February 2013 Archives

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This article from Gulf News no doubt reflects the pessimism of much of the Middle East with regards to Obama’s potential to make a meaningful contribution to the so-called ‘peace process’ between Israel and Palestine.

Obama’s up-coming trip to Israel might be a ground for hope though, as the author points out, there was nothing in his Union address to suggest that peace between Israel and Palestine was a priority. Even so, there was plenty to suggest that Afghanistan and Iran were priorities and only a fool would think the issues could be easily disconnected.

Father Dave

source: gulfnews.com…

Israel-Palestine peace push not a priority for Obama

State of the Union address shows issue is far off President’s radar

In his first State of the Union address in his second term, US President Barack Obama laid down the plans for his legacy years — but reaching a comprehensive peace deal between Israel and Palestine will not be on his foreign policy agenda.

Obama’s speech was that of a president preoccupied with reviving a moribund economy, increasing the basic wage for full-time workers, getting legislation through a divided Congress and being able to put reasonable limits on America’s gun culture. For immigrants living in the shadows of illegality, it offered hope that they would become free and equal members of US society.

But in all of the words, the standing ovations, the platitudes and the rhetoric, Obama neither uttered the word “Palestine” nor the word “Palestinians” even once. It shows how far off the radar this pressing issue has fallen for the president of the US. In his political judgement, there is no need for his administration to become embroiled in an arm of foreign policy where he feels there is little prospect of success or realistic hope of enduring peace.

However, Obama did utter the word “Israel” — if only briefly — saying he and his administration would stand steadfast with the Jewish state in pursuit of peace and lasting security. What we have learnt is that Obama is committed to winding down the US military presence in Afghanistan, committing to bringing home 66,000 troops and wrapping up the mission by the end of 2014.

Obama is more committed than ever to enforcing security through drone operations — going to great pains in his address to note that the US had developed a legal framework to allow for the continued and intensified drone campaign against militants in the border areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.

And Iran is very much on the Oval Office radar, with Obama urging Tehran to sit down and talk about its nuclear programme. He also added the rider that the US “would do whatever is necessary to prevent them from getting a nuclear weapon”.

At least, we know now how little to expect.

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Here’s a solid example of the sort of daily violations that take place every day at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces.

This story wouldn’t be considered newsworthy in a major publication but appeared in the ‘Lancashire Evening Post’ because it concerned a local.

source: www.lep.co.uk/news/local/peace-activist-refused-entry-to-palestine-1-5404144…

Peace activist refused entry to Palestine

A Preston man who was arrested while working as a peace activist in Israel has been denied entry into Palestine.

Gordon Bennett, 43, said he was kicked, punched and strangled by Israeli troops while recording human rights violations against Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories last September.

He was arrested with two other British citizens, an American and two Palestinian men, in the village of Kufr Qaddoum.

The Amnesty International worker said he was threatened by his captors that he would be raped in prison during a 36-hour ordeal, before being taken to a midnight court hearing where he was accused of throwing stones at soldiers.

He was placed under house arrest in Tel Aviv for a week, before being released without charge in October.

The ex-Preston College student, who vowed to continue his work after the ordeal, left Israel and travelled to Thailand via Egypt at the end of last year.

On Sunday, February 3, he tried to re-enter Palestine via the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan, but was turned away by security officials and has his British Passport endorsed so he cannot go back to Israel or Palestine.

He said: “After lengthy questioning by Israeli Immigration, who control the border, I was refused entry.

“I was then sent immediately back to Jordan. The Jordanian officials had clearly seen this happen many times before.

“Israel does not want people to see what it is doing in the West Bank, and puts a lot of effort into trying to keep out international observers.

“As the bus driver who took me back to Jordan said, ‘Israel doesn’t like Palestinians, and doesn’t like people who like Palestinians’.”

read the rest of this article here: www.lep.co.uk/news/local/peace-activist-refused-entry-to-palestine-1-5404144…

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This is a significant report, and a good reminder that things are never black and white when it comes to governments. Rather, they tend to be black and grey.

Father Dave

source: www.hrw.org…

Israel/Palestine: New Abuses, No Justice

Palestinian Access to the ICC Could Open Door for Justice to Victims

(Ramallah) – Israel engaged in discriminatory practices and other rights violations against Palestinians during 2012, while Palestinian authorities committed abuses against their own population, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2013.

Both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups committed serious violations of the laws of war during eight days of fighting in November. Neither side made meaningful progress in providing justice for abuses committed during the 2008-2009 conflict, which could be addressed by giving the International Criminal Court (ICC) jurisdiction over the situation in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Israeli and Palestinian authorities have committed serious rights abuses, and their allies and supporters have failed to press hard enough for change,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch. “In the coming year, leaders in the region and beyond should work much harder to end the cycle of impunity and abuse, not least by supporting, instead of trying to block, Palestinian access to the International Criminal Court.”

In its 665-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including an analysis of the aftermath of the Arab uprisings. The willingness of new governments to respect rights will determine whether the Arab uprisings give birth to genuine democracy or simply spawn authoritarianism in new clothes, Human Rights Watch said.

Israel engaged in discriminatory practices in the occupied West Bank, Human Rights Watch said. During 2012, Israeli security forces unlawfully demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes and buildings in areas under sole Israeli control. They denied West Bank Palestinian communities access to natural resources and basic utilities, displacing nearly 900 people, according to the United Nations. Meanwhile, Israel’s provision of preferential services and planning – such as the approval of thousands of new settlement housing units and the retroactive “authorization” of settlement outposts – encouraged and facilitated civilian settlement in occupied territory in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Israeli forces also suppressed nonviolent Palestinian protests and used excessive force against demonstrators, arbitrarily banned the travel of human rights defenders, and unlawfully limited the ability of Palestinian farmers to access their lands. In December, Israeli forces raided the offices of several civil society groups in Ramallah. Israel’s military justice system, from which settlers are exempt, subjected Palestinians, including human rights defenders, to prolonged arbitrary detention, coercive interrogations, and unfair trials. In the majority of cases, Israeli authorities failed to indict anyone for attacks apparently carried out by Israeli settlers that harmed Palestinians or damaged their property.

The Palestinian Authority’s security services were responsible for serious rights violations in the West Bank during 2012, Human Rights Watch said. They carried out arbitrary arrests, harassed journalists and bloggers, and beat and assaulted peaceful demonstrators. In more than 150 cases documented by the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, they allegedly tortured or mistreated detainees. Despite strong evidence of torture in some cases, no security officials were convicted.

In Gaza, Hamas authorities carried out six judicial executions in 2012, some after unfair trials. Hamas authorities have not prosecuted anyone for seven extrajudicial executions committed in November, after the killers were able to take the victims from jails. Security forces conducted arbitrary arrests, frequently denied detainees access to their lawyers, and tortured detainees with impunity. The authorities permitted some local human rights organizations to operate, but repeatedly suppressed free association and peaceful assembly.

“Palestinians suffer not only from harmful Israeli policies, but also from serious abuses at the hands of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas,” Porteous said. “Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza should publicly acknowledge violations by their respective security services, and take concrete steps in 2013 toward ending impunity.”

read the rest of this article here: www.hrw.org…

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PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION NEGOTIATIONS AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT

RUNNING RINGS AROUND THE WORLD:  ISRAEL’S COLONIAL EXPANSION IN OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM

FEBRUARY 2013

Since the Israeli occupation of 1967, the Israeli government, in cooperation with Israeli settler organizations, has actively intensified a process of colonization all over the Occupied West Bank, particularly in and around Occupied East Jerusalem. This process serves the overarching Israeli goal of annexing vast parts of the State of Palestine to the State of Israel. Although the international community considers Israel’s actions to be illegal and has strongly condemned them through several UN resolutions[1], Israel has been allowed to aggressively pursue its illegal colonization enterprise without any legal, diplomatic or political consequences.

Israeli settlement activity in and around Jerusalem has increased under recent Israeli governments, particularly under PM Netanyahu’s mandate. Israel has been creating three main rings of settlements:

1)          Ring of settlements set to fragment the Old City of Occupied East Jerusalem and its adjacent Palestinian neighborhoods. This is in order to expand the Jewish Quarter and includes several Palestinian houses taken by Israeli settlers in the Christian, Armenian and Muslim quarters as well as the demolition of the Magharbeh Quarter. Meanwhile, adjacent to the Old City, Israel’s colonial activity spreads throughout Sheikh Jarrah, Wadi Joz, Ras Amoud, Silwan and the Mount of Olives.

2)          Ring of settlements set to isolate the surrounding neighborhoods of Occupied East Jerusalem from the Old City. These settlements include: Ramot Eshkol, French Hill, Kidmat Zion and East Talpiyot.

3)          Ring of settlements set to seal the whole of Occupied East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied State of Palestine. These settlements include: Pisgat Ze’ev, Neve Yaaqov, Giv’at Ze’ev, Ramot, Ma’ale Adumim, Har Homa, Giv’at Hamatos, Gilo and Har Gilo.

This fact sheet describes the first ring of colonial settlements. It focuses on the settlements built throughout the Palestinian neighborhoods surrounding the old city of Jerusalem and also highlights the new facts on the ground that settler organizations, along with Israeli Occupation Forces, are trying to establish in the occupied Palestinian capital. A newly planned Israeli military academy will also be considered in more detail, as a recent example of Israeli colonization policies in Occupied East Jerusalem.

To continue reading the fact sheet, please go to RUNNING RINGS AROUND THE WORLD

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This exclusive documentary by Russian TV station, Rossiya 24, is a “must watch” as it gives a very good insight on the events that have been taking place in Syria since 2011. It shows how both the Syrian Army and the Syria people are defending their country Syria from the unimaginable crimes committed by extremist terrorists who operate with massive international media, military, intelligence, and financial support, a situation that no one would ever want to be in.

The Syrian Diary – No politics, only people telling their story

A documentary by Anastasia Popova
If you can’t see the video, click here