PA police terrorize Palestinian journalists
From Khalid Amayreh in the West Bank
30 November, 2007
Palestinian police answerable to Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman
Mahmoud Abbas have been terrorizing non-conformist Palestinian
journalists throughout the West Bank in a manner unprecedented since
the creation of the PA following the Oslo Accords in 1993.
Assaults on journalists and cameramen increased dramatically recently
especially in the aftermath of the American-hosted peace conference in
On Thursday, 29 November, crack policemen in the southern West Bank of
Hebron brutally beat Muhammed Halayka, a cameraman working for a
Gaza-based TV station for filming anti-Annapolis protests in the city.
At least one Palestinian, a 37-year-old man, was killed during
protests on Tuesday, when trigger-happy policemen opened fire on
demonstrators in downtown Hebron.
Dozens of protesters and journalists were injured, some very badly,
throughout the West Bank as police were ordered to violently repress
any public opposition to the Annapolis conference.
Halayka, who was taken to hospital told reporters, that seven PA
policemen ganged up on him, beating him with their fists and butts of
their rifles, until he collapsed.
"The security apparatus summoned me for interrogation for filming the
demonstrations. And when I arrived, more than seven young officers
ganged up on me, beating me and kicking me all over my body, including
my face, until I collapsed."
Toward the evening, Halayka was transferred to hospital.
According to Halayka, the interrogators warned him that he would have
to pay ten thousand dollars if he informed the media of what happened
Earlier, PA police arrested Bassam Duweik for filming protests in
Hebron and for "incitement and besmirching PA image."
Duweik is a Hebrew translator who also works for a number of
newspapers inside and outside the occupied Palestinian territories.
Moreover, the PA preventive security in the town of Dura summoned
Walid Amayreh, also a journalist, for interrogation in connection with
his purported intention to write a book critical of the PA.
Amayreh was forced to sign a written pledge stating that he wouldn't
criticize the PA or indulge in incitement.
On Tuesday, PA police in Ramallah violently attacked journalists in
Ramallah, Bethlehem and several other localities, beating them
savagely for covering demonstrations protesting the Annapolis conference.
Several journalists were reportedly beaten, including Wael Shoyoukhi,
an Aljazeera correspondent, who was badly hurt, having been hit on the
A PA official said he regretted attacks on journalists. The PA
Minister of Interior, Abdul Razzaq al Yahya was quoted as saying that
"journalists have to appreciate the situation we are facing. We are
sorry for what happened, but journalists and reporters have to obey
Some Palestinian journalists condemned PA western backers for
remaining silent in the face of PA police attacks on press freedom in
the West Bank.
"The US and the EU keep babbling about press freedom and democracy and
these things. But when they watch these beasts gang up and mercilessly
beat reporters in the streets of the West Bank, they play blind, dumb
and deaf," said Muhammed Rajoub, a journalist from the Hebron region.
"Is this the democracy they are promising us?"
Rajoub said "in this case silence means satisfaction and even complicity."
Since the mid-June events in Gaza, when Hamas militiamen ousted Fatah
police forces after a week-long bloody showdown, the western-backed
government in Ramallah has been clamping down on press freedom.
The PA closed down several press offices and radio and TV stations for
"indulging in illegal activities and incitement."
Moreover, as many as 15 journalists were arrested and, in many cases,
mistreated and tortured.
The Palestinian justice system in the West Bank is virtually
paralyzed and in most cases security agencies don't heed court decisions.
Palestinian Authority closes all charities in West Bank, Gaza
By Reuters Tags: Palestinian Authority
The Palestinian Authority has shut down all charities in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip and accused some of corruption.
Minister of Religious Affairs Jamal Bawatneh said on Wednesday his
ministry had appointed a seven-strong committee to oversee the
collection and disbursement of funds to the poor.
Palestinian officials said the closing of the 92 charities - or Zakat
- was likely to harm those mainly belonging to the Islamist Hamas
"Some of the committees violated the law and were corrupt," Bawatneh
"Some of the people heading those committees belong to Hamas but
others are not from Hamas. The corrupt must be removed.
"Not all the Zakat committees were corrupt but we decided to close all
of them to avoid finger-pointing.
Some committees had collected large amounts of money intended for the
poor but only a fraction of the money had gone to its intended recipients.
Most of the money was used to build supermarkets and hospitals, and
was invested. Some of the money was also used to support charities run
by political parties," Bawatneh said.
"In many cases, the funds were disbursed according to political
affiliation but these committees should not be exploited for political
purposes," he said.
In August, the government of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad
closed more than 100 charities, mostly belonging to Hamas. It was
regarded as a move aimed at weakening Hamas which seized control of
the Gaza Strip in June.
Abbas appointed Fayyad as prime minister after sacking a Hamas-led
government in June. He has tried to reduce Hamas's influence in the
West Bank by cutting its welfare network which it uses to acquire
funding and gain popular support.
Hamas lawmaker Ayman Daraghmeh said that the move was an attempt by
Fayyad's government to "dry up the funding sources of the Hamas
movement". He said he believed the committee heads were independent
and not affiliated with Hamas.
"Mistakes may have been made by some committees and this was used as a
pretext by the government to close all the committees, but this step
will badly affect the poor and it will paralyze charity work," he said.
Have you read in your newspaper about it? If yes, compare the coverage
with your newspaper's coverage of graffiti on a synagogue wall. Write
to your newspaper and ask why it received no proper coverage. Write to
the UN, and ask Ban, why Jewish anti-Christianism is not banned.
A Jerusalem church torched.
By The Associated Press
J'lem church officials suspect extremist Jews behind arson
A church in central Jerusalem was set afire before dawn Wednesday and
suffered extensive damage, police said.
Arsonists, suspected to be extremist Jews, forced their way into the
church and set it afire, church officials said Wednesday.
The sanctuary used by four separate congregations, including Baptists,
had been burned down in 1982 by an ultranationalist Jewish group and
later rebuilt, said a pastor at the church, Charles Kopp.
"We all still need to learn the lessons of tolerance and to accept the
different among us," said Kopp, an American who grew up in Los
Angeles. "We don't suspect anyone specific but they were extremists
Police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said no arrests had been made and it
was not immediately clear what motive was behind the attack.
The arsonists broke into the building late Tuesday, setting it afire
in three different places. The floor was severely charred, windows
were broken and several chairs were burned. No holy books were damaged
in the fire, said Joseph Broom, the church's business services manager
and a native of Charleston, South Carolina. Ben-Ruby had earlier said
bibles were damaged.
Jewish neighbors called the fire department and their quick response
was what saved the structure, said Kopp, who has been at the church
Congregants at the church include international workers, students and
Sudanese refugees who recently entered the country from Egypt, Kopp
said. One of the congregations is made up of Messianic Jews, who
consider themselves Jewish but believe in Jesus.
In response to the attack, the Israeli office of the Anti-Defamation
League, which monitors hate crimes, condemned the attack and called
"The ADL strongly condemned this arson and apparent hate crime," the
New-York based organization said. "We urged authorities to do
everything in their power to protect all religious sites and see that
the perpetrators of the crime are brought to justice.
The church is located in the leafy, middle-class neighborhood of Rehavia.
Ultra-Orthodox Jewish residents of a nearby area have in recent years
begun moving into Rehavia and trying to impose their way of life on
Relations between religions are generally good in largely Jewish west
Jerusalem, and violent incidents are rare.
As the world forgets Gaza
Al-Ahram Weekly Online
Hyper-inflation and 80 per cent unemployment are the real target
outcomes of Israel's siege on Gaza, writes Saleh Al-Naami
It was an emotional scene. Relief was apparent on the faces of Mohamed
Al-Masri and his wife Rania as they followed the nurse transferring
their firstborn, 12-year-old Ahmed, from the operating room in Dar
Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza. The medical team had finally been able to
perform surgery in Ahmed's ear to recover his hearing after Israel had
temporarily barred the import of nitrous oxide, which is used as
anaesthesia and is necessary for surgery to be performed. Israel had
given permission to import this vital gas to Gaza Strip hospitals only
the day prior to Ahmed's operation last week.
The suspension on imports of nitrous oxide to Gaza Strip hospitals had
forced their administrations to close down surgery departments and
halt operations, except for those absolutely vital. Following
resumption of the importation of this gas, medical crews worked
additional hours to perform surgeries that had been delayed due to its
shortage. Yet Bassem Naim, health minister in Ismail Haniyeh's
dismissed government, says that the danger of Israel barring imports
of nitrous oxide again remains. "There is a possibility of a health
disaster occurring here anew, with patients dying because our
hospitals are unable to conduct surgeries," he told Al-Ahram Weekly.
"There is a need for international intervention to prevent this
catastrophe from happening."
Naim adds that the crisis the health sector is undergoing in the Gaza
Strip is not limited to the possibility of nitrous oxide running out.
It extends, rather, to the depletion of a number of medicines used in
the treatment of patients with chronic illnesses. According to Naim,
around 30-50 types of medicines have almost entirely run out. Perhaps
the most important of these are medicines used by cardiac patients.
Mariam Aliyan, 45, works in a civil institution in Rafah, the most
southern point of Gaza, and was forced to take a month's vacation in
fear that her health condition might worsen. Mariam has heart disease,
and although her health condition is currently stable, her family
members did not want her to risk deteriorating due to exhaustion and
work while her heart medicine is depleted. This meant that she had to
stay in hospital.
Cardiology departments in Gaza Strip hospitals have begun to only
accept cardiac patients who suffer badly from the medicine shortage
and the lack of appropriate equipment. Mazen Al-Tatar, head of the
cardiology department in Dar Al-Shifa Hospital -- the Strip's largest,
located in Gaza City -- says that the Israeli siege has had an
incredibly negative effect on cardiac patients because it has caused a
severe shortage in many vital medicines that are difficult to obtain.
He suggests that the siege has also affected medical equipment that
has become unusable. The cardiology department that he heads, for
example, has five monitoring devices, all of which are dysfunctional
since they have been in use for over 17 years. Under normal
conditions, he explains, they would be put out of use following a much
shorter length of time.
One of the glaring signs that health conditions in the Gaza Strip have
severely deteriorated is the fact that Al-Wafa Medical Hospital, which
specialises in the rehabilitation of patients with movement
impairments, has halted most of its rehabilitation programmes.
According to a statement issued by the hospital, the siege, including
closure of commercial crossings, has "contributed significantly to
obstructing and precluding a number of health programmes that serve
the injured and disabled. It has also prevented necessary medicines
and medical supplies from reaching hospitals, and barred patients from
travelling abroad for treatment." As well as focussing on mobility,
Al-Wafa Medical Hospital is the only hospital in Gaza that is
specialised in cognition impairment resulting from accidents, neural
conditions, and injuries incurred as a result of occupation army
operations conducted in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The siege and the shrinkage of commercial transactions between Gaza
and the outside world have also led to a sharp rise in the prices of
foodstuffs. By way of example, the price of a bag of flour has risen
80 per cent; because of the 680,000 tonnes the Gaza Strip needs daily
only 90 tonnes are permitted to enter. Similarly, the price of sugar
has risen 60 per cent, in addition to various increases in the prices
of other staple foodstuffs. Palestinians in Gaza cannot even dream of
some other products, such as soft drinks, which are no longer
imported. And the cost of tobacco has risen drastically, its price
increasing by 150 per cent.
As for building materials, their prices have risen astronomically
after Israel has barred their import. A bag of cement, for example,
has increased in price 10-fold. In practical terms, this lack of
building materials due to the siege has exacerbated the unemployment
problem to an unprecedented level. Unemployment has risen to over 80
per cent of the labour force, and it is no longer possible to practise
many of the professions that depend on the existence of building
materials. As for industry, it has also halted due to the lack of raw
Yet the worst for Palestinians in Gaza is yet to come. Israeli Defence
Minister Ehud Barak has approved a series of collective punishments,
ostensibly to force Palestinian resistance movements to stop firing
homemade missiles on Israeli settlements surrounding the Strip.
Israeli Deputy Minister of Defence Matan Vilnai, who headed the
security committee that recommended the imposition of collective
punishment, told Israeli television Channel One last Friday that this
internationally outlawed form of state behaviour is a "legitimate
means of placing pressure on Palestinian civilians to move against the
factions that are targeting Israel." The Israeli government has
approved the Vilnai recommendations, meaning that the humanitarian
situation in Gaza will again and imminently be purposely worsened by
Among the collective punishments the Israeli government has approved
is a clause related to reducing the electricity supply into Gaza. This
means that swathes of Gaza will be plunged into darkness with the
onset of winter. The Israeli government has also decided to reduce the
quantity of fuel that the Palestinian electricity generation station
in central Gaza is allowed to import. According to statistics issued
by the Popular Committee for Resisting the Siege (PCRS), cutting
electricity will have a negative impact on water pumping stations,
which means that water to homes will also be cut off for numerous
hours every day. The quantity of fuel used for transportation and gas
allocations for home use will also be limited. Wide sectors of the
Palestinian population in Gaza are in a state of alarm, and gas
distribution centres are extremely crowded with people filling gas
canisters in expectation of supplies being cut off.
Also among the collective sanctions approved by the Israeli government
is the imposition of major restrictions on the movement of Palestinian
citizens to and from the Gaza Strip.
Representative Jamal Al-Khadri, who heads the PCRS, considers the
Israeli sanctions as "violating the most basic of human rights and
international conventions that allow humans to live in freedom and
dignity." He told the Weekly that, "these measures will increase the
suffering of the Palestinian people, and especially the ill and
children. It will have negative ramifications on all fronts."
Al-Khadri stressed that punishment of the Gaza Strip "would not
contribute to the stability of the region or life in peace and
security, and will increase suffering and aggravate the situation."
Israeli journalists Avi Yesiskrof and Amos Heril have referenced top
Israeli army leaders as saying that they recommended the imposition of
collective punishment even while realising that this will not
contribute to moving Palestinians to place pressure on the resistance
to stop firing on Israeli settlements. The two journalists have
pointed out that the collective punishment plan is aimed to prepare
public opinion for a large-scale and lengthy military operation that
Israel intends to conduct in Gaza. They also seek to convince the
residents of Siderot settlement, which has been the target of most
Palestinian resistance fire, that the Israeli army is doing everything
that it can to protect them.
Israeli writer and political analyst Uzi Benziman published an article
in Haaretz newspaper stating that in addition to the fact that such
punishments are unethical, they will certainly reap the opposite
results, widening the circle of hatred for Israel among Palestinians
and increasing the recruitment of young Palestinians to resistance
activities. Benziman asserts that experience has shown that collective
punishments imposed by Israel upon Palestinians have failed. "On the
contrary, this approach has increased the motivation of Palestinian
organisations to strike at Israel and increase the number of suicide
bombers who want to take revenge," he wrote in Haaretz last Sunday.
C a p t i o n : Palestinian workers demonstrate in Gaza against the
increased cost of living
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