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9219News from Palestine: Palestine to open embassy in Brazil

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  • Zafar Khan
    Jan 1, 2011
      Palestine to open embassy in Brazil
      President Mahmoud Abbas lays cornerstone in Brasilia on land for the Palestinians' first embassy in western hemisphere.
      Last Modified: 31 Dec 2010 19:36 GMT


      Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has laid the cornerstone for an embassy in Brazil - what will be the first such Palestinian delegation in the western hemisphere.

      A ceremony was held on Friday to initiate the building's construction in Brasilia, the capital, and Abbas thanked Brazil for recognising his naiton's statehood, adding that other countries were following suit.

      "We thank Brazil for its support in the construction of a Palestine state. This is a favour we will never forget," Abbas said.

      Brazil was the first of several South American countries in recent weeks to recognise a Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders.

      'Seriously harmful'

      Since then Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador have done the same. Chile, Mexico, Peru and Nicaragua are said to be considering recognition.

      Israel says the moves are "seriously harmful" to the Middle East peace process and Washington has called them "premature".

      However, direct peace talks revived by Washington in September after a year's suspension collapsed within weeks, and a US-backed drive to keep the process alive is in limbo.

      Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Brazil's capital Brasilia, said that Brazil's growing international influence is reflected in their recognition of a Palestinian state.

      "When Brazil openly proclaims its recognition of Palestine, it does so because of its growing clout," he said.

      In the face of US opposition to a unilateral declaration, Palestinian diplomats are lobbying for widespread recognition of a state within the 1967 borders, recognised by the global community as Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

      Riyad al-Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, said in a recent interview with local radio that as and when such support reaches critical mass his government is hoping to take their campaign to the UN Security Council (UNSC).

      "At a certain point, broad international recognition of statehood will enable the Palestinian leadership to turn to the UNSC and request full membership of the UN," he said.

      "The efforts now under way to get [individual] states to recognise statehood are in preparation for turning to the UNSC."

      UN push

      Should the UNSC push fail due to a veto by one of the permanent members - the US, Russia, France, China and Britain - Palestinians argue that they could use a rule applied in the past that allows for the same request to be put to the General Assembly.

      A draft resolution by the Palestinians and Arab states calling for Israel to halt all settlement activities due to go before the UNSC shortly will show whether the US is willing to use its veto in support of Israel, as it has often done in the past.

      Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, the outgoing Brazilian president, has surprised many with his mediation efforts in the Middle East peace process.

      He also angered Washington earlier this year when he held talks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, over the country's nuclear programme.

      In a further sign of growing pro-Palestinian sentiment in South America, Mercosur, the regional trade bloc, signed a trade agreement earlier this month with the Palestinian authority.

      Bolivia broke ties with Israel in 2009 after an attack by the latter on the Palestinian territories.

      Abbas will attend the swearing-in of Brazilian president-elect Dilma Rousseff on Saturday.

      The struggle for East Jerusalem
      Palestinian communities in East Jerusalem are waging a campaign of popular resistance against Israeli land confiscation.
      Jesse Rosenfeld Last Modified: 30 Dec 2010 14:01 GMT


      Half way down a hill, sandwiched between Jerusalem's Hadassa hospital and Hebrew University, sits the compact and overcrowded occupied East Jerusalem village of Issawiya.

      Before crossing the makeshift police checkpoint of concrete block obstacles at the edge of the University and entering the neighbourhood – which resembles more of a besieged West Bank refugee camp than a Jerusalem municipality – there is a clearly marked 'Dead End' street sign. On the main road leaving towards the hospital on the other side of the neighbourhood there is a wall of concrete cubes blocking any traffic, leaving just a narrow space for pedestrians to cross.

      Although the Jewish dominated Hebrew University has expanded onto Issawiya's land, the picture of Jerusalem from both places couldn't be more different. While Israeli students attend classes oblivious to life beyond the 'dead end', Israeli security forces have orchestrated a campaign of regular night time arrest raids against Issawiya residents in an effort to halt growing popular resistance to segregation, home demolition and land confiscation.

      The recent Israeli home demolitions, increasing the pressure on the already squeezed Palestinian community, have given rise to local youth organising ruckus street demonstrations, clashing with Israeli police and border guards at the neighbourhood checkpoints. Now the campaign has expanded and the youth of Issawiya have been joined by Israeli anti-occupation activists.

      With Israel continuing to expand Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem, squeezing and displacing the Palestinian residents under the banner of an undivided Israeli capital (a claim rejected by most of the world), the Palestinian Authority has been powerless in defending the residents of their future capital. Meanwhile, despite murmurs of discontent from Washington and the international community, international diplomacy has proven just as ineffective in advocating for the rights of Jerusalem's Palestinian residents.

      Now, failed by national leadership and abandoned by an international community to the mercy of an Israeli government that is forcing them from sight in order to make way for Israeli control and settlement, Palestinian residents are taking it on themselves to defend their land, rights and presence.

      As a result, East Jerusalem Palestinians are seeking to use local resistance to gain a voice in a city where decisions are governed by Israeli national and international interests. Issawiya has become the latest East Jerusalem community to instigate protests inspired by the village of Bi'lin's model of popular demonstrations coupled with international appeals for civil society and legal action. Loosing a vast amount of village lands to Israel's wall and settlements in 2005, the West Bank border village pioneered the modern Palestinian model for using popular resistance to fight land annexation. None-th-less, the leader of Bi'lin's popular committee, Abdullah Abu Rahmah, remains in Israeli military prison after completing an internationally condemned one year military court sentence for his political organising.

      At Issawiya's first joint Palestinian-Israeli demonstration on December 3, hundreds of local residents joined by left-wing Israelis chanted “From Issawiya to Bil'in, we are all Palestine” in Arabic.

      “There are many checkpoints, the Israelis close many of our roads and we can't get out of our village,” said Issawiya resident Rania Arafat who also discussed her brother's arrest in the recent night raids. “They have taken more than 800 dunnams of our land. We need that land to build houses, we need to be able to live in our village,” she added.

      The unrest in Issawiya has built on the momentum of local campaigns against Israeli settler evictions and home occupations in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah and more recent unrest against increasing settler presence and Palestinian home demolition in the Silwan neighbourhood. “We are from the same city and are in the same situation. This is what's happening in Jerusalem,” contends Arafat.

      Responding to Palestinian families evicted from their homes by Israeli settlers, last year Sheikh Jarrah was the first Jerusalem community to mount a popular struggle campaign following Bil'in's example. Yet, despite a broad non-violent protest movement that has brought participation from liberal Israelis, the settlers remain a year on. Not surprisingly, having seen peaceful means yet to remove the settlers, the struggle in Silwan has primarily opted for clashes and rioting to pressure the Israeli government, while Issawiya residents have adopted a mixed approach of joint non-violent struggle with Israelis and local youth clashing with police.

      The emergence of these sustaining and expanding local popular struggles is a potential game changer for Palestinians to respond to the increasing segregation and marginalisation in Jerusalem. As Israel has traditionally tried to hamper Palestinian organising in Jerusalem through barring the activity of the PLO and Palestinian national movements, those national grievances are now finding local expression.

      While clashes in Jerusalem have traditionally been sparked by emotional responses to Israeli symbolic provocations at sites like the the Al-Aqsa Mosque, now they are part of a calculated escalation that's building neighbourhood by neighbourhood in response an Israeli policy of systematic discrimination.

      No doubt this is a new form of struggle for the residents of occupied East Jerusalem, one that relies on sustained local resistance to challenge the Israeli policy of Jewish dominance carried out for National interests and negotiated on the international stage.

      For years now the popular unarmed resistance has been spreading across West Bank villages along the rout of Israel's wall, but the recent emergence of this type of campaign in easily ignitable Jerusalem could force a local Palestinian voice onto a political playing field that has treated Jerusalem Palestinians as an oppressed object rather than an agent for change.

      Jesse Rosenfeld is a freelance journalist based in Ramallah and Tel Aviv. He is an editor of www.thedailynuisance.com.

      Detained journalist questions right to freedom of speech for Palestinians
      West Bank security forces allegedly held George Canawati for five days after he reported on tensions within Fatah party


      Britain risks Israeli anger by extending diplomatic recognition to Palestinians
      Hague's planned move increases pressure on Netanyahu government after latest round of US-sponsored talks collapse

      By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem
      Tuesday, 28 December 2010


      Britain is expected to risk Israeli protests by upgrading the status of the Palestinians' diplomatic representation in London in response to the progress made in state-building preparations by its leadership in the West Bank.

      Although the move would be symbolic rather than practical, it is being contemplated at a sensitive time because of deepening Israeli unease over Palestinian efforts to achieve international recognition ahead of negotiations or peace agreement.

      Those efforts have gathered momentum in the wake of the United States' decision earlier this month to abandon efforts to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to renew a moratorium on settlement-building in return for resuming direct negotiations between the two sides. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that he would not take part in such talks without a settlement freeze.

      Ecuador last week became the latest of a series of Latin American countries – including Brazil and Argentina – to confer recognition of a Palestinian state within the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War. Israel regards such moves – which themselves have little practical significance – as helping to delude the Palestinian leadership into thinking it may be able to achieve a state without direct negotiations.

      Scaling a wall: Santa in Palestine
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      The Holy Land is on a tourism high
      Visitors are flocking back to Jesus's birthplace but border controls mean Israelis call the shots


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      Civil movements have led to positive changes on a global level in the past, setting a precedent for the BDS movement.


      In Bethlehem, shepherds watching their flocks by night are a dying breed
      Jewish settlements, Israeli army checkpoints, closed military zones and the separation wall make them an increasing rarity


      2011: Time for a Palestinian state?
      By Sherine Tadros in
      Middle East
      on December 21st, 2010.


      If you can’t beat them…try going it alone.

      That seems to be the new motto in the Palestinian camp. The idea is to get the United Nations to recognize a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders. Intense diplomacy is underway to get member states to onboard with the idea - so far a handful of Latin American countries (known to be sympathetic to the Palestinian cause) have lent their support.

      The Europeans, quelle surprise, are wavering. They’ve gone for the less controversial option of upgrading the Palestinian Authority diplomatic status.

      What does that mean?

      It doesn’t really matter. This whole exercise is the epitome of futility.

      As the diplomats lobby for recognition, Salam Fayyad, Palestinian prime minister, tries to build the institutions of this upcoming state. Not to rain on the Fayyad parade (I was a fan of ‘Fayyadism’ too back in the day) but the PM is managing the occupation not ending it. The institutions he is trying to fix are considered illegitimate and there is little he can do without knowing the fate of Palestine and its borders - it’s like trying to furnish a house before you build it.

      Happy New Year Palestine

      Now for some Christmas cheer. The Israelis have been franticly sending diplomatic cables (have they learnt nothing from WikiLeaks?) to countries abroad in an effort to get them to thwart the Palestinian plan.

      But the Israelis know full well the US will veto any such attempt (they’ve said so publicly and privately), so what is Israel so worried about?

      Last week, a Palestinian lawmaker hinted the Palestinians are also going to try and bring the issue of settlement-building to the UN Security Council.

      This has the potential of once again embarrassing Israel, pitting it against its BFF, the US. The one thing the two allies get fiery about is the legality of building Jewish homes in the West Bank, including (and most importantly) in East Jerusalem. America can scuttle its way out of recognition of a Palestinian state on the basis that it "is not conducive to peace" but will it veto a resolution on settlements it has said are illegal and a huge obstacle to peace?

      Either way this will not lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, at least not in 2011, because Palestinian independence means an end to Israel’s occupation.

      As my friend and colleague Karim Lebhour puts it, Israel is married to the occupation. It may flirt with other ideas, it may even cheat on it if the opportunity presents itself. But it will never leave it because it’s invested too much in making it work.

      Israel's unequal policy slammed
      Report says Israel uses two-tier system to promote settlements, while stifling Palestinian development.


      US House passes anti-Palestine bill
      Unless the US Congress takes a tougher line on lobbyists, Israel will continue building settlements on Palestinian land.
      MJ Rosenberg Last Modified: 16 Dec 2010 14:04 GMT


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      EU shelves recognition of Palestine
      Foreign ministers from European Union say they will recognise a Palestinian state "when appropriate".


      Israel upset by Argentina Palestinian recognition (AP) Associated Press) By DANIEL ESTRIN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 12/07/10 6:59 AM)


      Israel expressed disappointment Tuesday with Argentina´s recognition of a Palestinian state in territories Israel occupied in 1967, saying they undercut American-led efforts to create such a state through negotiations with Israel.

      Argentina said its move, announced Monday just days after Brazil took a similar step, reflected the country´s deep frustration with gridlocked peace efforts.

      But Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said unilateral recognition was "counterproductive" to peacemaking.

      "This disappointing and damaging decision is contrary to the existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements," which call for the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a peace treaty, Palmor said.

      Peacemaking efforts ground to a halt in late September, just three weeks after they began, when Israel resisted U.S. and Palestinian efforts to extend a moratorium on housing starts in West Bank settlements.

      Palestinians say they won´t return to the negotiating table unless Israel halts all settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war.

      The Palestinians want both territories, along with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, for a future state.

      The Palestinians say more than 100 countries have recognized a Palestinian state over the past two decades, most of them Muslim and former Soviet bloc countries. The United States and European Union - the major foreign powers involved in peacemaking - have not.

      Argentina´s foreign minister, Hector Timerman, said Monday that in view of stalemated peace efforts, "the time has come to recognize Palestine as a free and independent state."

      Israel´s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, played down the significance of the actions by Brazil and Argentina, telling Army Radio that the two nations are "distant" countries that "don´t realize the diplomatic mistake they made." He said the declarations have no practical meaning.

      Palestinian officials were buoyed by Argentina´s recognition.

      Market buzz over Palestine Exchange
      Palestine Exchange attracts attention as it offers shares to international investors.


      For the first time, the Palestine Stock Exchange is offering shares to international investors.

      Observers say the largest sale in 10 years is a sign of renewed confidence in the Palestinian Authority's economy.

      And from humble beginnings, the exchange is now making a big impact on the market.

      Nour Odeh reports from Nablus

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      Defending Palestinian solidarity
      There has been a recent escalation by the 'Israel Lobby' to muzzle the growing Palestinian solidarity movement.
      Ali Abunimah Last Modified: 07 Dec 2010 05:40 GMT


      The Electronic Intifada, the online publication about Palestine that I co-founded in 2001, finds itself at the centre of a storm as a pro-Israel group applies pressure to have a grant from a Dutch foundation withdrawn.

      This assault on our freedom of conscience is about much more than our website. It is part of a well-coordinated, escalating Israeli government-endorsed effort to vilify individuals and cripple organisations that criticise Israel's human rights record and call for it to respect Palestinian rights and international law.

      The latest salvo came in a scurrilous article in The Jerusalem Post based on allegations from a group called NGO Monitor, accusing The Electronic Intifada of "anti-Semitism" - without citing a single example from the almost 12,000 articles we have published. The Electronic Intifada has responded to NGO Monitor's accusations. Of course the charge of "anti-Semitism" has long been a weapon in the hands of Israel's apologists when they cannot find a factual basis to challenge the site's reporting and analysis.

      NGO Monitor zeroed in on a grant The Electronic Intifada has received from the Dutch foundation ICCO, which is itself subsidised by the Dutch government. Since 2006, this grant has made up about a third of The Electronic Intifada's budget (our total expenses were around $180,000 in 2009 as our public filings show and the majority of our funding comes from donations by our readers).

      In published comments, Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal said he would investigate the matter personally. MP Geert Wilders, Europe's most prominent Islamophobic politician, who has said he is proud to be compared to Israel's foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, also took aim at The Electronic Intifada in an interview with Israel's Haaretz.

      It is clear that by attempting to starve us - and other organisations of funds - NGO Monitor is trying to silence us. That The Electronic Intifada, a publication run by a handful of people, finds itself under sustained assault, only demonstrates the impact that independent online media have had by consistently reporting stories and providing analysis that mainstream media have sidelined.

      While NGO Monitor poses as an independent watchdog, it is in fact an Israeli organisation with close ties to Israel's radical West Bank settler movement, the government and military, and is supported by notorious purveyors of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim propaganda in the United States such as Daniel Pipes and Rita Emerson (who along with her husband Steven Emerson has been at the forefront of Islamophobic campaigns).

      Before attacking The Electronic Intifada, NGO Monitor made its name going after Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and distinguished Palestinian human rights organisations among dozens of others. Notably it has launched a McCarthyite war from within against Israeli human rights groups and foundations such as B'Tselem, HaMoked and the New Israel Fund. Indeed, by its own indiscriminate definition, NGO Monitor could well be considered "anti-Semitic" as it spends so much effort attacking Israelis and Jews around the world, especially Zionist ones, who argue that Israel would be more viable if it had a higher regard for human rights. NGO Monitor, while calling for transparency from others, remains opaque about its own funding sources.

      While NGO Monitor has been in business for years, its latest tactics fit into the strategy outlined by the Reut Institute, an influential Israeli think-tank that earlier this year called for Israel and its advocates to wage war against so-called "delegitimizers." Reut defined virtually the entire global Palestine solidarity movement, especially the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions modelled on the South African anti-apartheid struggle, and those who call for a one-state solution, as an "existential threat" which has the potential to rob Israel of its remaining legitimacy and bring about its collapse.

      On its website, the Reut Institute called for Israel's intelligence agencies to use possibly criminal "sabotage," and for pro-Israel groups to "attack" activists all over the world in "hubs" such as London, Madrid, Toronto and the San Francisco Bay Area. After The Electronic Intifada raised the alarm, the Reut Institute sanitised its website, although a copy of its original document remains on The Electronic Intifada, along with our report.

      Reut's call to "delegitimize the delegitimizers" and "name and shame" human rights activists has now become Israeli government policy. As part of its failed efforts to bribe Israel into renewing a largely fictitious moratorium on West Bank settlement construction, the Obama administration even promised, as Haaretz reported, to lend Israel support in the battle against "delegitimization."

      Focusing on "delegitimization" rather than trying to change Israel's atrocious behaviour, has also become the central strategy of Israel lobby groups in the United States. In October the Jewish Federations of North America - an umbrella for 157 major pro-Israel organisations - and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs launched a $6 million initiative called the "Israel Action Network" to fight "delegitimization," especially boycott, divestment and sanctions.

      I got a foretaste of what the Israel Action Network's tactics will likely be when Sam Sokolove, the head of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico, launched a failed effort to get academic departments at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque to withdraw their support for a lecture I gave in November. Sokolove's campaign involved publicly vilifying me in the media, likening me to a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It is probably because of the publicity the Jewish Federation gave me that hundreds of people attended my talk.

      These sorts of personal attacks and attempts to sabotage the work of people committed to justice and international law are only going to escalate. But will they work?

      The campaign against "delegitimizers" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding among Israel and its advocates that Israel suffers from an "image problem" which can be fixed on the one hand with better public relations, and on the other with the sorts of dirty tricks used against The Electronic Intifada and others. But Israel does not have an image problem, it has a reality problem.

      Its well-documented war crimes and brutal siege in Gaza, its expanding settlements in the West Bank, its slow ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, its escalating racism against Palestinian citizens of Israel, its use of extra-judicial executions and torture and its killing of unarmed activists on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla cannot be concealed.

      A fatal flaw in Israel's plan to fight back against "delegitimization" is that it offers only justifications for these deplorable realities and no positive vision of a decent, peaceful, sustainable and just life in the future for Israelis and Palestinians. For years, the so-called two-state solution filled this void - at least rhetorically - but it has lost all credibility in no small part because Israel lobby groups were so successful at protecting Israel from any action, especially American pressure, that would bring an end to the colonisation that has destroyed any possibility of a Palestinian state.

      Now, these same lobby groups find themselves fighting against growing support for the alternative their own actions have rendered inevitable: a struggle for equal rights for all the people who inhabit the land. Their war against "delegitimization" offers nothing more than anger, hatred and demonization, often in alliance with the most racist and openly Islamophobic elements in Israel and North America. That is not a vision but a dead-end. And while it will be another challenge on top of so many faced by Palestinians, it won't stop those who have a vision for justice, equality and universal rights and who are working to make it a reality.

      Ali Abunimah is co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of One Country, A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli Palestinian Impasse.

      The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.

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