March 2012 Archives

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Uri Avnery – as usual, full of insight and solid wisdom – writes about the latest tragic round of violence in Israel/Palestine.  Read all of Uri’s articles on his website: www.gush-shalom.org…

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All Quiet on the Southern Front

“What have you learned in school today, my son?”

“There was no school today. There is an emergency!”

“And what have you learned from that, my son?”

ACTUALLY, QUITE a lot.

This week’s “round”, as the army likes to call it, followed a well-established pattern, as formal as a religious ritual.

It started with the assassination (or “targeted elimination”) of a hitherto unknown Palestinian resistance (“terrorist”) leader in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians responded with a rain of missiles, which lasted for four whole days. More than a million Israelis around Gaza stopped working and stayed with their children near their shelters or “protected areas” (meaning nothing more than relatively safe rooms in their homes.) One million Israelis roughly equate to 10 million Germans or 40 million Americans, in relation to the population.

A proportion of these rockets were intercepted in their flight by the three batteries of the “Iron Dome” anti-missile defense. There were some Israeli injured and some minor material damage, but no Israeli dead.

Israeli manned and unmanned aircraft struck and there were 26 Palestinian dead in the Gaza Strip.

After four days and nights, both sides had had enough, and Egyptian mediators achieved an unwritten Tahdiyeh (Arabic for “Quiet”).

Everything as usual.

EXCEPT FOR the details, of course.

It all started with the killing of one Zuhair al-Qaisi , the General Secretary of the “Popular Committees”. He has been in this position for only a few months.

The “Popular Committees” are a minor resistance/terrorist group, the third by size in the Strip. They are overshadowed by Hamas, which did not take part in this round, and “Islamic Jihad”, which took up the cause of the “committees” and launched most of the rockets.

The number of launches was a surprise. During the four days, 200 rockets were launched – an average of some 50 per day. 169 fell in Israel. There was no sign that the Jihad was running out of stock. Hamas, of course, is a much larger organization, with a much bigger arsenal. In the Gaza Strip, one must assume, there are now huge quantities of missiles, almost all the more sophisticated ones provided by Iran. How they made the long journey can only be guessed.

One must assume that in Hizbollah-dominated South Lebanon, the stockpiles of missiles are even greater.

On the other side (ours) the Iron Dome has chalked up a huge success, a source of great pride for the contractor, the army and the country at large.

This is a sophisticated system, made in Israel, which initially evoked a lot of skepticism. For that reason, there are at this moment only three batteries in action, each protecting one city (Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beer Sheva). A fourth battery is scheduled to be provided soon.

The system does not intercept every rocket, which would be enormously costly. Instead, the system itself calculates whether a rocket would fall in open space (and could be ignored) or on a populated area (when the interceptor would be launched), all in seconds. Of these, more than 70% were intercepted and destroyed, a great success by any reckoning.

The sting is that one of the Palestinian rockets costs only a few hundred shekels, while one single Iron Dome missile costs 315 thousand shekels. During the four days, 17.6 million shekels’ worth of missiles was spent by the Israeli side. This apart from the very high price tag of the batteries themselves.

The Air Force sorties over the Gaza Strip cost another tens of millions – one hour of flight costs some 100 thousand shekels (almost 25 thousand dollars).

THE FIRST question to be asked was therefore: was the whole exercise worthwhile?

Israelis rarely ask themselves such questions. They believe that those in charge know what they are doing.

But do they?

It all hinges on the necessity to kill al-Qaisi, even for those who believe in such killings as a solution.

Al-Qaisi was in his position as leader of the “Popular Committees” only since the assassination of his predecessor in similar circumstances. A replacement will easily be found. He may be better or worse, but will hardly make much difference.

The Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, gave a strangely convoluted explanation for the assassination: “(al-Qaisi) was one of the heads of Popular Committees who were, it seems, busy preparing a large attack. I cannot yet say whether this attack was averted.” It seems. I cannot say.

Unofficially it was said that al-Qaisi may have been involved in sending a group of militants from Gaza to the Egyptian Sinai, to attack Israeli territory from there. Last year there was such an attack near Eilat, with several Israeli dead, al-Qaisi’s predecessor was blamed for that and killed before an investigation had even started.

So was it worthwhile to endanger the lives of so many people, send a million people to the shelters and spend tens of millions of shekels on such grounds?

My guess is that al-Qaisi was killed because an opportunity presented itself to do so – such as information on his movements.

WHO MADE the decision?

Targeted assassinations are based on information received from the Shabak (aka Shin Bet). In practice, it is this security service that makes the decision to kill people – acting as gatherer of the information, the assessor of it, and the judge at the same time. No independent analysis of the information, no review, no judicial process of any kind. Questioning the Shabak almost amounts to treason, no politician and no journalist would dare to do so, even if he were so inclined- which he or she is not.

After the Shabak has decided to kill somebody, this is brought  to a tiny group of men: the Prime Minister, the Minister of Defense, the army Chief of Staff and perhaps the officer commanding. Nobody with an independent outlook.

Did any of these people ask the relevant questions?  I doubt it.

For example: Binyamin Netanyahu prides himself on his huge success in America, indeed in the entire world: he has managed to get everybody deeply concerned about the (not yet existing) Iranian nuclear bomb. The Palestinian issue has been completely wiped off the map. And here he sets in motion another round of fighting that reminds people everywhere that the Palestinian issue is alive and kicking, and that it may explode at any moment. Does that make sense even from the point of view of a Netanyahu or a Barak?

ANOTHER INTESTING political aspect of this “round” was the role Hamas played in it, or, rather, didn’t.

Hamas rules the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government does not officially recognize this rule, but somehow still considers Hamas responsible for everything that happens in the Strip, whether Hamas was involved or not.

Until now Hamas entered the fight whenever Israel attacked objects in Gaza. This time, it stayed outside the fray, and even emphasized this fact in telephone interviews on Israeli TV. 

Why? Hamas is closely connected with the Muslim Brotherhood, which now dominates the Egyptian parliament. It is under pressure to create a unity government with Fatah in Palestine and join the PLO. Taking part in the armed fight against Israel at this moment would jeopardize this effort. The more so as the Islamic Jihad is closely connected with Iran, the rival of Egypt and Saudi Arabia.     

ISRAELI TV correspondents have the annoying habit of concluding their reports with a disturbingly banal sentence. For example, a report about a fatal road accident will almost invariably end with the words: “…and he (or she) only wanted to get safely home.”

This week, almost all the final reports about the mess in the south ended with the words: “Quiet has returned to the South – until the next time!”

Everybody assumes that “next time” the rockets coming out of Gaza will have a greater range and perhaps reach the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and  everybody in Israel hopes that the Iron Dome missile will become even more effective.

Until then, All Quiet on the Southern Front.

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Father Roy writes:   Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has specialized in the Middle East.  His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is a three-volume epic in its American edition.  He blogs on AlanHart.com….   Peace, Roy

"The most dangerous man in the world"
Netanyahu v Obama


By Alan Hart

March 16, 2012 "Information Clearing House" — The headline over an article in Ha-aretz by Bradley Burston on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s poker game with President Obama was If Obama wins in November, is Netanyahu in trouble? That’s a question I’ve had in my own mind for quite some time and it begs another. What, really, worries Netanyahu most – the prospect (not real) of Iran posing an existential threat to Israel or the prospect (real) of a second-term Obama?

There is, Burston wrote, something new in the air, something Netanyahu does not like. What is it? “American conservatives have begun to think out loud that Barack Obama will win in November.”

In my opinion there’s a better than evens chance that in the course of a second Obama term, America would put its own best interests first, which would mean an end to unconditional American support for the Zionist state of Israel right or wrong. (As is often the case, the Gentile me and Gideon Levy are on the same page. The headline over one of his recent articles in Ha-aretz was It’s only a matter of time before U.S. tires of Israel).

There are three main reasons why I have that opinion.

The first is my belief that Obama hates being a prisoner of the Zionist lobby and its stooges in Congress. (I think that Max Hastings, a former editor of the Daily Telegraph and a well respected military historian, was spot on when he wrote the following in a recent article for the Daily Mail. “Privately, Obama yearns to come down hard n Netanyahu, whom he dislikes intensely. But the U.S. President does not dare to do this when his own re-election may hinge on the three per cent of American voters who are Jewish.”)

The second, and much more to the real point, is that behind closed doors there are now many in the top levels of America’s military, intelligence and foreign policy establishments who are aware that an Israel which has no interest in peace with the Palestinians, and is led by men who want war with Iran, is an Israel that is much more of a liability than an asset for the U.S. There is also awareness in the top levels of America’s military, intelligence and foreign policy establishments that Netanyahu decided to play the Iran threat card in order to divert attention away from Israel’s on-going consolidation of its occupation of the West Bank and, in short, to have Palestine taken off the American foreign policy agenda.

The third is the insight given to me by former President Carter when my wife and I met with him and Rosalyn after they had said goodbye to the White House. “Any American president has only two windows of opportunity to break or try to break the Zionist lobby’s stranglehold on Congress on matters to do with Israel Palestine.”

The first window is during the first nine months of a president’s first term because after that the soliciting of funds for the mid-term elections begins. Presidents don’t have to worry on their own account about funds for mid-term elections, but with their approach no president can do or say anything that would offend the Zionist lobby and cost his party seats in Congress. The second window of opportunity is the last year of his second term if he has one. In that year, because he can’t run for a third term, no president has a personal need for election campaign funds or organised votes. (I imagine that incoming President Obama, briefed by Carter or not, was fully aware of these limited windows of opportunity and that was why he tried in his first nine months to get a freeze on Israel’s illegal settlement activity).

So my answer to Burston’s headline question is yes, Netanyahu could very well be in trouble if Obama wins a second term.

A good indication of Netanyahu’s fear of a second term Obama is, I think, the mountain of money his seriously wealthy supporters in America are investing in the effort to get a Republican into the White House who will allow Netanyahu and the Zionist lobby to pull his strings.

Question: Given that he does not want Obama to have a second term, what now are Netanyahu’s options?

I can see three possibles.

One is to watch and wait and hope that there will be a downturn in the American economy between now and November that will assist a Republican presidential candidate to defeat Obama.

Another is to launch a unilateral attack on Iran’s nuclear sites (never mind that Iran’s leaders have not taken a decision to go nuclear for weapons and possibly never will unless Iran is attacked).

Question: How might initiating a war with Iran assist Netanyahu to put Obama in real trouble?

One short answer is that the probable regional and global fall-out of an Israeli attack on Iran, including soaring oil prices, could bring what is being presented as a slow but sure recovery of the American economy to a swift halt. And that, most likely, would be enough to guarantee Obama’s defeat in November. (In an analysis for The National Interest, an American bi-monthly foreign policy journal, Paul Pillar, a former, very senior CIA analyst and today a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies, noted that the welfare of American consumers and workers is “not high” on the list of decision-making criteria for Netanyahu and his government).

There is, however, one thing that could cause Netanyahu not to go with this option. Quite apart from the fact that Israel’s past and present intelligence and military chiefs are divided on the wisdom of a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran, the polls are showing that a majority of Israeli Jews are opposed to Israel going it alone with an attack on Iran. They’re in favour of Iran being attacked but only if America becomes engaged and takes the lead.

And that brings us to a possible third option for Netanyahu. It is to commission a Mossad false flag operation – an attack on a vital American interest or interests for which Iran could be and would be framed.

The Zionist lobby, Obama’s Republican rivals and much if not all of the American mainstream media would promote this falsehood as fact, and that could leave Obama with no choice but to commit American military power. If he did not, his Republican challenger or challengers, assisted by the Zionist lobby and most if not all of the American mainstream media would accuse him of failing to protect America’s security interests and betraying Israel. And that, given the ignorance of American public opinion, would almost certainly be enough to guarantee Obama’s defeat.

For his own part Obama absolutely does not want war another war. He’s frightened, as he should be, of the possible/probable consequences.

Quite apart from the possible/probable economic consequences (including soaring gasoline prices in America), Obama understands completely that U.S. engagement in a new and broader regional war will ignite more anti-Americanism and play into the hands of Arab and other Muslim radicals and extremists, perhaps to the point of assisting them to become the dominant political power in the region. And that, were it to happen, would be potentially catastrophic for America’s best interests in the Arab and wider Muslim world. (Netanyahu would, of course, be quietly pleased because his Israel needs enemies).

So far as I am aware there is no well informed commentator who is prepared to make an explicit prediction about what Netanyahu will do – whether he will or will not order a unilateral Israeli attack on Iran in the closing stages of the American election. If I had to bet my life on it, I’d say he won’t; but there’s a real danger that his anti-Iran rhetoric, described in a recent Ha’aretz editorial as “a combination of wretchedness and megalomania”, may create an unstoppable momentum for war.

As my readers know, I regard Ha’aretz as the most honest newspaper in the world on the subject of what is really happening in Israel. Its view of Netanyahu was on display in a recent editorial headlined Israel must not lend itself to Netanyahu’s vulgar rhetoric on Iran. I think the whole editorial ought to be required reading not only for those who want to replace Obama as president but for all American voters. Here is the text of it (with my emphasis added).

Anyone who cares about Israel’s future could not help but feel a chill upon hearing Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent speech at the AIPAC conference – if not because of the gravity of the existential threat it described, then because of its sheer vulgarity and bad taste. The prime minister, as if he were no more than a surfer leaving feedback on a website, did not hesitate to crassly compare Israel today to the situation of European Jewry during the Holocaust. And to spice up his speech with one of those visual gimmicks he so loves, he even pulled out a photostat of correspondence in order to imply a comparison between U.S. President Barack Obama’s cautious approach toward attacking Iran and President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s refusal to bomb the rail lines to Auschwitz.

Netanyahu sometimes seems like he is holding a debating competition with himself. Every speech is the “speech of his life” and must overshadow its predecessor, while afterward, as if they were rehashing a sporting event, he and his aides gleefully count the number of standing ovations, especially from his American listeners. And in order to wring an ovation from the end of every sentence, it seems as if all means are legitimate: kitsch (trash) and death, threats and vows, warnings and rebukes of the entire world.

This time, too, it’s not quite clear what he wanted to obtain via this inane rhetoric – a combination of wretchedness and megalomania – aside from applause. Did he want pity? To prick the conscience of the world? To terrify himself, or perhaps to inflame the Churchillian fantasy in which he lives? But one thing is clear: Aside from the fact that he deepened our feelings of victimhood, insulted the American president and narrowed the options for diplomacy, Netanyahu did not improve Israel’s situation one jot by this speech, just as he hasn’t by any of his others.

Netanyahu isn’t the first Israeli prime minister, especially from the right, to harp on the trauma of the Holocaust. But in contrast to Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon, who at the moment of truth also displayed diplomatic and leadership abilities, Netanyahu was and remains essentially a PR man: someone for whom words and rhetoric replace reality. The spine-chilling fear is that one day, all of us – himself included, despite his caution and hesitation – will discover too late that we have become hostages to his Churchillian speech, but without a Churchillian victory.

I’ll conclude with my own favourite story about Netanyahu.

Way back in 1984 I had an appointment for lunch in New York with the Englishman I most admire, Brian (later knighted) Urquhart. He was an Undersecretary General of the UN with the responsibility for conflict management. He served four Secretary Generals and was, in fact, the world’s number one trouble-shooter. Because of his matchless grasp of international affairs and his integrity, he was respected by leaders on both sides of all the conflicts he managed. And he never pulled his punches in behind-closed doors exchanges with leaders. On one private occasion Prime Minister Begin said he should not talk with Arafat. Urquhart looked Begin in the eye and said: “Mr. Prime Minister, I am the servant of the international community, don’t you dare to tell me who I can and cannot talk to!”

When Brian arrived for lunch, he said as he was sitting down, “I’ve just met the most dangerous man in the world.”

I asked who it was.

Brian replied: “He’s just presented his credentials as Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Benjamin Netanyahu.”

Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, is a three-volume epic in its American edition. He blogs on AlanHart.com…

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The Forgotten Faithful

Followers of Jesus for nearly 2,000 years, native Christians today are disappearing from the land where their faith was born.

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By Don Belt

Easter in Jerusalem is not for the faint of heart. The Old City, livid and chaotic in the calmest of times, seems to come completely unhinged in the days leading up to the holiday. By the tens of thousands, Christians from all over the world pour in like a conquering horde, surging down the Via Dolorosa’s narrow streets and ancient alleyways, seeking communion in the cold stones or some glimmer, perhaps, of the agonies Jesus endured in his final hours. Every face on Earth seems to float through the streets during Easter, every possible combination of eye and hair and skin color, every costume and style of dress, from blue-black African Christians in eye-popping dashikis to pale Finnish Christians dressed as Jesus with a bloody crown of thorns to American Christians in sneakers and "I [heart] Israel" caps, clearly stoked for the battle of Armageddon.

They come because this is where Christianity began. Here in Jerusalem and on lands nearby are the stony hills where Jesus walked and taught and died—and later, where his followers prayed and bled and battled over what his teaching would become. Huddled alongside Jewish converts in the caves of Palestine and Syria, Arabs were among the first to be persecuted for the new faith, and the first to be called Christians. It was here in the Levant—a geographical area including present-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and the Pales­tinian territories—that hundreds of churches and monasteries were built after Constantine, emperor of Rome, legalized Christianity in 313 and declared his Levantine provinces holy land. Even after Arab Muslims conquered the region in 638, it remained predominantly Christian.

Ironically, it was during the Crusades (1095-1291) that Arab Christians, slaughtered along with Muslims by the crusaders and caught in the cross fire between Islam and the Christian West, began a long, steady retreat into the minority. Today native Christians in the Levant are the envoys of a forgotten world, bearing the fierce and hunted spirit of the early church. Their communities, composed of various Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant sects, have dwindled in the past century from a quarter to about 8 percent of the population as the current generation leaves for economic reasons, to escape the region’s violence, or because they have relatives in the West who help them emigrate. Their departure, sadly, deprives the Levant of some of its best educated and most politically moderate citizens—the people these societies can least afford to lose. And so, for Jerusalem’s Arab Christians, there is a giddiness during Easter, as if, after a long and lonely ordeal, much needed reinforcements have arrived.

In a small apartment on the outskirts of the city, a young Palestinian Christian couple I will call Lisa and Mark are preparing to enter the fray. Lisa, still in jeans and a T-shirt, is struggling to get their 18-month-old daughter, Nadia, into a white Easter dress. Mark, in his pajamas, is trying without success to prevent their three-year-old son, Nate, whose mood ricochets between Spiderman and Attila the Hun, from trashing the brand new pants-and-vest outfit they’ve wrestled him into—or the TV, or the painting of child Jesus on the wall, or the vase of flowers on the table. Mark, a big, hot-running guy, grimaces in exasperation. It’s eight o’clock on a chilly morning in March, and he’s already sweating profusely. Yet it’s Easter, a time of optimism and hope, and a special one at that.

This is the first Easter, ever, that Mark has been allowed to spend with the family in Jerusalem. He is from Bethlehem, in the West Bank, so his identity papers are from the Palestinian Authority; he needs a permit from Israel to visit. Lisa, whose family lives in the Old City, holds an Israeli ID. So although they’ve been married for five years and rent this apartment in the Jerusalem suburbs, under Israeli law they can’t reside under the same roof. Mark lives with his parents in Bethlehem, which is six miles away but might as well be a hundred, lying on the far side of an Israeli checkpoint and the 24-foot-high concrete barrier known as the Wall.

Mark finds it depressing that "80 percent of the Christian guys I grew up with have left for another country to find work." Yet he understands why. A trained social worker with a degree in sociology, Mark has been looking for a job, any job, for almost two years. "You’re surrounded by this giant wall, and there are no jobs," he says. "It’s like a science experiment. If you keep rats in an enclosed space and make it smaller and smaller every day and introduce new obstacles and constantly change the rules, after a while the rats go crazy and start eating each other. It’s like that."

For anyone living in Israel or the Palestinian territories, stress is the norm. But the 196,500 Palestinian and Israeli Arab Christians, who dropped from 13 percent of the population in 1894 to less than 2 percent today, occupy a uniquely oxygen-starved space between traumatized Israeli Jews and traumatized Palestinian Muslims, whose rising militancy is tied to regional Islamist movements that sometimes target Arab Christians. In the past decade, "the situation for Arab Christians has gone rapidly downhill," says Razek Siriani, a frank and lively man in his 40s who works for the Middle East Council of Churches in Aleppo, Syria. "We’re completely outnumbered and surrounded by angry voices," he says. Western Christians have made matters worse, he argues, echoing a sentiment expressed by many Arab Christians. "It’s because of what Christians in the West, led by the U.S., have been doing in the East," he says, ticking off the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. support for Israel, and the threats of "regime change" by the Bush Administration. "To many Muslims, especially the fanatics, this looks like the Crusades all over again, a war against Islam waged by Christianity. Because we’re Christians, they see us as the enemy too. It’s guilt by association."

Read the rest of the article on the National Geographic website: ngm.nationalgeographic.com…

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Israel depends on American aid for its survival, and American support for Israel is largely held in place by support received from evangelical Christians across the country. It makes sense therefore that the Israeli government wants to deny any role in the oppression of Christians in Israel/Palestine, but the reality cannot be hidden forever. 

Indeed, it may be that Michael Oren’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal could end up doing more harm than good for the Israeli cause, as it has generated strong responses from Palestinian Christians everywhere. Will they be read though as broadly as was Oren’s op-ed?

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Christians take part in a Palm Sunday procession in Jerusalem.(MaanImages/file)

A Palestinian Christian response to Michael Oren

Published Wednesday 14/03/2012 (updated) 17/03/2012 20:08

By Faysal Hijazeen

As the parish priest of Ramallah, an op-ed by Israel’s envoy to the US gave me pause for thought. Michael Oren’s article spoke volumes of Israel’s unending misrepresentation of Palestinian daily life.

The presence of our 13 Latin Patriarchate Schools throughout the West Bank and Gaza, for over 150 years, is a living witness to the coexistence of Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

We have never faced in our schools or society the supposed persecution of Christians by Muslims to which Mr Oren referred in "Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians," published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

Contrary to Oren’s statements, the persecution of Christians here is caused mainly by the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory. This occupation humiliates us, destroys our economy, causes demographic changes and deprives millions of the freedom of movement and their right to decent lives, in addition to the confiscation of land.

These are the main ways Christians are persecuted in Palestine.

As anyone with eyes can see, the wall that Israel has imposed has negatively affected the lives of Palestinians and has confiscated a large amount of what is left of Palestinian land.

Oren claims that Israel "allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza." In reality, the countless fixed and flying checkpoints have turned our lives into hell.

Israeli obstacles and practices do not differentiate between Muslims and Christians, and are imposed over a whole nation. The bullets that fired against Palestinians do not differentiate between Christians and Muslims.

But it is these imposed Israeli obstacles which strengthen the ties between Christians and Muslims. Christian students share the same classrooms with Muslim students and all school activities involve both religions.

For example last week at one of our schools, the al-Ahliyya College in Ramallah, we held a concert with peace songs, and 180 pupils of both faiths joined in the event.

The oppression of Christian communities is indeed "an injustice of historic magnitude."

Israel could begin righting this wrong by setting an example: Offer freedom to the Christian communities under its occupation before criticizing Muslim oppression in other countries in the Middle East.

No such oppression exists in Palestine.

The author is the director-general of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and the parish priest of Ramallah.

Original source: www.maannews.net…

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Continuing the efforts to make Palestinian life impossible!

 

Settlers taking over Palestinian springs: UN report

(AFP) – 11 hours ago

JERUSALEM — Israeli settlers have taken over dozens of natural springs in the West Bank, limiting or preventing Palestinian access to much-needed water sources, a United Nations report said on Monday.

The report produced by the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at least 30 springs across the West Bank had been completely taken over by settlers, with Palestinians unable to access them at all.

In most instances, the report said, "Palestinians have been deterred from accessing the springs by acts of intimidation, threats and violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers."

The report said an OCHA survey carried out in 2011 identified a total of 56 springs that were under total or partial control of Israeli settlers, most in the part of the West Bank known as Area C, which is under full Israeli civil and military control.

"Springs have remained the single largest water source for irrigation and a significant source for watering livestock" for Palestinians, OCHA said, noting that some springs also provide water for domestic consumption.

"The loss of access to springs and adjacent land reduced the income of affected farmers, who either stop cultivating the land or face a reduction in the productivity of their crops."

The report said in most cases where settlers were trying to limit Palestinian access to springs, they have undertaken to turn the area into a tourist attraction, constructing pools, picnic areas and signs carrying a Hebrew name for the spring.

"Such works were carried out without building permits," the report said.

OCHA said the takeover of springs was an extension of settlement activity in the West Bank, which it pointed out is illegal under international law.

And it added that settler actions including "trespass, intimidation and physical assault, stealing of private property, and construction without a building permit," are also violations of Israeli law.

"Yet, the Israel authorities have systematically failed to enforce the law on those responsible for these acts and to provide Palestinians with any effective remedy," it said.

OCHA called on Israel to stop the expansion of settlements, "restore Palestinian access to the water springs taken over by settlers," and to "conduct effective investigations into cases of settler violence and trespass."