April 2013 Archives


Is this the dark side of the Arab Spring? It seems that there is an increasing crackdown on social networking across the Arab world. Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef was arrested last week for allegedly insulting the President, Mohamed Morsi, and now two Palestinian men have been given prison terms for their online activities, including something no more serious than a ‘like’ on Facebook!

Certainly this trend is not going to endear the Palestinian government to ‘the West’, and this at a time when Palestinian statehood is receiving increasing European support. Even so, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas may consider it far more politically opportune to go with the flow of their Arab neighbours than please the US and Europe.

Father Dave

source: rt.com…

In the last week, two Palestinians have been sentenced to prison terms for online libel and slander of politicians. Meanwhile, an arrest order has been issued for a popular Egyptian satirist, raising fears of a crackdown on freedom in the region.

The Magistrate’s Court in Salfit, West Bank, sentenced a 29-year-old Anas Ismail to 6 months in jail, on charges of “libel and slander against former communications minister” as he was found guilty of “Liking”hostile messages towards the politician on Facebook.

One of the posts demanded the dismissal of the politician and another phrase demanded accountability from the minister.

According to Ismail, “Preventive Security locked me up for 17 days, on charges of libel and slander, and last Thursday I was sentenced in absentia by the Court of Salfit to six months in prison,” quotes Alresalah publication.

Ismail, who works in computer programming and is active in social media said  “I was summoned 10 times in the past six months over my activity on social networking pages.”

Also on Thursday, a court in Bethlehem sentenced a journalist to a one-year term for publishing a photo on Facebook comparing President Mahmoud Abbas to a traitor.

Mamdouh Hamamreh, a reporter for the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV, was accused of photoshopping  a picture in 2010 showing Abbas next to a villain in a popular TV drama about French colonial rule in the Levant, with a photo caption reading: “They’re alike.”

Hamamreh was found guilty of insulting the president and, “spreading seeds of hatred” and “publishing false information.”

The next day, Abbas pardoned the journalist saying his office never filed a complaint against Hamamreh.

read the rest of this article here: rt.com…


Certainly he is no Yasser Arafat. Even so, John Taylor’s analysis of Abbas is a bit harsh. Certainly the President of the Palestinian Authority has done his best to gain ground for the Palestinian people, even if his efforts have been largely inconsequential.

The problem in many ways did begin with Arafat, who promised to pursue Palestinian statehood only through non-violent means. Abbas, his successor, has remained true to the commitment to non-violence, and this has gained the Palestinian people absolutely nothing!  Israel has continued to build settlements, withhold monies owed, imprison Palestinians without trial, demolish homes, etc., and gives absolutely nothing in return for Abbas’ quiet compliance. Hamas, on the other hand, fires rockets from Gaza and refuses to disavow militant resistance. Hamas seems to acheive results!

Surely this is a lose-lose situation for Israel and the US, and yet President Obama only confirmed the status quo in his recent visit, offering absolutely nothing to Abbas and the Palestinian people beyond his formal greetings! God knows what Abbas can do for his people now beyond making a quiet exit from the political scene.

Father Dave

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

source: original.antiwar.com…

Mahmoud Abbas: Obama and Bibi’s Man in Palestine

Palestinian Authority boss Mahmoud Abbas has no self-respect and no respect for his constituents. Although the US has rarely shown much sympathy for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, Obama’s visit to Israel reached a new low. After saying the US-Israeli alliance is “eternal, it is forever,” visiting the grave of Theodor Herzl and pontificating about the Dead Sea Scrolls, looted by the Israelis from the Rockefeller Museum in east Jerusalem, the President proceeded to abandon all official US efforts to halt Israeli settlement construction on the West Bank. Was all this a problem for Mahmoud Abbas? No it wasn’t! “Welcome Mr. President! Welcome to Ramallah! Welcome to our ever shrinking fragment of Palestine!”

How can any Palestinian, Israeli or anyone else for that matter, respect Abbas when he puts aside his role as the guarantor of his peoples’ lives and property and welcomes the man who just acquiesced to Israeli colonization in what remains of Palestine? Obama even promised the Israelis that the US would continue to oppose any Palestinian effort to find international legal redress for their plight, a pledge consistent with a US boycott earlier in March of a UN Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva.

If Abbas had the least bit of personal or political courage he would have said firmly to Obama: “You are not welcome here.”

Only a fool doesn’t recognize that Obama values Mahmoud Abbas only because he is a willing tool of the Israelis. The Palestinian Authority’s major role these days seems to be restraining resistance to the Israeli occupation while ignoring Israel’s galloping land seizures, settlement construction, check points, closures and house demolitions. Israel holds hundreds of Palestinian political prisoners without charge and the Palestinian Authority now also locks up those opposed to political cooperation with Israel, particularly Hamas supporters.

By now it must be clear to every resident of the West Bank that Uncle Sam has nothing meaningful to offer the Palestinian Authority except money to buy its corrupt leadership and to pay its security forces, but only if the Authority functions as an adjunct to Israel’s West Bank security apparatus. No Israelis were killed on the West Bank in 2012. But what did protecting Israeli settlers get the Palestinians? Nothing! West Bank colonization was not derailed by Palestinian passivity. In fact, the absence of an armed resistance to Israel settlement building actually facilitated construction; meanwhile the Israeli military continued to employ lethal force against unarmed Palestinian protestors.

In a speech to a select group of Israeli young people Obama stated, “Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace…” Fair enough, but the problem with Obama’s new stance on Israeli settlement construction is that it places the decision to build or not to build firmly in the hands of the Israeli government. And further, and even more outrageous, Obama promised Uncle Sam’s best efforts to keep illegal settlement construction beyond the reach of the International Criminal Court. Obama seems to have learned an important lesson from the horse whipping Netanyahu gave him in the Oval Office a few years ago: official US opposition to Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories is a policy no one in the US government wanted to take responsibility for.

What can Abbas and the Palestinians expect from the new Israeli government? No letup in settlement building, that’s for certain: Appointed to the Economics and Trade portfolio in Netanyahu’s new cabinet was Naftali Bennett, former chief of the Yesha Settlers Council. Bennett’s view of the West Bank is simplicity itself, “…there is no such thing as an occupation of one’s own land.” Uri Ariel, the new Housing and Construction Minister, a man who built his political career advancing Israel’s colonization of the occupied territories, stated his Ministry’s goal will be “many more” settlers and that “there can be only one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea-Israel.” Avigdor Liberman, the incumbent Foreign Minister and ex Moldovian night club bouncer, has already stated his opposition to a settlement freeze as has Netanyahu’s Defense Minister, Moshe Yaalon, no surprises in either case.

Abbas now finds himself in an impossible position: He can no longer pretend to his constituents that the Obama Administration will restrain Israeli settlement building. But if Abbas takes Obama’s advice and returns to direct negotiations without preconditions, Palestinian weakness preordains failure. A child can’t bring a child molester to justice alone.

In fact the Palestinians have achieved nothing negotiating within the Oslo framework. As the leaked Palestine Papers reveal, when the Palestinians began negotiating with the Israelis more than twenty years ago they offered numerous territorial concessions in the Old City of Jerusalem and on the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority even agreed to limit the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees to a mere 10,000 out of five million. Negotiation results? No political settlement and 500,000 Israeli settlers in 200 illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Those figures alone show the extent of the disaster which has befallen the Palestinians since the start of the “peace process.”

Abbas’ strategy of throttling the Palestinian resistance with the hope of receiving something in return from the Israelis and the Americans has clearly failed. Abbas’ regime has been so subservient to American and Israeli interests that it even refused to forward the Goldstone Report on war crimes during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza to the UN Human Rights Council for action.

Abbas has brought the Palestinians to the edge of another great tragedy, second only to the Nakba of 1948, which will likely see Israeli colonization preclude the establishment of a Palestinian state and squeeze the indigenous population into ever smaller Bantustans. Events have entirely discredited Mahmoud Abbas and senior members of the Palestinian Authority. Their democratic mandate expired years ago and their shameful collaboration with Israel has profited the Palestinians nothing. They should resign immediately.

The Palestinians need to recognize that cooperation with the American government is a dead end. Obama’s trip to the Holy Land shows, if additional evidence were needed, that the US is wholly in Israel’s camp and that Uncle Sam has absolutely no intention of providing the Palestinians with the kind of leverage which would enable them to negotiate a fair settlement with Israel. The US will continue to ignore international law as it pertains to colonization of the occupied Palestinian territories. It will also ignore the reprehensible and outrageous Israeli policies which have caused untold suffering to 1.5 million people in Gaza.

The Palestinians should pursue Israeli human rights violations in the occupied territories through the International Criminal Court and in every other venue they can access. Security cooperation with Israel should end forthwith-unless settlement activity is terminated. Products made in Israel should join the boycott the Palestinians already have in place against goods produced in Israeli settlements-unless Israel lifts the siege of Gaza. Palestinians abroad should support local BDS efforts. Unarmed resistance of every sort should be organized recognizing, however, that it is likely that such efforts will likely be met with deadly force. All political prisoners should be released, especially members of Hamas. The armed forces of the Palestinian Authority should prepare themselves to defend Palestinians, not protect Israeli settlers.

Is resistance the correct course? It is certainly a recipe for further, potentially much greater, Palestinian suffering and death. Is there any other choice? What is best for the Palestinians is not for me to decide. I can only observe that the right to resist a foreign occupier is both a natural and legal right and that history celebrates those who fight to free their countries from foreign occupations while the Quislings, Lavals and Petains are rightly consigned to the dust bin of history.


God bless Amira Hass. As ever she is on the cutting edge – exposing lies in the official narrative that we’ve heard so often that they’ve become a part of general wisdom.

The apartheid wall, the checkpoints, the permit restrictions – all seem to be designed to protect ordinary Israelis from suicide bombers and other forms of Palestinian aggression. Hass puts the lie to the entire package!

Father Dave

Amira Hass

Amira Hass

source: www.haaretz.com…

Israeli crackdown on Palestinian mobility began well before suicide bombings

Most Israelis labor under the misconception that restrictions on Palestinian movement were a result of suicide bombings, but they started long before that.

“I didn’t know you were such an empiricist,” a friend told me impatiently, a veteran peace activist with a doctorate, when I insisted at some meeting on specifying the prohibitions on the movement of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

That was in 1995, and he thought I didn’t see the big picture, the positive direction, the vision, the beat of the wings of history, and instead was merely insisting on going into detail, into temporary malfunctions. He wasn’t alone in thinking that. One of my editors at the time told me I lacked perspective because I lived in Gaza, and so my reports looked the way they did. In short, wearisome.

The signs were there right from the start − signs that the so much talked-about Peace Process was a process of subjugation; signs that Israel intended to impose on the other side an agreement whose terms were far from the Palestinian minimum, and far from what many countries in the world envisioned as a two-state solution.

But it was hard for these signs to infiltrate public awareness (as well as the Israeli and international media) through the powerful interest in seeing the outward manifestations of something that you believe exists: in Gazans bathing in the sea; in the head of the Israeli Shin Bet security service meeting with the head of the Palestinian security service; in Shimon Peres visiting Gaza; in joint security patrols; and in our soldiers no longer patrolling in the heart of the Palestinian towns.

From the supposedly narrow perspective of the Strip, though, the reality of incarceration was, looked and felt like the complete opposite of a peace process.

The chronology is important here − I’ve repeated it countless times and will repeat it countless more times − because local readers like to think that the blanket prohibitions on Palestinian mobility were a response to the suicide attacks from 1994 on. That is not the case.

It began in January 1991, on the eve of the Gulf War. The Israel Defense Forces GOC Central and Southern Commands then revoked an earlier order, from the 1970s, of a “general exit permit to Israel” − in other words, one that allowed the Palestinian residents of the occupied territory to enter Israel, and move freely within its borders and between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Initially, the revocation was interpreted as something temporary, a preventive measure during the unclear period of wartime. But after a lengthy curfew, the residents of the Strip woke up to a new reality. If up until 1991 Israel had respected (for reasons of its own) the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians, but withheld it from a few people, after 1991 the situation was reversed: Israel denied all Palestinians (those in the West Bank as well) the right to freedom of movement, aside from a few groups and numbers that it determined.

Since then, this is the rule in effect, aside from shifts in the various categories and specific numbers of those permitted to leave. The expectation that signing the transfer of powers from the Civil Administration to the Palestinian Authority in May 1994 would restore freedom of movement was soon dashed. That was the first clear sign.

Incarceration within the Gaza Strip bagged several birds during this process of subjugation:

Just how important and deliberate that fourth step was may be gleaned from two other signs. Under the Oslo Accords, the PA has the power to change a person’s home address on his or her identity card, and only has to report the change to the Civil Administration (as the representative of Israeli’s Interior Ministry), which enters the new details in the database of its Population Registry. But in 1996, it emerged that Israel was refusing to register address changes from Gaza to the West Bank.

In 1997, another military order was issued: Gazans now needed a permit even when entering the West Bank via the Allenby Bridge. That closed a loophole which students and others had exploited until then: They would depart Gaza through Egypt, fly to Jordan, and then continue westward, through the Allenby Bridge crossing.

‘No reason to leave’

As early as 1995 I asked a woman in the Israeli security establishment why, if “confidence-building measures” between the Palestinians and Israel had been declared, there would be no easing up with respect to mobility permits and the convoluted bureaucracy that developed around them. Why not, for example, grant women and children exit permits that were valid for a year − if not to Israel, then at least to the West Bank? This woman, though not a decision maker, was placed in the right junction to answer my question: “Because they have no reason to leave,” she told me, honestly.

Clerks and junior officers in the system hear and grasp what is planned in the corridors of power, but are less careful than their superiors about what they say, and do not bother to hide certain intentions. In 1997, when I was already in the West Bank, I started to become acquainted with the traditional Palestinian farming communities in the Jordan Valley, whose tent encampments and shacks had been systematically destroyed by the Civil Administration’s inspectors and soldiers.

Several of the people whose homes had been demolished told me: “I asked the inspector, ‘So where will we go now that you’ve destroyed our home?’ And he replied: ‘Go to Arafat, go to Area A [the small area which was then designed to be under Palestinian administrative-civilian control].’”

These soldiers also divulged the intentions of their superiors. To this day, 16 years later, that is the policy behind the destruction of the water cisterns and of tent encampments there. To this day, that is the state’s answer to the High Court of Justice in petitions by residents of the southern Hebron Hills against intentions to evict them from their communities: “They have somewhere to live in Area A.”

“Area A” and “Area B” (under Palestinian civil control and Israeli military control) are the code names for the Palestinian enclaves that formed in the past 20 years − the years of the “peace process.” The Israeli battle to create the detached and separate Gaza enclave succeeded better than expected when Hamas − aided by foolish decisions of the PA − created its own separate institutions of government.

The Israeli campaign strategy to create Palestinian enclaves in the West Bank has also been crowned a great success, and its name is Area C (which is under full Israeli administrative and security control). Areas A, B and C were established in the Oslo Accords as purely temporary categories, to mark the gradual nature by which the military forces would leave the Palestinians’ territory. Fourteen years later, Area C − the last area the military was supposed to vacate (in 1999) − still covers about 62 percent of the West Bank, and is the expansion space reserved for the outposts, settlements, industrial zones and multilane highways. Permanent and sacred and ours, like the Temple Mount.

  • Separation and creation of distance between senior officials and ordinary folks by granting “generous” mobility permits to a select class of Palestinians: freedom of movement for senior PA officials who came from abroad and gave no thought to the reality that existed before, without a need for permits, and to several prisoners who had been released and positioned themselves high in the PA leadership;
  • Satisfying the PA and then PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s sense of pseudo-control − closing the crossings and requesting permits necessitated coordination between the Civil Administration and its Palestinian twin (the Ministry of Civil Affairs);
  • Giving the PA a chance to develop the commercial monopolies of its people and cronies − by sheer dint of the need to coordinate exits between the PA and Israel;
  • Most important of all: Severing the society in Gaza from that of the West Bank. In other words, undermining the basic condition for a Palestinian state, in both parts of the territory conquered in 1967.

Just how important and deliberate that fourth step was may be gleaned from two other signs. Under the Oslo Accords, the PA has the power to change a person’s home address on his or her identity card, and only has to report the change to the Civil Administration (as the representative of Israeli’s Interior Ministry), which enters the new details in the database of its Population Registry. But in 1996, it emerged that Israel was refusing to register address changes from Gaza to the West Bank.


No surprises here. Despite an easing of restrictions on imports into Gaza, the goods Israel permits to enter the world’s largest open-air prison are still well below what is required for the sustenance of a full human life.

Moreover, the virtual ban on exports means unemployment rates – hovering at around 30% – continue to be the worst in the world. Add to this the impact of Israel’s bombing of the civilian infrastructure and it comes as no surprise that poverty levels in Palestine are amongst the worst in the world.

Father Dave

source: gulfnews.com…

Ramallah: Poverty levels in the Palestinian Territories, and mainly in the Gaza Strip, have reached unprecedented levels with 11,626 families among a million Gazans officially approved by the Ministry of Palestinian Social Affairs as being in need of financial assistance, said a senior official.

Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Thana’a Al Khozendar, the Director-General of the Combat Poverty Programme at the Ministry of Social Affairs, the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza created more poverty and increased the list of needy families applying to the ministry for financial assistance.

“The Israeli military operation in Gaza added poorer people to their already long lists. The Israeli offensive also created richer people on the other hand,” said Dr Al Khozendar. “The tunnel’s business increased the numbers of rich people in Gaza and expanded the gap between rich and poor in Gaza.”

Israel’s blockade on Gaza has led to the flourishing of trade through underground tunnels between the strip and Egypt.


This is a telling conference! The fact that such a conference was held in Gaza at all is a sign of the times! Certainly there is a major shift in power in the Middle East. Foreign super-powers are receding into the background and the Arabs and Persians are taking their future into their own hands.

The statement by Wadah Khanfar is particularly telling, I think: “There are four nations in this region – the Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians.” It will indeed be a major turning point if (often artificial) national loyalties are replaced by traditional ethnic/tribal ones. Certainly there is little place for Israel in such an equation!

Father Dave

source: www.middleeastmonitor.com…

As superpower influence fades, regional security depends on Palestine’s

Participants at a major conference in Gaza have concluded that as the influence of America, Russia and the EU diminishes, regional security is depending more and more on Palestine’s. The shift has come about, said the gathering of academics and researchers, following the democratic change in the Middle East.

Those taking part in the Palestinian National Security Conference included the former Director-General of the Al-Jazeera Media Network, Wadah Khanfar, and Dr Mohsen Saleh from Al-Zaytuna Research Institute in Beirut. The conference was sponsored by the Political and Management Academy in the Gaza Strip.

In his keynote speech, Mr Khanfar said that the influence of the US, EU and Russia on the Arabs and Muslims is fading. “They will not be out of the game, but they can no longer affect the choice of presidents in the region,” he insisted. “This means that a new future is emerging. What was once believed to be our unavoidable destiny has become something in the past.”

Describing the civil unrest in the wake of the Arabic revolutions and the bloodshed in Syria as the “natural birth pangs” of the revolutions which may last longer than expected, Khanfar said, “This period is critical, as the region can be an area for blood and tears or an area of light and freedom. The decision is in the hands of the revolutionary parties and politicians.”

On security issues, Khanfar suggested that there is nothing called Palestinian or Egyptian or any other “national” security, but there is something called regional security. According to the veteran journalist, “There are four nations in this region – the Arabs, Turks, Kurds and Iranians. All four have a common thread running throughout their history. As such, these nations have to work together to build regional security, and the work has to begin in Palestine, where the state of Israel was planted in our midst.”

He accused those who defame the Palestinians and their issue as being the enemies of the revolutions. “They want to distort the focus of their states at which point they will lose it altogether; they must accept that security in the region is centred on Palestine.

With regards to Palestinian reconciliation, Khanfar stressed the need for this to include all Palestinians, including those in the diaspora, to produce a comprehensive agreement.

The former political advisor of the Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi told the conference that there is no national security for Egypt without security for Palestine. Mohamed Saiful-Dawla expressed his respect for the Gaza Strip and described it as the “citadel” from where security for the whole region will spring. “This is the only citadel which refuses to accept the Israeli occupation and has achieved impressive victories,” he said.