April 2013 Archives

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This brilliant and brief documentary well reflects the irrepressible strength and creativity of the Palestinian people.

Regardless of what politicians say, people will dream and express their hopes, frustrations and fears one way or another. Graffiti art has always been a voice that cries out from the base of the community. In the West Bank that base runs broad and deep.

Father Dave

If you can’t view this video, click here

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This is a tragic situation, and we can appreciate the frustration all round. The people of Gaza are frustrated because they are desperately poor. The managers of the UN relief work are frustrated because they fear for the safety of their staff when the frustration of their clients boils over into violence.  The authorities in Gaza are frustrated because they know their people badly need the assistance that the UN relief agency gives them.

Evidently what is required here for everybody concerned is a concrete political solution. Even so, this doesn’t make the short-term welfare needs any less serious.

Father Dave

Protest in the Gaza Strip

Protest in the Gaza Strip (photo ICAI)

source: www.voanews.com…

Palestinian Tensions Simmer Ahead of Kerry Visit

GAZA — Islamist group Hamas on Friday urged a United Nations agency to resume its operations in the Gaza Strip, accusing the world body of over-reacting by shutting down after its headquarters was stormed by demonstrators.

The main U.N. humanitarian agency for Palestinians closed all its offices in Gaza on Thursday after protesters stormed its headquarters to demand it reverse a decision to cut an annual $40 handout to the poorest Gazans.

The dispute comes against a broader backdrop of growing Palestinian unrest in both Gaza and the occupied West Bank, with no end in sight to the decades-old Middle East conflict.

Secretary of State John Kerry’s Trip

  • April 6:  Istanbul, Turkey for talks with senior officials
  • April 7-9:  Jerusalem and Ramallah for talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders
  • April 10-11: London for the G8 Foreign Ministers Meeting
  • April 12: Seoul, South Korea
  • April 13: Beijing, China
  • April 14: Tokyo, Japan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is due to return to Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy on Sunday, with meetings scheduled in both Ramallah and Jerusalem from April 7-9, just two weeks after President Barack Obama’s first visit to the region.

Like Obama before him, Kerry is not expected to bring any new initiative to revive peace talks, which broke down in 2010.

The past week saw violent clashes between youths and Israeli security forces in the West Bank, which raised fears that a new uprising, or Intifada, might be brewing. There were reports of sporadic confrontations on Friday, but not on the same scale as earlier in the week.

In another sign of the tensions, rockets were fired out of Gaza for three days running this week, while Israeli warplanes carried out their first strike on the territory since November.

The storming of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) compound in Gaza on Thursday was part of a dispute that has been brewing for weeks and was not tied to diplomatic events, but it laid bare the frustration brewing amongst Palestinians.

‘Unacceptable’

UNRWA provides assistance in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the West Bank to Palestinian refugees and their descendants — now put at some five million spread across myriad camps.

The agency has said it will not resume work in Gaza, including food distribution to 800,000 Palestinians — nearly half the enclave’s population — unless it receives assurances from Hamas over the safety of its staff.

“People are demonstrating because they’re frustrated and the situation in Gaza just seems to be getting worse,” said Robert Turner, the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza.

“We respect everyone’s right to peaceful protest, but what happened yesterday was unacceptable,” he told Reuters, saying initial reports suggested up to 200 demonstrators, some carrying iron rods, had forced their way into the UNRWA compound.

Hamas called the closure of UNRWA offices “unjustified.”

“When UNRWA’s administration called Palestinian security they arrived, restored calm and ended the state of chaos,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “Therefore, we urge UNRWA to rethink its decision.”

Turner said UNRWA faced a $68 million shortfall in 2013 and took the decision to cut the $40 annual handout to 106,000 Gaza refugees to save some $5.5 million. To soften the blow, the agency was offering job schemes to help the poorest families.

News that food centers had been shut down shocked Gaza.

“If UNRWA closes down the food distribution centers, it would lead to a disaster,” said Fathi Al-Seidi, 30, who lives in a refugee camp. He added that locals were dependent on the UNRWA aid and cash from Western-backed authorities in the West Bank.

“Without this, life will be equal to zero,” he said.

U.N. officials said UNRWA appeared to be bearing the brunt of disillusionment in Gaza that followed a short-lived spurt of optimism last November when a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel raised hopes of an easing of restrictions on the enclave.

Israel, supported by Egypt, imposes a partial trade blockade on Gaza, saying it is needed to prevent arms reaching Hamas, which does not recognize Israel and has not renounced violence.

Since the November truce, which ended eight days of fighting, the restrictions have barely changed while Egypt has launched a crackdown on illegal smuggling tunnels into Gaza.

Underscoring Hamas’s difficulties, the group’s leader Khaled Meshaal said on Thursday it faced a “financial problem,” suggesting Arab allies were not providing sufficient aid.

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The real issue here is not whether Turkey is relevant to the ‘peace process’ but whether Kerry is!

America no longer has any credibility left as a broker for peace. Obama’s visit confirmed his complete alignment with the values of the Israeli Occupation.

The other character who is becoming largely irrelevant is Abbas. It’s time he stepped quietly aside for someone who will truly represent the hopes of his people.

Father Dave

source: zeenews.india.com…

John Kerry

John Kerry – US Secretary of State

Kerry says Turkey ‘important’ for Palestine-Israel peace process

Ramallah: Top US diplomat John Kerry met Palestinian leaders Sunday on a fresh mission to forge a new path forward after a years-long impasse in Middle East peace negotiations.
Flying in from Istanbul, the first stop on a 10-day overseas trip, the US secretary of state’s convoy sped directly to the Ramallah headquarters of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in the West Bank.

Kerry said after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Istanbul that he saw Ankara as “an important contributor to the process of peace,” adding it could help with building up the shaky Palestinian economy.

But Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, Israel’s newly appointed lead negotiator for peace talks, played down the idea of Ankara’s immediate involvement, saying it was “interesting, but it could take time.” Washington’s top diplomat also urged Turkey and Israel to fully normalise their relationship two weeks after the Jewish state’s US-brokered apology for a deadly 2010 raid on a Gaza aid flotilla organised by a Turkish charity.

Kerry, President Barack Obama’s new pointman on the Middle East, is leading a renewed US effort to coax Israel and the Palestinians back to negotiations which have been frozen since September 2010.

He held talks with Abbas for the third time in a little over a month, in what a top State Department official called “a constructive meeting.”

First the two leaders met for about 20 minutes flanked by several top Palestinian and US officials, focusing on economic development and how to tap into resources and the private sector. The Palestinian Authority, headed by Abbas, is facing a huge budget deficit and economic crisis.

Kerry and Abbas then met for a one-to-one lasting almost an hour during which they “agreed to continue working together to determine the best path forward.”

Abbas said the release of prisoners held by Israel was a “top priority” for resuming peace talks.

“President Abbas stressed that the release of the prisoners is a priority that creates an appropriate climate for the possibility of moving the peace process forward,” his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

The US diplomat insisted however that the specifics of their solo talks “be kept in the room in order to keep moving forward in a positive direction.”

As the talks got under way, militants in Gaza fired a rocket which crashed into an uninhabited part of southern Israel without causing casualties or damage, police said.

The Gaza-Israel border has been largely quiet for the last four months since an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire ended a deadly eight-day confrontation in November.

When Abbas hosted Obama in Ramallah last month, the Palestinian leader made clear there would be no return to negotiations without a settlement freeze.

But he has also made it known he would suspend for two months all unilateral efforts to seek international recognition to give US-brokered efforts a chance, a Palestinian official told AFP last week.

Abbas also wants Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to present a map of the borders of a future Palestinian state before talks can resume.

“Any return to negotiations requires Netanyahu to agree on 1967 borders,” his political adviser Nimr Hammad told AFP referring to the lines that existed before the Six Day War when Israel took over the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem.

Netanyahu has on several occasions said he would not accept a return to the 1967 lines.

read the rest of this article here: zeenews.india.com…

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The following article by veteran Israeli journalist and peace activist, Amira Hass, has generated a storm of controversy. Many Israelis think that this time she has gone too far – encouraging violence, inciting murder, etc. 

Hass herself is committed to non-violence. As an Israeli though who has spent considerable time living in Gaza and West Bank, she understands the frustrations of a subjugated people, and she understands that such frustrations will inevitably bubble over, one way or another.

Father Dave

Amira Hass

Amira Hass

source: www.haaretz.com…

The inner syntax of Palestinian stone-throwing

It would make sense for Palestinian schools to give classes in resistance: how to build multiple ‘tower and stockade’ villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; how to identify soldiers who flung you handcuffed to the floor of the jeep, in order to submit a complaint.

Throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule. Throwing stones is an action as well as a metaphor of resistance. Persecution of stone-throwers, including 8-year-old children, is an inseparable part − though it’s not always spelled out − of the job requirements of the foreign ruler, no less than shooting, torture, land theft, restrictions on movement, and the unequal distribution of water sources.

The violence of 19-year-old soldiers, their 45-year-old commanders, and the bureaucrats, jurists and lawyers is dictated by reality. Their job is to protect the fruits of violence instilled in foreign occupation − resources, profits, power and privileges.

Steadfastness (Sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalized violence, is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause. Unfortunately, this is true not only in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, but also within Israel’s recognized borders, although the violence and the resistance to it are expressed differently. But on both sides of the Green Line, the levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis’ blindness in believing that their violence can remain in control forever.

Often hurling stones is borne of boredom, excessive hormones, mimicry, boastfulness and competition. But in the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of “We’ve had enough of you, occupiers.”

After all, teenagers could find other ways to give vent to their hormones without risking arrests, fines, injuries and death.

Even if it is a right and duty, various forms of steadfastness and resisting the foreign regime, as well as its rules and limitations, should be taught and developed. Limitations could include the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons.

It would make sense for Palestinian schools to introduce basic classes in resistance: how to build multiple “tower and stockade” villages in Area C; how to behave when army troops enter your homes; comparing different struggles against colonialism in different countries; how to use a video camera to document the violence of the regime’s representatives; methods to exhaust the military system and its representatives; a weekly day of work in the lands beyond the separation barrier; how to remember identifying details of soldiers who flung you handcuffed to the floor of the jeep, in order to submit a complaint; the rights of detainees and how to insist on them in real time; how to overcome fear of interrogators; and mass efforts to realize the right of movement. Come to think of it, Palestinian adults could also make use of these lessons, perhaps in place of their drills, training in dispersing protests, and practice in spying on Facebook posts.

When high school students were drafted two years ago for the campaign of boycotting settlement products, it seemed like a move in the right direction. But it stopped there, without going further, without broadening the context. Such lessons would have been perfectly in tune with the tactics of appealing to the United Nations − civil disobedience on the ground and defiance of power in diplomacy.

So why are such classes absent from the Palestinian curriculum? Part of the explanation lies with the opposition of the donor states and Israel’s punitive measures. But it is also due to inertia, laziness, flawed reasoning, misunderstanding and the personal gains of some parts of society. In fact the rationale for the existence of the Palestinian Authority engendered one basic rule in the last two decades − adaptation to the existing situation. Thus, a contradiction and a clash have been created between the inner syntax of the Palestinian Authority and that of the Palestinian people.

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Is this Mahmoud Abbas’ attempt to rescue his credibility after years of submissive acquiescence to his Israeli and US overlords?  However we understand it, Abbas’ demand – the the Israeli Prime Minister provide an outline of his vision for a two-state solution – was entirely reasonable, and Netanyahu’s refusal to comply exposed his government’s peace talk as entirely disingenuous.

Father Dave

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

source: en.trend.az/regions/met/palestine/2136463.html…

Palestinian president slams Israel for not presenting negotiations’ vision

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday slammed Israel for refusing to present its vision regarding the borders of the future Palestinian state.

Abbas made his protest during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a source told Xinhua.

“This doesn’t help prepare for new peace negotiations between the two sides,” Abbas said, adding that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “seems to be blocking the peace process and destroying the two-state solution through settlements.”

Abbas stressed that the negotiations should resume.

The source said Kerry’s efforts faced the first obstacle when Netanyahu refused to show his government vision for the process of the talks and halt settlement constructions in East Jerusalem.

Earlier in the day, a Palestinian official said the Palestinian leadership halted plans to join any UN organization to give time for Kerry’s mission.

“Kerry asked for two months appointed time to move forward the peace process before we go to the UN organizations, and we have agreed on this,” said Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riad Al- Maliki.

“If Kerry fails in this, we will not abide by our commitments and will start moving toward the international organizations and specialized agencies” for membership and to sign international treaties, Al-Maliki told Voice of Palestine radio.