Gaza

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Soldiers and Border police

photo courtesy of The Palestine Solidarity Project

If I were a cartoonist I’d depict Santa trying to get his sleigh over the wall that cuts off the West Bank from Israel, or perhaps I’d do one of Santa trying to break the siege on Gaza by attempting to deliver a sleigh-full of inadmissible toys to Gaza’s children. Either way, one can only imagine a bloody end to big elf’s Yuletide venture to the Holy Land.

It can’t be pure coincidence that the Israeli government unleashes some of its worst violence on the captive populations of Gaza and the West Bank during the Christmas season. Operation Cast Lead began on December 27. This Christmas there have been a series of bloody incidents:

  • Scores of Bedouin refugees, including 32 children, were made homeless after a series of housing demolitions in the West Bank that the UNRWA says is a “violation of international law” (see here).
  • IDF warplanes and tanks unleashed hell on Gaza, killing a number of civilians including a 3 year-old girl. They claim that they were targeting “terror sites” after an Israeli workman had been shot by a sniper while repairing the fence that keeps the Gazan people captive (see here).
  • On Christmas Eve IDF soldiers raided the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem – intimidating and harassing the beleaguered camp population (see here).

I guess it makes sense that the IDF increases its activity at times when it knows that its US allies are on holidays and otherwise busy with family and partying. Even so, there’s an additional incentive in 2013 for stirring up more trouble at this point in time – the so-called ‘peace talks’.

Reports are coming in that, contrary to all expectations, there may be real signs of hope emerging from John Kerry’s latest rounds of talks. Netanyahu has no intention, of course, of allowing a sovereign Palestinian state to come into existence, but maintaining the illusion that he does support Palestinian independence is a vital element in the great charade.

If a peace deal should start to look inevitable, as it has on more than one occasion already, a spanner will need to be thrown into the works from somewhere – a lead negotiator will have to be disposed of (eg. Arafat) or an incident will take place that will ‘force’ the Israelis to abandon all friendly discussion.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, the Latin Patriarch, Fouad Twal, prays for peace: 

“Oh Holy Child, who experienced the flight into Egypt after the threat from Herod, who two thousand years ago killed the children of Bethlehem, have mercy on our children, and all the world’s children.  Have mercy on prisoners, on the poor, the marginalized, and the most vulnerable among us.” 

(read Twal’s complete Christmas homily here)

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Pope Francis visiting Ramallah – now that would be a step in the right direction, and a far more promising development for Palestine than any number of farcical peace talks.

The reality is that the Israeli government is entirely comfortable with the status quo. Netanyahu has no reason to seriously consider any state for the Palestinian people. Keeping up appearances as a peace maker is important of course, but nothing substantial is going to happen until real pressure is placed on the Israeli government from outside of Israel’s borders, and the Pope is in precisely the right position to exert the necessary leverage!

Of course the Vatican has a very poor history when it comes to siding with the oppressed and the vulnerable. Even so, all he early indicators suggest that this new Pope may be the change that the church has been waiting for!

Who knows? If Pope Francis can get as far as Ramallah, perhaps he’ll venture into Gaza?!

Father Dave

Pope Francis

source: www.catholicnews.com…

Palestinian president hopes to use pen from pope to sign peace treaty

By Cindy Wooden

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a fancy pen as a gift, and Abbas told the pope, “I hope to sign the peace agreement with Israel with this pen.”

Pope Francis responded with his hope that the agreement would be reached “soon, soon.”

The exchange took place Oct. 17 in the papal library after the pope and Palestinian president had spent almost half an hour meeting privately.

Abbas had given the pope a Bible and a framed scene of Bethlehem, West Bank. The pope gave Abbas a framed scene of the Vatican along with the pen, “because you obviously have many things to sign,” which is when Abbas spoke about his hopes to sign a peace treaty.

A Vatican statement about Abbas’ meeting with the pope and a later meeting with the Vatican foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said, “The reinstatement of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians” was a topic in both conversations.

“The parties expressed their hope that this process may bear fruit and enable a just and lasting solution to be found to the conflict,” it said. “Hope was expressed that the parties to the conflict will make courageous and determined decisions in order to promote peace” and that the international community would support their efforts. The U.S.-mediated talks began in July.

The Vatican statement did not mention Pope Francis’ possible trip to the Holy Land, although when Abbas greeted Archbishop Mamberti he told him that he had invited the pope to visit. Abbas’ delegation also included the mayor of Bethlehem, which likely would be on the itinerary of a papal trip.

In April, Israeli President Shimon Peres also invited the pope, and Israeli media have been reporting that a papal visit is expected in the spring. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced Oct. 16 that the prime minister would meet U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Rome Oct. 23 and meet the pope during the same trip.

The Vatican statement on Abbas’ meetings said the pope and Palestinian leader also discussed the ongoing war in Syria and expressed their hopes that “dialogue and reconciliation may supplant the logic of violence as soon as possible.”

The two also discussed the work underway on a Vatican-Palestinian agreement regulating “several essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” as well as the situation of Christian communities in the Palestinian territories and the contributions Christians make to society throughout the Middle East.

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

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There’s a lot of excitement in the air right now about the apparent resuscitation of the Israeli/Palestinian peace process, with new talks scheduled to begin at any moment!

Former US President, Jimmy Carter, and ‘The Elders’ praised John Kerry for his “tireless commitment to bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table after five years of stalemate” while Christian Zionists blasted the US President for actions that they see as compromising the safety of the state of Israel!

It seems to me that Amira Hass is one of the few who really grasps the situation, even if hers is a truth that nobody wants to hear. The ‘peace talks’ haven’t got a chance! If they serve any purpose at all it will only be to enhance Netanyahu’s political career by portraying him as a willing negotiator.

Father Dave

source: www.haaretz.com…

Amira Hass

Amira Hass

After the peace talks fail

A Palestinian generation has come of age that is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Israelis, because the Israelis aren’t ready for a fair agreement. 

By Amira Hass

Don’t worry, in this round of talks with the Palestinians, Israel will again miss the opportunity to change and be changed – just as the Rabin-Peres government and the Barak government missed their opportunities. Discussions over a referendum ignore the essence: Any future worth living for the Jewish community in this part of the Middle East depends on the ability and will of that community to free itself from the ethnocracy (“democracy for Jews only”) that it has built here for nearly seven decades. For this we desperately need the Palestinians.

But military and economic superiority is blinding us. We are sure that they need us and that we have pushed them into such a weak position that we can extricate a yes from them regarding what they have been saying no to for 20 years; that is, much less than the 1967 borders.

The negotiations expected now, with the very non-neutral American participation (if we even get to that after the pre-negotiation phase), will not produce independence for the Palestinians. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his coalition problems can’t be blamed for that. It’s the Israelis who are not yet ready to demand that their leaders work toward a peace agreement, because they’re still enjoying the occupation too much.

It’s not for nothing that we have been blessed with 6,800 weapons exporters, the title of the sixth largest weapons exporter in the world, and first or second place among countries selling unmanned aircraft, which were upgraded by trying them out on the Lebanese and mainly the Gazans. Even if few of our people are involved in the manufacture and export of weapons and in the defense industry in general, that’s a minority with an extensive influence and a great deal of economic power that shapes politics and produces messianic and technocratic rationalizations.

The European Union’s directives on noncooperation with the settlements and companies linked to them have come at least 15 years late. As early as the 1990s it was clear to Europe that the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza contradicted its interpretation of the Oslo Accords, but that didn’t prevent it from spoiling Israel with favorable trade agreements. Neither these agreements nor massive support for the Palestinian Authority (that is, compensation for damage done by Israeli rule and its restrictions on movement), gave Europe real political clout in Israel’s eyes and in the corridors of the negotiations. And then a determined first step by Europe rehabilitated its political standing.

The Palestinians have made clear that if the Europeans back down on these directives, as Israel has demanded and the United States wants, they will stop the talks (when they start). But the directives’ main psychological impact will dissipate without quick implementation. When and if implemented, the results will not be felt immediately in Israel, and even then, they will be felt only gradually. That is, it will take time before more and more Israelis realize that the occupation isn’t worth it. That will be enough time for us to continue feeling that we’re stronger than the Palestinians.

But depending on the Palestinians’ weakness is an optical illusion of the arrogant. True, the PLO’s leadership is fossilized and controlled by one individual who rarely consults and rarely takes his people’s opinions into consideration. But even he can’t accept what the Netanyahu-Bennett-Lapid government plans to offer. True, Palestinian society is more fractured geographically and politically than it was 20 years ago, but it has great stamina, which the Israelis lack.

The PA and the Hamas government are groaning under the financial burdens of economies under siege. The social and economic rifts have deepened and an atmosphere of depoliticization has taken over. But beneath the surface there are new developments. Initiatives are afoot to turn the Palestinian people – in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the diaspora – into one deciding body. Ideas are being seriously discussed for methods of struggle outside negotiations. A generation has come of age that is in no hurry to reach an agreement with the Israelis, because the Israelis aren’t ready for a fair agreement. And when we, the Israelis, wake up and beg for an agreement, it might be too late.

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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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This is a potentially exciting development in the struggle for Palestinian liberation. It seems that the young and tech-savvy in Palestine have decided that they’ve had enough of corrupt officials who really don’t seem to care about their people’s interests.

Inspired by their Egyptian counterparts, the youth of Palestine are rising up, using the weapon they are most familiar with: Facebook!

Father Dave

Facebook

source: www.albawaba.com…

Gaza rises: Palestine to stage its own Egyptian-style rebellion

After Egypt, a Palestinian version of the “Tamarrud,” or Rebellion, campaign, will launch this week to protest the Palestinian Authority, the division between the West Bank and Gaza, and the Israeli occupation.

The organizers of the “Ya Filastini Tamarrud!” or “Palestinians Rebel!” campaign come from occupied Palestine and beyond. What motivates them is “the disregard shown by the governments in the West Bank and Gaza for the dignity of the Palestinian people.”

The rebels will first launch their campaign on Facebook then seek to collect signatures from Palestinians around the world at a later time.

Safaa Srour, member of the Tamarrud campaign, told Al-Akhbar, “Both governments in the West Bank and Gaza are engaged in policies that are detrimental to the Palestinian people. This pushed us to take the initiative and launch our campaign to rise up against all political hindrances that obstruct the battle with the occupation.”

The borders that separate Palestinians and the diaspora mean that the campaigners cannot assemble in one specific place. In the end, they found no other solution but social networking services to promote the campaign.

Farouk Arar, another member of the campaign, said, “We do not want our initiative to be limited to occupied Palestine. Rebellion must be taken up by every Palestinian. The campaign should not be a temporary phenomenon that sometimes waxes and sometimes wanes.”

Tamarrud, according to Arar, aspires to end division and revive Palestinians’ awareness of their historical rights and duties to expel the occupation and put an end to the Palestinian Authority’s claims to legitimacy. Arar also said that the campaign seeks to organize action on the ground with broad participation, but away from the traditional political factions.

Arar believes that the online campaign will focus on those with Internet access first, and at a later stage, the campaign will initiate a petition that will cover all Palestinian communities, including in the diaspora.