israel and palestine articles

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This scrapes the bottom of the barrel!

You’d have thought that the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) would have had their hands full already – maintaining the Occupation, making night-time raids, detaining people without trail, demolishing houses, etc., etc. But this just goes way to far! How can anybody attack a puppet show?!

In truth, it’s only a tiny incident when seen in the context of the greater Occupation, Even so, let’s not let this one pass without comment! It simply isn’t right to target a harmless children’s show!

Father Dave

source: www.globalpost.com…

Israel orders Palestinian puppet show closed

For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater.

JERUSALEM — Children’s paintings of flowers and butterflies are up on this East Jerusalem theater’s walls, and the venue is colorfully garlanded.

Everything is in place for the opening of its annual puppet festival today — except the El-Hakawati theater has been ordered closed by Israeli authorities.

For the first time in twenty years, Israel’s public security ministry temporarily shut down the theater. Police spokesman Luba Samri told AFP the puppet festival’s activities “were being organized under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority.”

The venue’s director Mohammed Halayiqa has filed an appeal that will be heard at Israel’s Supreme Court on Thursday, arguing that an event cannot be cancelled because the PA funds it.

He says Norway, a longtime supporter of Palestinian cultural events, actually provided the resources for the puppet festival, through the offices of a local cultural fund.

“I am completely shocked,” Halayiqa told GlobalPost, after the ministry summoned him to receive the closure notice.

El-Hakawati is a central cultural venue in East Jerusalem, where the majority of the city’s Palestinian population lives.

Two months ago, it hosted the Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival, funded by French, Swiss, British, and Palestinian donors.

Israeli and Palestinian activists say they are planning a protest Thursday.

“It just breaks your heart,” Tzaphira Stern-Assal, an Israeli activist with the left wing Meretz party, said in front of the theater today. She is helping organizing the protests tomorrow.

Apparently the authorities decided “too many people gathering here would pose a risk to the state,” she sarcastically quipped.

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Mohammed Assaf is more than an entertainer! He is the hope for the future!

Palestinian youth, it seems, are taking their future into their own hands. They have been betrayed by their elders – smeared in corruption and bogged down in factional in-fighting. Young Palestinians are finding their own voice, and no voice is more outstanding than that of Mohammed Assaf.

As noted in the Daily Star article, the political heavyweights have each tried to cliaim Assaf for themselves. Mahmoud Abbas has named him “National Goodwill Ambassador”, and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees named him their “UNRWA Youth Ambassador”. 

But Mohammed Assaf seems quite capable of speaking for himself, and he is certainly a breath of fresh air in the stale and dying ‘peace process’ of Israel/Palestine.

Father Dave

source: www.dailystar.com…

GAZA CITY: Tens of thousands of jubilant Palestinians celebrated into the early hours of Sunday after a 23-year-old Gazan singer won the Arab Idol talent show, which has captivated millions across the Middle East since March. The meteoric rise of Gaza’s Mohammad Assaf to snatch the top prize in the pan-Arab singing contest sparked an unprecedented outpouring of joy across the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, unifying an often divided public.

Assaf’s victory in the finals, held in Beirut and shown live on TV across the Arab world, marked the first such success for a Palestinian entertainer.

“Mohammad Assaf is the Arab Idol!” declared the presenter of the show, which is modeled on the British hit show Pop Idol. Confetti rained down on the cheering audience.

The handsome, tuxedo-clad vocalist immediately dedicated his win to “the Palestinian people, who have been suffering for more than 60 years from [the Israeli] occupation.”

He wins a professional recording contract and a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas crowned him a national goodwill ambassador, and the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees named him their UNRWA Youth Ambassador.

read the rest of this article here.

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Another excellent piece of analytical work from Jonathon Cook – unraveling the rhetoric to reveal the stone-cold logic behind John Kerry’s latest proposal for ‘economic peace’ for Israel/Palestine.

By focusing on economic development, Kerry directs attention away from the real issue – the Occupation! At the same time, if the Palestinian leadership balks at the proposal for economic aid they will be held responsible (once again) for scuttling the peace process. It’s a genuine lose-lose situation for the Palestinians.

Father Dave

Jonathon Cook

Jonathon Cook

source: mondoweiss.net…

Kerry’s plan – Palestinians to be cast as fall guys . . . again

by Jonathon Cook

Under heavy pressure from the US, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has paid grudging lip service over the past four years to the goal of Palestinian statehood. But his real agenda was always transparent: not statehood, but what he termed “economic peace”.

Ordinary Palestinians, in Netanyahu’s view, can be pacified with crumbs from the master’s table: fewer checkpoints, extra jobs and trading opportunities, and a gradual, if limited, improvement in living standards. All of this buys time for Israel to expand the settlements, cementing its hold over the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

After 20 years of pursuing Palestinian statehood implied in the Oslo Accords, the US indicated last week it was switching horses. It appears to be adopting Netanyahu’s model of “economic peace”.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, flanked by the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian Authority chairman, Mahmoud Abbas, at the World Economic Forum in Jordan, revealed an economic programme for getting peace talks on track.

Some 300 Israeli and Palestinian business people were on board, he said, and would invest heavily in the Palestinian economy in a venture that was “bigger, bolder and more ambitious than anything since the Oslo accords”.

No more details were forthcoming, except that it will be overseen by Tony Blair, Britain’s former prime minister who has been the Quartet representative, the international community’s “man in Jerusalem”, since 2007.

He is a strange choice indeed, given that the Palestinian leadership has publicly dismissed him as “Israel’s defence attorney” and privately argued — as revealed in the Palestine Papers leaked in 2011 — that he advocates “an apartheid-like approach to dealing with the occupied West Bank”.

Kerry’s claims for his programme were grand yet vague. Some $4 billion in private investment over three years would boost the Palestinian economy by 50 per cent; agricultural production and tourism would triple; unemployment fall by two-thirds; wages rise by 40 per cent; and 100,000 homes would be built.

But the proposal left few impressed, and for good reason.

Kerry is simply repackaging the task Blair was entrusted with six years ago. His job has been to develop the Palestinian economy and build up Palestinian institutions in preparation for eventual statehood, so far to little effect.

As David Horovitz, editor of the right wing Times of Israel newspaper, scoffed: “If there was $4 billion to be had in private investment in the Palestinian economy, you can rest assured that Tony Blair would have found it.”

Or seen another way, the Palestinian economy’s problem is not a lack of investment; it is a lack of viable opportunities for investment.
Palestinians have no control over their borders, airspace, radio frequencies, water and other natural resources, not even over the currency or internal movement of goods and people. Everything depends on Israel’s good will. And few investors will be prepared to bet on that. Israel has repeatedly shown itself more than ready to crush the PA’s finances by, for example, withholding Palestinian tax revenues it collects and is mandated to pass on.

Blair’s role has been heavily criticised because his narrow focus on economic development has not only failed to foster a climate conducive to talks but has served as cover for Israel and Washington’s inaction on Palestinian statehood. Instead of rethinking Blair’s failed mandate, Kerry appears set on perpetuating and expanding it.

Abdallah Abdallah, a senior Fatah official, summed up the Palestinian response: “We are not animals that only want food. We are a people struggling for freedom”.

Israel, meanwhile, is only too ready to push Kerry down this hopeless path.

From Israel’s perspective, the US plan usefully distracts attention from the Arab Peace Initiative, the Arab states’ renewed offer last month of full diplomatic relations with Israel in return for its withdrawal from most of the occupied territories.

Netanyahu, worried the offer might corner him into serious talks, has responded with stony silence. At the same time, Yair Lapid, the supposedly centrist finance minister who was originally promoted by the West as a peacemaker, has squashed the idea of a deal with the Palestinians as unrealistic. He told the New York Times last month that he supported expanding the settlements.

Israel, it seems, hopes that the Palestinian Authority, now permanently mired in financial crisis, can be arm-twisted with promises of billions of dollars in sweeteners. According to Palestinian sources, Abbas is facing intense pressure from the US, with the Kerry plan intended to leverage him into dropping his condition that Israel freeze settlement growth before negotiations restart.

Israel is keen to win that concession. Despite reports that Netanyahu has quietly promised the Americans he will avoid embarrassing them for the next few weeks with announcements of settlement building, a rash of projects is in the pipeline.

At the weekend, media reports disclosed a plan for 300 new homes in East Jerusalem, while nearly 800 more are to be released for sale. Several settlement outposts established without authorisation from the Israeli government are expected to be made legal retrospectively, including hundreds of homes in Eli, near Ramallah.

Reuters reported yesterday that Kerry expects a decision on restarting peace talks within two weeks – or, his officials say, he will walk away from the peace process. He told a meeting of the American Jewish Committee the same day: “If we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.”

For Netanyahu, such threats are hollow. If the US absents itself from the conflict, Israel will simply be left with a freer hand to intensify its subjugation of the Palestinians and the theft of their land.

Even though much more is at stake for the Palestinians, the PA has so far been quietly dismissive of the Kerry plan. It has stated it will not make “political concessions in exchange for economic benefits” – a diplomatic way of saying it will not be bribed to sell out on statehood.

But the real danger for the Palestinians, as they remember only too well from the 2000 Camp David talks, is that they are being set up as the fall guy. Should they refuse to sign up to the latest version of economic peace, Israel and the US will be only too ready to blame them for their intransigence.

This is win-win for Netanyahu, and another moment of disastrous slippage in the diplomatic process for the Palestinians.

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Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the daughter of Israeli General, Matti Peled. Elhanan’s daughter, Smadar, was killed in the 1997 Ben Yehuda Street suicide attack in Jerusalem. Despite all the above, she has become an outspoken critic of Zionism and Israeli apartheid.

Peled-Elhanan is currently professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a co-laureate of the 2001 Sakharov Prize for Human Rights and the Freedom of Speech, awarded by the European Parliament.

The following address was given to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine on March 4th, 2009

If you can’t view this video, click here.

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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…