continue talking about the road map, as though the political circumstances had not changed following the Palestinian polls…

Olmert thinks that besides the blocs, Israel should control the Jordan Valley and Jewish holy sites. The senior sources ventured that the American administration would refuse to give Israel guarantees on the matter of Jerusalem, considered the most sensitive topic in any permanent agreement.

The defense establishment is in favor of a unilateral move that would include completing the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and another pullout in the West Bank.


Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/690007.html

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Palestine Chronicle
Waiting for the Palestinian Gandhi
John Petrovato

1 March 2006

I offer two examples of these invisible Gandhis who I have personally met: Ghassan Andoni and Sherif Omar.

During a recent lecture at the University of Oregon, Yuval Rabin, son of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was asked if he believed that a Palestinian leader would emerge promoting peace with Israel. Rabin expressed skepticism: "We can't wait 300 to 400 decades waiting for the Palestinian Gandhi to emerge". By making this statement Yuval Rabin reiterates the often-repeated sentiments that "there is no Palestinian Gandhi" nor are Palestinians inclined to be peaceful and utilize nonviolence as a tactic for their grievances. Palestinians, it is believed, have instead chosen violence and terror to try to achieve their aims.

But have Palestinians really forsaken nonviolence? Have commentators around the world really forgotten the popular nonviolent uprising they celebrated during the first Intifada? And what of the Israeli occupation of Palestine? Why is occupation not seen as a form of violence?

Palestinians have utilized myriad techniques of nonviolent resistance including strikes, boycotts, tax revolts and peaceful demonstrations. While the second Intifada has been pocked with more incidences of violence, nonviolence is still utilized to a great degree. Indeed, not a week goes by where Palestinians have not organized major nonviolent demonstrations. Just this week, for instance, there have been nonviolent protests in Bal’ein, Beit Sira, and Aaboud villages west of Ramallah. All these villages, and dozens of others, have had peace protests regularly over the past year. But like past protests, the protests this week (against the seizure of Palestinian lands for the building of the "separation wall") were met with violence by the Israeli military. The military fired rubber coated metal bullets (real bullets with a very thin rubber membrane) that injured a half a dozen people, fired tear gas and physically assaulted and detained 15 men. Of course, Americans never hear of peaceful demonstrations that are brutally repressed. Not only are protesters fired upon with rubber coated metal bullets and tear gas, they are beaten with clubs, dragged, chained to their vehicles, and arrested. The ignorance of the American public to both the nonviolent protests and the violet responses of the Israeli government must be largely blamed on the media.

How and why are such wide scale practices of nonviolence invisible?…

In response to the question: "why is there not a Palestinian Gandhi?" we must ultimately blame the Western media for distorting real events on the ground, for not providing context for reports that are made, and for irresponsibly misleading the pubic. These are serious issues of life and death and the media’s failure to adequately represent the situation must be seen as criminal. Rather than ask, "why is there not a Palestinian Gandhi?", we should consider the question posed by the Palestinian human rights activist, Arjan El Fassed: "why is there not an Israeli De Klerk?"


Please read more at http://www.palestinechronicle.com/story.php?sid=030106210355

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The Jerusalem Post
Arab peoples' right to choose
Daoud Kuttab

26 February 2006

I have been and continue to be an enthusiastic supporter of President Bush's (and anybody else's) mission to spread democracy. I would argue, as President Bush has done, that this is the most natural yearning of all peoples. My problem is that the US and its lead regional ally seem to stop short of their zeal for democracy once the result doesn't please them…

On the other hand, the US and its allies must approach Hamas's victory with an open mind and without looking at this Islamic group strictly from the point of view of right-wing Israelis.

To begin with, as a Palestinian Christian I must confess that I am not excited about the success of Hamas on the social as well as the national level. But I would not for a moment agree to deny it the opportunity to govern our people.

During the month since its election, the general mood among almost all my friends who would never dream of voting for Hamas has been total support for it to govern. In fact, since its election many have been discovering the depth of the problems and corruption that have dogged Palestinian society for some time.

For this reason, attempts to punish our people through denying us the taxes Israel collects for the Palestinian Authority, or the small grants from USAID earmarked for the Palestinian people, are completely unfair and unacceptable. Compared to the billions of dollars American taxpayers transfer to Israel (in military and civilian aid), allowing it to perpetuate the conflict, the small grants to Palestinians are nothing more than small change.

International humanitarian law lays down that the Israeli occupiers should ensure all the public needs of the people under occupation. By denying Palestinians the freedom to move people and goods, by blocking financial support, the Israeli action can be described as a declaration of war against the Palestinian people.


Please read more at http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1139395494945&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

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The Guardian
Israel's policies are feeding the cancer of anti-semitism
Paul Oestreicher

20 February 2006

The chief rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, is right. His reaction to the Anglican synod's call for sanctions against Israel is understandable. Hatred of Judaism - now commonly called anti-semitism - is a virus that has infected Christendom for two millennia. It continues to stalk the world despite its most virulent outbreak in Nazi Germany. It should not be left untreated. For too many it remains the unlearned lesson of the Holocaust. It should haunt decent Christians for generations to come.

The German pope knows that particularly well and is on the battle lines against it. On this issue, nothing divides him from the Archbishop of Canterbury and most other church leaders. If, as some now think, today's Jews are the Muslims - hatred transferred - that simply means there is a battle to maintain our common humanity on more than one front. All collective hatreds poison the body politic.

I say this as the child of a German Jewish-born father who escaped in time. His mother did not. I say it as a half-Jewish German child chased around a British playground in the second world war and taunted with "he's not just a German, he's a Jew". A double insult. But I say this too as a Christian priest who shares the historic guilt of all the churches. All Christians share a bloody inheritance.

If I feel all that in my guts and know it in my head, I cannot stand by and watch the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - one of the world's most dangerous outbreaks of collective hatred - as a dispassionate onlooker. I cannot listen calmly when an Iranian president talks of wiping out Israel. Jewish fears go deep. They are not irrational. But I cannot listen calmly either when a great many citizens of Israel think and speak of Palestinians in the way a great many Germans thought and spoke about Jews when I was one of them and had to flee…

But the main objective of my writing today, is to nail the lie that to reject Zionism as it practised today is in effect to be anti-semitic, to be an inheritor of Hitler's racism. That argument, with the Holocaust in the background, is nothing other than moral blackmail. It is highly effective. It condemns many to silence who fear to be thought anti-semitic. They are often the very opposite. They are often people whose heart bleeds at Israel's betrayal of its true heritage.


Please read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,,1713545,00.html

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Haaretz
As the Hamas team laughs
Gideon Levy

19 February 2006

The Hamas team had not laughed so much in a long time. The team, headed by the prime minister's advisor Dov Weissglas and including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, the director of the Shin Bet and senior generals and officials, convened for a discussion with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on ways to respond to the Hamas election victory. Everyone agreed on the need to impose an economic siege on the Palestinian Authority, and Weissglas, as usual, provided the punch line: "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die," the advisor joked, and the participants reportedly rolled with laughter. And, indeed, why not break into laughter and relax when hearing such a successful joke? If Weissglas tells the joke to his friend Condoleezza Rice, she would surely laugh too.

But Weissglas' wisecrack was in particularly poor taste. Like the thunder of laughter it elicited, it again revealed the extent to which Israel's intoxication with power drives it crazy and completely distorts its morality. With a single joke, the successful attorney and hedonist from Lilenblum Street, Tel Aviv demonstrated the chilling heartlessness that has spread throughout the top echelon of Israel's society and politics. While masses of Palestinians are living in inhumane conditions, with horrifying levels of unemployment and poverty that are unknown in Israel, humiliated and incarcerated under our responsibility and culpability, the top military and political brass share a hearty laugh a moment before deciding to impose an economic siege that will be even more brutal than the one until now.

The proposal to put hungry people on a diet is accepted here without shock, without public criticism; even if only said in jest, it is incomparably worse than the Danish caricature. It reflects a widespread mood that will usher in cruel, practical measures. If until now one could argue that Israel primarily demonstrated insensitivity to the suffering of the other and closed its eyes (especially the stronger classes, busy with their lives of plenty) while a complete nation was groaning only a few kilometers away, now Israel is also making jokes at the expense of the other's suffering.


Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/684258.html

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Haaretz
In Ze'evi's footsteps
Amira Hass

15 February 2006

The Oslo architects designated most of the eastern West Bank as Area C (full Israeli control), which is off-limits to Palestinian development. Only the settlements were allowed to develop, thanks primarily to the theft and exploitation of Palestinian water sources. A military training zone, where the IDF has conducted exercises ever since it conquered the West Bank, occupies 475 square kilometers of the valley and impairs the traditional lifestyle of thousands of semi-nomadic or Bedouin shepherds in the area. These shepherds are frequently turned out of their tents or forbidden to graze their sheep on these expanses or to raise a little wheat and produce for food.

At one time the explanation was that this is a firing range; once it was an issue of illegal construction. Just last Thursday, civil administration personnel demolished the tents, tin huts and sheepfolds of some 20 agricultural families in five different places in the valley. It is clear what scares the Israeli planners: A significant portion of the Palestinian communities in the valley turned from seasonal extensions of villages in the northern West Bank into permanent communities in the middle of the last century. Jews are encouraged to settle in the valley, but every conceivable method is used to deter Palestinians from doing so.

Preventing development and halting a long-standing natural process of construction and population expansion is a form of emptying out. But over the last few months, this effort expanded to include active measures: From time to time, soldiers come during the night and remove to the other side of the checkpoint those who live or work in the valley but whose official address is elsewhere. In the morning, these people return via the hills, evading the soldiers, taking the risk of stepping on a dud artillery shell.

And in October, people were given another reason to become fed up with life in the valley: Palestinian farmers were prevented from selling their produce to Israeli farmers at the nearest border crossing between the valley and Israel. Instead of traveling five kilometers, they were forced to travel 50, to a distant cargo terminal (Jalameh), and to wait endlessly at the internal checkpoints, knowing that a large portion of their vegetables would be spoiled by the sun and the bumping around. Knowing that there would be no reward for their labor.

The army swears that these prohibitions bear no relation to the politicians' declarations that the valley will remain in Israel's hands forever. But in practice, they are helping to empty it of Palestinians, in preparation for its official annexation to Israel.


Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/682885.html

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Haaretz
Israel cuts off eastern West Bank from rest of West Bank
Amira Hass

13 February 2006

While the international community busied itself with the disengagement from the Gaza Strip last summer, Israel completed another cut-off process, which went unnoticed: Israel completed cutting off the eastern sector of the West Bank from the remainder of the West Bank in 2005.

Some 2,000,000 Palestinians, residents of the West Bank, are prohibited from entering the area, which constitutes around one-third of the West Bank, and includes the Jordan Valley, the area of the Dead Sea shoreline and the eastern slopes of the West Bank mountains.

Military sources told Haaretz that the moves have been "security measures" adopted by the Israel Defense Forces, and have no connection to any political intentions whatsoever.

Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley were imposed at the start of the intifada, and were gradually expanded. But the sweeping prohibition regarding entry into the area by Palestinians was imposed, in fact, after security responsibility in Jericho was given back to the Palestinians on March 16, 2005.

At the time, Palestinian sources say, Palestinian travelers coming across the Allenby Bridge (the West Bank's only direct link overseas) were banned from passing through the Jordan Valley even if they were heading to the northern West Bank and the villages adjacent to the valley's checkpoints. Instead, the travelers are required to go through Jericho, and from there, the road is long and filled with checkpoints and delays.

In addition to affecting others, the prohibition also applies to thousands of residents of towns and villages in the northern West Bank, like Tubas and Tamun, most of whose lands are in the Jordan Valley, and some of whose residents have been living there for many years. The residents of the Jordan Valley villages are tied to the northern West Bank villages through family connections, joint land ownership, work, schooling, and medical and social services.


Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/681938.html

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Haaretz
Enlightenment in Eli
Gideon Levy

12 February 2006

The head of the Shin Bet, Yuval Diskin, suddenly emerged from the shadows and revealed the main principles of his worldview. Revealed? Not exactly. Diskin did not intend to reveal his views to all of us. He spoke confidentially before students at the premilitary academy at the Eli settlement. Thanks to Channel 10, which obtained a recording of the event, the remarks were given public exposure.

Channel 10's news department deserves praise for the achievement. Diskin deserves to be denounced. First, because of the venue: Why do the students of Rabbi Eli Sadan deserve to hear what is withheld from the rest of the public? Why is the settlers' academy more worthy than us? Would Diskin speak with such openness before left-wing activists or residents of Umm al-Fahm? Why in heaven's name in Eli of all places, which was born in sin and exists in sin? Diskin chose to speak at a place that nurtures the wild weeds of the settlers - perhaps to placate them, perhaps to flatter them.

The content of his remarks also raises serious questions. Diskin said some forthright and bold things that were sharply critical. But he said them as if he has no part in shaping the reality. Diskin is not a neutral observer looking at reality. He is one of those responsible for the way reality looks. Thus, in effect, he broadened the borders of the useless concept "shooting and crying." Now we also have "depriving and crying" and "erring and crying."

This applies, for example, to his remarks about the deprivation the Arabs of Israel suffer: "If we take an Israeli Arab from Umm al-Fahm with an Israeli identity card and a Jew who is arrested, I don't identify equality in the way the system treats him. The discrimination is much more in favor of the Jews than the Arabs." Putting aside his ineloquent language, we can ask: Who exactly is this "system" that deprives the Arabs? Who is responsible for the fact that an arrested "Noam" is treated differently than an arrested "Naim?" We are not only talking about interrogation rooms. There is no organization more responsible for the deprivation of the Arab citizens of the state - because of "security" excuses that are generally groundless - than the Shin Bet that Diskin heads. When they are humiliated at the airports, when security guards deny them access to various events only because of their origin, when they are not allowed to receive jobs at state institutions and government companies, and when they are charged with serious security offenses that turn out in court to be of minor import, the Shin Bet is responsible for this.


Please read more at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=681518&contrassID=2&subContrassID=4&sb
SubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y

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The Electronic Intifada
Singling out the Palestinians? Reciprocal demands are the key to peace
Moshe Behar

11 February 2006

SDEROT -- In and around Israel's "capital of the Qassam rockets," where I teach, the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections has left Israelis as divided as always. While some think that it can be a positive development - as Hamas is probably the sole Palestinian party capable of delivering on a binding Israeli-Palestinian agreement - others deem this wishful thinking and believe the existing Israeli-Palestinian gridlock will continue for years to come. A recent poll reflects this ambivalence with 48% of Israelis favoring a dialogue with Hamas and 43% against.

Amid this internal Israeli debate, the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations - the so-called Middle East Quartet - delivered an insufficiently helpful message. Erroneously convinced that they had 'lined up in solidarity' with us, Israeli Jews, the Quartet lost no time declaring that Hamas "must be committed to nonviolence, recognize Israel and accept the previous agreements and commitments."

Appropriate as these words may or may not be, even entering students in Sderot understand that any political tango takes two to succeed and that singling out Hamas for special treatment is certain to benefit neither Israelis nor Palestinians in this troubled land. Why, therefore, has the Quartet never declared that "Israel must be committed to nonviolence, recognize a Palestinian state and accept the previous agreements and commitments"?

Self-proclaimed "pro-Israeli" individuals are likely to label this proposition preposterous; yet the honest among them must recall two empirical facts. First, an examination of the pattern of "violence" of the past five years reveals that the Palestinian-Israeli ratio of deaths stands at 4:1. Thus, ending this violence depends as much on Israel's compliance with the Quartet's terms as with the Palestinians…

If the Quartet - or anyone else for that matter - genuinely cares for the wellbeing of us, Israelis and Palestinians, they should cease playing the game of lopsided demands. For any hope to bring us nearer to a just and peaceful settlement, reciprocal demands should be made not just on the democratically elected representatives of the stateless occupied society, but also on those of the occupying state. Ultimately, that would be the most pro-Israel stance of all. And if there would be no peace in Beit Hanoun, there certainly wouldn't be peace in Sderot as well and vice versa.


Please read more at http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article4482.shtml

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The Guardian
Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state
Chris McGreal

8 February 2006

The acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley and major Jewish settlement blocks to Israel in drawing new borders, according to a television station that recorded an interview with him yesterday.

In Mr Olmert's first policy statement since he succeeded Ariel Sharon last month, Channel 2 television said that he made clear he intends to carry through his predecessor's vision of creating an emasculated Palestinian state on Israel's terms.

If the Jewish state were to annex all of the Jordan Valley, which is dotted with small settlements, it would leave a future Palestinian state on the West Bank entirely surrounded by Israel and without a direct link to neighbouring countries.

The interview was to be broadcast late last night. Channel 2's political affairs reporter, Nissim Mishal, told Army radio that Mr Olmert, who is favourite to win next month's general election, also plans further unilateral withdrawals similar to the settler pullout from Gaza last summer.

"He talked about Israel having to maintain a Jewish majority in the state of Israel, meaning that we have to create a new border, what is called final borders. He knows that we can't negotiate with Hamas. So the only conclusion that can be derived from this is that, in order to reach final borders, Israel will have to carry out additional [unilateral] withdrawals," said Mishal.

Mr Olmert said he intends to annex the three main settlement blocks of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim as well as the Jordan Valley, the TV station said…


Please read more at http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/Story/0,,1705021,00.html

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PACBI.org
Israeli Apartheid: Time for the South African Treatment
Omar Barghouti

28 January 2006

By now, most Palestinians recognize Israel’s entrenched system of colonialism, racism and denial of basic human rights as a form of apartheid. In fact, Palestinians are far from alone in holding this view of Israel; leading South African intellectuals, politicians and human rights advocates subscribe to the same school of thought. For instance, in an article in the Guardian tellingly entitled “Apartheid in the Holy Land,” Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

“I’ve been very deeply distressed in my visit to the Holy Land; it reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. […] Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?”[1]

In fact, many Jews have not forgotten. Inside Israel, some Jewish politicians and journalists have made clear analogies between Israel and South Africa. Roman Bronfman, Chair of the Democratic Choice faction in the Yahad party, criticized what he termed “an apartheid regime in the occupied territories,” adding, “The policy of apartheid has also infiltrated sovereign Israel, and discriminates daily against Israeli Arabs and other minorities. The struggle against such a fascist viewpoint is the job of every humanist.”[2]

Esther Levitan, the Jewish grandmother once condemned to indefinite solitary confinement without trial in apartheid South Africa for her activism in the ANC, admitted in an interview with Ha’aretz that she considered Israel appallingly racist, saying: “Israelis have this loathsome hatred of Arabs that makes me sick. […] They will create a worse apartheid here.”[3]

What could have stirred all this moral indignation, one may wonder? The following representative samples of Israeli oppression of the three main parts of the Palestinian people (under occupation, in exile and in Israel) may help answer this question.


Please read more at http://www.pacbi.org/boycott_news_more.php?id=123_0_1_0_C

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International Middle East Media Center
Anatomy of a Cover-Up: When a Mother Gets Killed Does She Make a Sound?
Alison Weir

27 January 2006

Why don't Americans Know what's going on in Israel/Palestine?

The answer is unclear at this point, but some disturbing patterns are beginning to emerge. They implicate some of our major news media, and, perhaps most of all, the Associated Press, the oldest and largest wire service in the world. Most American editors and journalists have no idea what is occurring under their watch. To date, there is little indication that they care.

Before dawn on January 15th, an Israeli special forces unit killed a Palestinian mother and her 24-year-old son in their home. The mother had three bullets in her; the son 15. The Israeli soldiers also shot and wounded the woman's husband and four other family members: young women were shot in the pelvis and chest, young men in the foot, chest, torso, liver. The firing lasted over an hour. Then the Israeli squad shot at an arriving ambulance and prevented it for 45 minutes from tending to the dying, bleeding family.

It was all the result of a "misunderstanding," as the Israeli press put it.

The Israeli special forces commandos, invading a Palestinian village, had mistakenly taken a man standing guard in his home against vandalism for a resistance fighter. At first the Israeli military claimed that the now-dead man had shot at them, but before long the soldiers admitted that they had fired first. They saw the man cock his gun, they explain. The soldiers say, and at least some witnesses concur, that after they killed the man, someone from inside the house returned their fire. The soldiers claim that they then continued to shoot, but that their firing was "precise and limited." The husband says that even when he yelled at them to stop, that his wife and son were dead, the onslaught continued for at least an hour. None of the Israeli soldiers were killed or wounded…

That day and since, the US press has carried long news stories on Israel/Palestine. Yet, almost none of the reports have mentioned the above incident. The Boston Globe seems to have missed it entirely, as did the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Constitution, the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, a multitude of other papers across the country, and, it appears, every mainstream American television and radio network.


Please read more at http://www.imemc.org/content/view/16309/1/

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