Israel's new war on Islamic sites
By Daud Abdullah
In a move that appears to be a celebration of the 16th anniversary of the massacre of 29 worshippers by the terrorist Baruch Goldstein, the Israeli government has proclaimed that the Ibrahimi Mosque in Khalil (Hebron) and Masjid Bilal ibn Rabah (mosque) in Bethlehem are "Jewish Heritage sites".
Goldstein, an American-born Israeli settler who served as a medic in the military, opened fire on worshippers at a mosque in Hebron on February 25, 1994, killing 29 and wounding more than 150, before being subdued and beaten to death.
The announcement by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, though not surprising, is the latest in a series of Israeli attacks on Islamic historical and religious sites in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
It is consistent with the Israelis' long-standing ambition to dispose of all non-Jewish religious symbols and presence in Palestine.
While the Israeli government was announcing the annexation of the Islamic sites, dozens of settlers attempted to storm into Jericho on the pretext that they were visiting an ancient synagogue.
Under the Gaza-Jericho Agreement of May 1994, Israel agreed to dissolve its civil administration and "transferred its powers and responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority".
Israel disinterested in peace
In his first reaction to the annexation of the Ibrahimi Mosque, Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League, said: "This proves that Israel is not interested in peace and negotiations."
The question is: when was Israel ever interested in such? When has it ever recognised the rights of the Palestinians? Israel’s founding fathers made no secret of the fact that they wanted all of historic Palestine, but without the Palestinians and all that is associated with their history.
Hence, David Ben Gurion recorded in his memoirs, The Revolt: "The partition of the Homeland [Israel] is illegal. It will never be recognised. The signature by institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever."
Everything that has happened in Palestine since 1948, and in Jerusalem and Hebron in particular over the past year, can be explained in the context of this statement.
Those who ignore it, not least the Arab and Muslim leadership, do so at their peril.
That having been said, the timing of these latest provocations against the Ibrahimi Mosque has not gone unnoticed.
The Israeli moves come at a time of huge embarrassment for the European patrons of the Zionist project, who saw their passports, among them diplomatic documents, being used illegally to carry out the murder of a Palestinian figure in Dubai, a "moderate" and thus by definition a friendly country.
In as much as the announcement of the new "heritage sites" coincides with the anniversary of the Goldstein massacre, it has been pointedly described as a crude distraction away from the issue of the criminal responsibility for the Dubai murder and the discomfort it has caused many in Europe.
Observers have rightly noted that while the European Union maintains its proscription of Hamas as a "terrorist organisation", they are yet to produce any evidence that the organisation has carried out a single military operation outside Occupied Palestine.
This is in stark contrast to the Israeli government, which threatens, attacks and occupies the lands of neighbouring countries, and assassinates its opponents in other sovereign nations.
Nevertheless, Israel continues to receive the patronage and support of the European Union.
If nothing else, the Zionists have surely perfected the art of gradualism, taking Palestinian territory inch by inch and brick by brick. Thus, when the Israeli government partitioned the Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994 and took two-thirds of it for Jews, it was safe to assume that was not the end of the affair.
While many Palestinians hold the occupation authorities responsible for the escalating tensions and damage to the mosque, they are embittered equally with the Palestinian Authority (PA) for having surrendered the area adjoining the second most important mosque in all of historic Palestine, as part of the "Hebron Protocol" of 1996.
Today, the security agencies loyal to US General Keith Dayton, the US security coordinator between Israel and the Palestinians, and the PA prevent young people living in Hebron from going to the Ibrahimi Mosque to defend it against Jewish settlers.
With the greatest sense of foreboding they point out that today it is the Ibrahimi Mosque but tomorrow it could be Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest mosque in Islam, which is under serious threat.
Salih al-Razim, the imam of the Ibrahimi Mosque, recalls that during the last five years the occupation authorities have prevented systematically the call to prayer in the mosque, particularly the daily maghrib (sunset) prayer, and all prayers on Saturdays.
Typically, the occupiers’'claim that the mosque was being annexed because it was in a state of disrepair is disingenuous because they themselves have deliberately obstructed more than 90% of maintenance efforts by the mosque authorities. In effect, theirs is only a device to intervene and seize control of the mosque.
Since the Palestinians have maintained the Ibrahimi Mosque for more than one thousand years there is nothing preventing them from doing so today apart from the occupation authorities.
Meanwhile, in April 2009 the same authorities took a huge stone from the Khatouniyah Palace and embedded it in the square in front of the Knesset, claiming that this was a stone from the "Second Temple".
Fakhri Abu Diyab, a member of the Council for the Defence of Real Estate in Silwan, reported that the Israeli operation was monitored and documented even though some of it took place in the early hours of the morning.
Several months later, in late December 2009, the Al-Aqsa Foundation for Endowment and Heritage reported the theft of archaeological artifacts of historical importance from the Umayyad palaces in Al-Khatouniyah.
The stones in question were transported to the Ma'ale Adumim colony-settlement where some were off-loaded in a dump; other items were taken to warehouses run by the Israeli antiquities department in the Rockefeller Museum, ironically the former Palestine Archaeological Museum.
It is believed that the Islamic relics will be given cosmetic treatment and then reappear, miraculously, as "Jewish" relics. We know this because it’s not the first time that this has been done.
Scores of mosques were destroyed across Palestine in 1948 (as reported inter alia in Haaretz on July 6, 2009) and in the succeeding years as part of the deliberate policy to obliterate the Islamic identity of the country. Many were converted into museums, night clubs and restaurants.
The Great Mosque (Jaame'a al-Kabir) in Bir al-Saba'a (Beersheba) was used as a detention centre and subsequently as a court before it was abandoned.
The Afula Mosque was converted into a synagogue and Al-Qaysayrieh Mosque became a restaurant.
None of these acts will give legitimacy to the claims of the Zionist Occupation. The presence of the Palestinian population in Hebron and Jerusalem represent the greatest obstacle to the process of annexation and Judaisation.
This latest outrage could well signal the beginning of a new phase in the conflict - one that has the potential to resonate well beyond Palestine.
Daud Abdullah is the director of the Middle East Monitor- an independent media research institution founded in the United Kingdom to foster a fair and accurate coverage in the Western media of Middle Eastern issues and in particular the Palestine Question.
Israeli settlements still expanding
Israel is continuing to build illegal settlements on Palestinian land, despite a 10-month suspension of new construction announced by the government.
Peace Now, an Israeli non-governmental organisation, says work is taking place at more than 30 settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Nour Odeh reports from Beit Sahour.
Robert Fisk’s World: Arieli is a man with a plan. The trouble is, it's a map of Israel
How do you make sense of this place, with its weird Areas A, B and C?
Tel Aviv is a pleasant city, a relief after the clergy-led madness of Jerusalem, a place of laid-back street cafés and real shops and decent restaurants, although I am reminded of a rival British newspaper that once considered basing its correspondent in Tel Aviv in order to report Israel as a normal country.
The paper quickly realised that Israel is not a normal country; it is a state wherein we nice friendly Western liberals – for this is how we like to think of ourselves – seek out nice friendly liberal Israelis in order to recapture something we were once taught about: a light among the nations. I'm not sure that such countries ever exist, but it was good to stroll into a dull-looking Tel Aviv office block and find a reserve colonel in the Israeli army who talks sense.
Shaul Arieli runs his fingers over a keyboard and his desktop screen produces a mass of green and orange and red that turns out to be a map of the West Bank. How do you make sense of it, this liver-sized mess with its weird Areas A, B and C, the first being Palestinian-"controlled", the second shared between Palestinian police and Israeli troops, and the third – by far the largest part – occupied by the Israeli army? How do you persuade, cajole, force the 300,000 Jewish colonists and the 200,000 Jewish settlers in east Jerusalem to up sticks and leave so that the Palestinians can live independently in the 22 per cent of mandate Palestine that is left to them? Since Barack Obama demanded a permanent freeze to these vast concrete cities and towns – and was crushed by Bibi Netanyahu's refusal – a Palestinian state is a non-starter. I should add that Arieli was one of those Israeli officials responsible for portioning out Areas A and B back in 1994.
But Arieli, who last wore his uniform at the end of 2001, was a negotiator of the Geneva accords, the unofficial Israeli-Palestinian agreement that sought a way out of the tormented landscape which Israeli has created since its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967. Bespectacled, prematurely bald but as fit as a leopard, Arieli positively glows with excitement. It can be done. The Palestinians can have a state. It's just a matter of sorting out, well, 2 per cent of the land. Arieli sees me shaking my head. So off he goes:
"In 1993, there were only 107,000 settlers in the West Bank (excluding east Jerusalem). During the Oslo talks, between 2001 and 2009, Israel added another 100,000 settlers. Today, there are 300,000 settlers in the West Bank with another 200,000 settlers in east Jerusalem. This is not a natural growth. It's a very clear Israeli policy – to extend the settlement area. We have come to be identified with occupation rather than 'kibbutzim'. There is an intent to turn Israel into a pariah state. There are now 500,000 Israelis outside the 1967 borders. But" – and here Arieli hears me draw in my breath – "65 per cent of the settlers are on only 1.2 per cent of the area. In November 2007, (Mahmoud) Abbas said he was prepared for a 2 per cent swap of land. This is a territorial issue – it's about (UN Security Council Resolution) 242. This means the 1967 borders."
I understand what this means. Keep the huge Jewish colonies around Jerusalem – Ariel, Ma'ale Adumim and Gush Etzion – and near the Dead Sea, but squeeze settlers from other illegal sites (all settlements are internationally illegal, whatever Israel says) into the 0.8 per cent difference between the 1.2 per cent of the land on which 65 per cent of the settlers live and the 2.0 per cent allowed by Abbas. This is optimism of a bleak kind. The Netanyahu government and its Lieberman clique are hell-bent on the continued Jewish settlement of east Jerusalem and – after a few months – the colonisation of the West Bank. Area C is almost all lost to the Palestinians. Besides UN resolution 242, upon which Arieli depends, deliberately calls for Israeli withdrawal from lands occupied in the 1967 war – not "the" lands. That missing definite article avoids full withdrawal (even though it appears in the French version of the resolution).
But Arieli doesn't give up. "There is a current reality and there are facts on the ground. Every Palestinian knows there is no possibility of any Israeli prime minister having the political ability to evacuate so huge a number of Israelis. The only solution is a swap. The '67 border will have to be the basis of the swap – we would have to keep 75 per cent of the settlers on two per cent of their land." The current Israeli position appears to be 81 per cent of the settlers on 6.5 per cent of the land and my head is becoming dizzy. "Facts on the ground" are dodgy things.
And Jerusalem? Arieli produces an even more beflecked map. He would have it divided up on demographic lines. The Old City, a mere 2.5sq km containing more than 100 holy sites of all religions, could also be ruled internationally, governed under the old UN partition plan with an international committee composed of Israel, the US, Palestine, Egypt, Jordan – and maybe Morocco. "Sovereignty belongs to God, so we have to deal with this challenge."
I like Arieli, but I am worried about this plan. If East Jerusalem is to be portioned out, its very streets divided, it will be a hate-filled place like the disgrace that Hebron has become. "Hebron will have to be evacuated," Arieli says angrily. He agrees the place is an outrage. But would the Palestinians settle for a passage to what would have to be their capital that would run through Abu Dis? Arieli puts his thumb on Abu Dis. "It's not that small," he says. But it looks bloody small to me, a rat run for Arabs who want to visit their capital – and which can be effectively closed whenever Israel chooses.
I dare not ask about the Gaza Strip. Yossi Alpher has already been reminding readers of the Jerusalem Post that under the Oslo Accords, Israel promised to treat the West Bank and Gaza as a "single territorial unit' but never promised to link the two across 40km of Israel's sovereign territory. If the Palestinians won't accept a "swap", they'll have to think what they are going to give in return for a corridor joining Gaza and the West Bank. The fact that this corridor would divide up Israel just as it would join up Palestinian land is ignored. And what of Israeli Arab villages – are they going to be brought into the swapping game? But Arieli is resilient. Even the Wall – or the "barrier" as he keeps on referring to it – can be dealt with, section by section, "because in each section of the barrier, we can find a balance between Israeli security and the daily lives of the people who live there".
I have my doubts. Long may the Arielis of this world survive. But I fear that Palestine has gone.
The new McCarthyism sweeping Israel
To disagree with the state is to 'delegitimise' the state: that is the increasingly strident response of the country's political and military establishment to those who dare to criticise its conduct
By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
Saturday, 13 February 2010
It's hard, sitting on the other side of the office table from which Naomi Chazan is picking at her modest hummus and salad snack lunch, to believe that the amiable 63-year-old university professor with a self-deprecating sense of humour has suddenly become the most discussed, not to say demonised, woman in Israel.
Ms Chazan is president of a long-established agency with large numbers of Jewish donors in the US and Britain, which is committed to fighting for "social justice and equality for all Israelis". The New Israel Fund has over the last 30 years disbursed some $200m to around 800 charitable, social and human rights groups, and justly claims much of the credit for building modern Israel's still vibrant civil society.
But in the last fortnight the former Knesset member who by her own account loves her native Israel "without reservation" has been sacked as a columnist on the Jerusalem Post after 14 years, had rowdy demonstrators outside her house brandishing a chilling caricature of her with a horn obtruding from her forehead, and most far-fetched of all, been accused, in a newspaper article circulated to foreign journalists by the Government Press Office, of "serving the agenda of Iran and Hamas".
Israeli police storm Jerusalem site
At least six Palestinians have reportedly been injured after Israeli police forces stormed a holy site in Jerusalem to disperse Muslim worshippers.
Palestinian sources said that Israeli forces fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the worshippers holding protests in the al-Aqsa mosque compound on Sunday.
Israel said the situation was calm and denied that rubber bullets had been fired.
Micky Rosenfeld, the Israeli police spokesman, said that the police force dispersed about 20 masked protesters who were inside the compound.
The police said protesters had thrown stones at visitors to the complex.
The area, known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary, and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been a frequent flashpoint for conflicts before, with even low-level scuffles escalating into drawn-out battles.
Sherine Tadros, reporting for Al Jazeera from Jerusalem on Sunday, said: "This was all sparked early this morning when - according to the Israeli police - there was a group of tourists entering the al-Aqsa compound in the Old City.
"They were pelted with rocks by the Palestinian demonstrators [who] decided to keep on with their resistance to the entry of these tourists into the Haram compound.
"That sparked clashes outside and near the area, which has resulted in an escalation ... outside the walls of the Old City."
Reporting later from the scene, our correspondent said: "There's a heavy police presence but it does seem calm now."
A visit to the al-Asa mosque compound in 2000 by Ariel Sharon, then an Israeli opposition leader and later prime minister, is blamed for igniting deadly clashes that escalated into the popular Palestinian uprising known as al-Aqsa Intifada.
Israel fighting 'delegitimisation campaign'
By Clayton Swisher in
on February 12th, 2010
Harvard University's well-known law school, or HLS, was the intellectual training ground for US President Barack Obama (HLS 91'), who through his high marks became editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Obama might find it interesting to know the miles some HLS students have to travel to become expert in their field - only to be turned back.
Consider the case of 3rd year law student Hebah Ismail, who is putting the finishing touches on her studies with Harvard's International Human Rights Clinic.
Like Obama, Hebah entered Harvard law already a world traveller. The US citizen of Egyptian extraction landed at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion recently to study land disputes facing the Arab Bedouin community.
But airport security officials weren't having it.
According to the Harvard paper, Hebah's laptop and cell phone were seized and searched. But that wasn't satisfying enough, so an ultimatum was delivered: log us into your email accounts, or you will be deported and banned from ever entering Israel.
Hebah refused and faced the consequences. She was put on a plane back to the States, unable to conduct her research.
Al Jazeera has reported about how Israeli authorities have been denying NGO workers access into Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Yesterday I wrote that Israel might not be prepared to counter the growing American campus outrage over its policies towards the Palestinians.
But connecting the dots, it is clear this is how they intend to fight back.
A new study flagged in this Israeli newspaper warns that Israel is facing a global delegitimisation campaign.
The prestigious Reut Institute, which issued the report, is headed by an erudite mover-and-shaker named Gidi Grinstein, a lawyer who also attended Harvard.
The Reut Study is comprehensive, and deserves reading in full. But I seriously doubt Grinstein (whom I've known for nearly a decade) would advocate deportation of visiting scholars and field researchers who refuse to let Israeli cybersleuths sign into their Harvard/Gmail acccounts.
On the positive side, at least US immigration officials welcomed Hebah home without incident.
Good thing she wasn't carrying Arabic flash cards.
Gaza's state of health ... not so good
We all know what its like when we go to the doctor's office for that routine check up once a year ... and undoubtedly there is that moment of anxiousness when the doctor looks you in the face to level his criticism on what you can do better next year.
So you leave the office, go to the nearest gym, sign up for that cardio class and then off to the supermarket to get that new low fat salad dressing. It's a new year and you are gonna take your health seriously!
A universal human right for all...
That's the way it should be ... for you and for the people of Gaza. But Gaza's health report card just came back ... and it ain't looking good for the 1.7 million people living under a stifling siege.
Even worse, there is little the people here can do about it.
According to the United Nations, which examined the state of health one year on from Israel's brutal war on Gaza, a collapsed economy and staggering unemployment will undoubtedly have a negative impact on the physical and mental health of the people here.
Here are some of the highlights, or should I say the sad points, of Gaza's Health:
● Infant mortality rates, which were steadily declining in recent years have stalled.
● 15 of Gaza's 27 hospitals were damaged or destroyed in Israel's war and have yet to be rebuilt or repaired.
● Since 2000, very few medical professionals have been able to leave for training to update their clinical skills or learn about new medical technologies - which in return limits their ability to provide adequate health care.
● Many patients are in need of specialised treatments not available in Gaza and referred abroad for care. Sadly, their applications to travel for care get delayed or denied by the Israeli authorities and some have died while waiting for referrals.
But some times its not the press releases or the statements that sum up the difficult situation in Gaza, or even the peoples own stories. Here is a animated clip from the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem that captures what is so wrong with the Israeli siege on Gaza.
Israeli forces raid West Bank camp
Israeli forces have raided a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, arresting at least 40 people.
The arrests on Monday at the Shuafat camp in annexed east Jerusalem were part of an operation that Israeli police said was aimed at "putting order" in the area.
Al Jazeera's Elias Karram, reporting from the camp, said: "The raid was divided into two parts: the first of which ended on Monday when Israeli army and intelligence forces invaded the came and detained around 40 poeple based on their political affliation - either to Hamas or Fatah.
"The second part is still under way and it targets Palestinian workers who have come from various parts of the West Bank to work in the camps without necessary working permits."
Israeli troops also stormed shops and hospitals in the camp, Karram said.
Rights group targeted
In a separate incident, Israeli military officials raided offices of Stop the Wall, a human-rights group that campaigns against the construction of the West Bank separation barrier.
Stop the Wall released a statement on Monday saying that at least 10 military vehicles invaded the city of Ramallah before officials searched through the offices, "confiscating computer hard disks, laptops, and video cameras along with paper documents, CDs, and video cassettes".
Jamal Jumaa, the co-ordinator of Stop the Wall, said in the statement: "This is part of the continuous targeting of the popular grassroots movement and the struggle of the Palestinian human rights defenders for Israeli accountability.
"Palestinians will not be intimidated by this. The struggle against the Wall will only stop once the decision of the International Court of Justice, which calls for the Wall to be torn down, is implemented."
Jumaa said: "We call on the international community and in particular the European Union to step up pressure on Israel to ensure it respects international law and human rights and ends its repression of Palestinian and international human rights defenders working on the ground."
The raid came after Jumaa was arrested along with Mohammad Othman, a youth co-ordinator from Stop the Wall. Both activists were released on Monday.