9526News from Palestine: Freedom Denied: Palestinians decry detention
- Apr 18 2:13 AMFreedom Denied: Palestinians decry detention
Israel has detained an estimated 800,000 Palestinians in the occupied territories since 1967.
Konstantinos Antonopoulos and Jillian Kestler-D'Amours Last updated: 18 Apr 2014 07:56
[Click the link to view interactive site]
Pictures Don’t Lie: Refuting #There Was No Palestine
Posted on Apr 17, 2014
By Juan Cole
[Click the link for some old beautiful pictures]
One of the common assertions one finds in Zionist propaganda is that there “was never any Palestine.” This odd allegation is simply not true. Palestine has been used for a very long time to refer to the geographical area south of Sidon and north of the Sinai. There are medieval Muslim coins from a mint in that area with “Filastin” (Palestine) written on them. In the nineteenth century, diaries survive of locals who visited Damascus e.g. and wrote about how they missed “Filastin”, i.e. Palestine. At the Versailles Peace Conference, the Class A Mandate of Palestine was created, and in 1939 it was scheduled for independence within 10 years. I.e. British colonial administrators believed there was a Palestine and that it would soon become an independent country (as happened to similar Class A Mandates in Lebanon & Syria and Iraq).
There is currently an ironic Twitter meme by Palestinians, #there_was_no_Palestine, to which people are contributing visual evidence of Palestine. In 1920 when the League of Nations created the Palestinian state, it had a population of 700,000, of which about 76,000 were Jews. Almost all of the latter had immigrated in the previous 70 years. In 1850 only 4% of the population had been Jewish. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte found only 3,000 Jews. There had been hardly any Jews in Palestine since about 1100 AD.
So not only was there a Palestine, full of hundreds of thousands of people, over millennia, but there was a very long period of near-absence on the part of Jews. This absence was not because of a forcible expulsion. Rather, Jews in Palestine had converted to Christianity, and then many of those converted to Islam.
If what is being alleged is that there was no nation-state called Palestine, at least before the League of Nations created one, that is banal. There were no nation-states until the 19th century. There was no “Italy” before 1860. Venice was Austrian, Genoa French. There was no “Germany” before 1870. Lots of small principalities, some of them under other rule or influence. It is common for Romantic Nationalists of the early 19th century variety to imagine that the Greece that came into being in the 1820s (after having been an Ottoman province for some 300 years) was somehow a revival of the ancient land known as Greece. But it isn’t. That is a naive “Sleeping Beauty” theory of nationalism. There was no nation-state of Israel before 1948. That some ancient tribes might have been called that is irrelevant. Ancient tribes were also called Philistines, a form of the modern Palestinian.
In essence, the assertion by Zionists that there “was never any Palestine” has to be seen as a cruel boast, since it was their ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-48 that forestalled British and League of Nations plans to see an independent country of Palestine created, and which made most Palestinians refugees and stateless.
Here’s a sample of the Twitter campaign, embedding the tweets and accompanying photos:
A tree-hugging "peace" film detached from Palestine’s reality
Maureen Clare Murphy The Electronic Intifada 17 April 2014
A Palestinian and Jewish Israeli businessman start a solar panel business together — bravely confronting the bullies of the Israel boycott movement, who are the major force holding back the Middle East peace process — even when it tests their most intimate relationships.
The young men’s unprecedented project, with the help of Facebook, gives birth to a grassroots movement that witnesses mass protests in Ramallah and Tel Aviv, putting pressure on the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to finally sign a peace agreement.
Within months of the business’ launch, Israeli settlers are withdrawn from the West Bank, and Palestinians who were pushed off their land are able to go back and have a glimpse of their stolen property, satisfying their decades of longing for what they lost.
This is the preposterous plot of the European Union and UK-funded propaganda film Under the Same Sun, produced by normalization outfit Search for Common Ground, and Tel Aviv-based Lama Films. It is directed by Palestinian filmmaker Sameh Zoabi (Man Without a Cell Phone).
Nizar, the Palestinian protagonist, is played by Ali Suliman, who also starred in Ziad Doueri’s nonsensical Zionist apologist film The Attack (also produced by Lama Films), and Shaul, Nizar’s Israel counterpart, is played by Yossi Marshak.
Under the Same Sun, made in 2012, would be easily forgotten and is already stale, much like the “economic peace” sham it is devoted to selling. It is only being reviewed here because it was selected for both the upcoming Chicago and Houston Palestine Film Festivals’ programs this year. (The Electronic Intifada is a sponsor of the Chicago festival but this review represents my opinion alone.)
How about lifting Israeli sanctions on Palestine, Mr. Obama?
Thursday, 17 April 2014
Will the world oppose Israel’s sanctions campaign against Palestine? Will the world speak out against Israel’s delegitimization of Palestine? Will the world speak out against Israel’s refusal to recognize Palestine as a state?
Have you heard Western politicians ask these questions? I cannot recall one occasion. Yet Israel is sanctioning Palestinians, including the Palestinian Authority, and has done so frequently. In terms of Gaza, Israel has deployed extremely punitive sanctions. It refuses to recognize Palestine and many Israeli politicians declare that the Palestinian people do not exist and never have done. Most of the Israeli cabinet is openly against the two-state solution. Netanyahu is one of just a few ministers in favor of a Palestinian state. Israel does not recognize Palestine or its right to exist and worse, it takes action and sanctions Palestinians for trying to get their state recognized.
The latest round of Israeli sanctions was punishment for Palestine daring to sign up to 15 human rights agreements. Apparently Palestine signing up the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a crime; if so, one that Israel has also committed. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu threatened that “unilateral steps by them will be answered with unilateral steps by us” as if signing human rights conventions was worthy of any response except praise. In fact, I struggle to find any Western diplomatic praise for the Palestinian move at all. The real questions should be: will the Palestinians adhere to these 15 conventions they have just signed? Has any other state ever been condemned for signing up to them? And how come Palestine is the first state even to sign up to the Fourth Geneva Convention whilst still under occupation and having suffered from on-going violations of the convention for 46 years?
Standard Israeli sanctions
Not for the first time, Israel says it will take (steal) tax revenues owed to the Palestinian Authority, valued at around $100 million a month, amounting to two-thirds of the Authority’s budget. It is a violation of the Oslo accords. The best the U.S. could do was to describe this as “unfortunate,” as if this was some accidental mishap. EU politicians have barely uttered a word. Holding back tax revenues is a standard Israeli sanction, first used by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu himself in 1997. Palestine revenues were also stolen in 2011 and 2012 as punishment for the U.N. statehood bid, and also for applying to that notorious outfit, UNESCO.
When Israel actually introduces sanctions and prevents investment in Palestine, the world does nothing. Israeli sanctions are kosher yet Palestinian sanctions are haram
The more serious Israeli sanctions stem from the deliberate Israeli policy of crippling the Palestinian economy. Israel will not allow Palestinians to access all their land and resources especially in Area C of the West Bank, over 60 percent of the territory. In October 2013, the World Bank issued a report that estimated that if businesses and farms were granted access to Area C, it would reduce Palestine’s budget deficit by half and add as much as 35 percent to GDP. Palestinians cannot export freely with huge restrictions on movement and access. A Palestinian businessman told me it costs more to get products to Ashdod port in Israel than it does get them from Ashdod to Japan. Israel has refused to allow 3G mobile access let alone 4G, in the West Bank forcing Palestinians to pay Israeli mobile network operators for such services. The World Bank says this costs the Palestinian Authority a $100 million a year. A recent punishment was to cancel a permit
to allow Palestinian mobile operator, Wataniya, to take mobile phone equipment into Gaza. Of course, Gaza has been under blockade for seven years with no end in sight. Its population suffers from collective punishment and has been put on a “diet” in the words of one senior Israeli political adviser.
Palestinian journalists decry intimidation
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have committed at least 500 press freedom violations since 2007, rights group says.
Patrick Strickland Last updated: 14 Mar 2014 12:48
Ramallah, Occupied West Bank - George Canawati was not surprised when Palestinian Authority (PA) police forces showed up at his Bethlehem home in November 2013. It was, after all, his fourth arrest and detention related to journalism.
As the host of Radio Bethlehem 2000, a popular local talk show, he was arrested for "slander and insults" after criticising local police commander Colonel Omar Shalabi.
"The way they arrested me this time was barbaric," Canawati, who has been a radio journalist for over 15 years, told Al Jazeera. "The previous times they arrested me at my office, but this time they came to my home. They walked in, hit me, interrogated me and detained me."
Caught between the Israeli occupation and what some consider their increasingly repressive leadership, Palestinian journalists are no strangers to fear and intimidation.
From a total of 180 countries, Israel landed the 96th spot for worst violators of press freedoms, according to Reporters Without Borders' 2014 Press Freedom Index, an annual publication that ranks governments' treatment of journalists. The occupied Palestinian territories - including the PA-controlled West Bank and the Hamas-administered Gaza Strip - earned the 138th ranking.
Canawati was released without charge after 24 hours, but he is certain it will not be his last detention. He had previously been arrested in June 2013 for "slander and defamation" after reporting on internal divisions within Fatah, the ruling political party in the West Bank. Back in 2011, he was arrested for criticising medical services in Bethlehem.
He also was detained for five days in November 2010, after he broadcast a short news segment about tensions between PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Mohammed Dahlan, a senior member of Fatah currently based in Dubai.
Arrests are often carried out as a result of personal grudges authorities or officials have against journalists, Canawati said. "The larger problem, though, is that the people in charge who disagree with these arrests continue to cover up the actions of individuals."
Following Canawati's most recent detention and the arrest of Sami al-Sa'i, who was detained for reporting on a buildup of PA security forces in Jenin refugee camp, dozens of journalists gathered outside the office of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to demand an end to press freedom violations.
Islam Shahwan, the Ministry of Interior spokesperson, did not reply to repeated inquiries about whether there has been an investigation into allegations that the government has targeted the press.
Palestinians "live under decaying laws", Yousef al-Shayeb, who was also arrested by the PA for his journalism, told Al Jazeera.
The Ramallah-based Shayeb, who works for the Palestinian Al-Ayyam newspaper, penned an investigative report at the Jordanian Al-Ghad newspaper which alleged that the Palestinian diplomatic mission to France was hiring Palestinian students to spy on Muslim student organisations in France.
Shayeb's January 2012 article implicated several high-ranking Palestinian officials, such as Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, Deputy Ambassador Sawfat Ibraghit and Palestinian National Fund Director Ramzi Khouri. The politicians submitted libel claims against Shayeb and demanded $6m compensation, the largest amount ever requested in PA courts.
Shayeb was summoned to an eight-hour interrogation at the PA's intelligence headquarters on January 29, 2012. Interrogators ordered that he name the anonymous sources used in his article. "I refused to hand over my sources," he said, citing journalistic protections in Article 4 of the PA's 1995 Press and Publications Law.
Like Canawati, he was subsequently rearrested and charged with "slander and defamation" in late March 2012.
The Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) and the Palestinian Journalists Guild were denied requests to visit the journalist while he was in detention. In response to being held in solitary confinement, Shayeb launched a hunger strike till he was released on bail 15 days later.
"The problem is not with the legal system", but the "lack of accountability", Shayeb said. "We have laws to protect us", and the government "claims that journalists' right to information is as large as the sky. We think that should be reflected in the [application of the] law".
Ehab Bseiso, a government spokesman for the Palestinian Authority, told Al Jazeera that: "Yousef is a free journalist and can operate freely."
He dismissed allegations of intimidation and abuse among Palestinian journalists at the hands of the Palestinian Authority, stating: "These sorts of claims happen everywhere. This issue is raised in every country."
Jason Stern, a research associate for the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a group that monitors violations of press freedoms across the globe, explained that the ongoing division of Palestinian leadership is one of the primary factors behind press violations.
"Hamas authorities [in Gaza] tend to target journalists sympathetic to Fatah, and the [Fatah-led] Palestinian Authority tends to return the favour," Stern told Al Jazeera.
The greatest risks occur at demonstrations, Stern said, as journalists "are not only exposed to dangerous crowd control measures but also are often detained and have their equipment confiscated".
The PA and Hamas have committed at least 500 documented press violations since 2007, including arrests, detention, torture, physical violence and censorship, according to the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA).
Journalists are consequently forced to work in a political climate that has increasingly "led to the promotion of self-censorship among journalists, and media outlets", the MADA press release observed.
As recent as January 12, PA security forces detained journalists covering clashes between police and residents of Aida refugee camp near Bethlehem. Security forces subsequently deleted footage of the clashes from the journalists' cameras.
Back in August 2013, the PA prevented journalists from covering a Hamas-organised protest in solidarity with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in Hebron, a Palestinian city in the southern West Bank. That month alone, the PA was accused of at least eight violations against media freedoms, observed ICHR's monthly report.
Access to information
Israel, the PA and Hamas committed a combined total of at least 500 press violations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory during 2013, according to a new CPJ report.
Palestinian reporters are supposed to be able to work freely, according to article 27 of the Amended Basic Law of 2003 which serves as the PA's constitution.
In February, the government started gathering public input to improve a draft of the Access to Information law, proposed legislation that was created to improve journalistic oversight of public institutions, including the government's security apparatus.
The Ministry of Information and the Ministry of Interior failed to reply to Al Jazeera's several requests for comment about the progress of the legislation.
"Even if the law is passed, no one is going to apply it," Canawati said. "I will continue my work like I always do but even stronger. If they arrest me again, I no longer care."
Palestinians denounce 'financial blackmail'
The EU's warning of 'donor fatigue' amid peace talks with Israel unleashes a firestorm of criticism.
Khalid Amayreh Last updated: 31 Jan 2014 10:22
Hebron, Occupied West Bank - Palestinian leaders have reacted angrily to what they see as a veiled threat by the European Union over the dispersal of financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if peace talks with Israel fail to reach a breakthrough.
European officials recently warned the Palestinians that European countries were suffering from "donor fatigue" after spending billions of dollars in aid with limited results in achieving a lasting peace with the Israelis.
"It has been made very clear to the Palestinians that just sitting around and waiting is not an option," said Lars Faaborg-Andersen, EU ambassador to Israel. "We have made it clear to the parties that there will be a price to pay if these negotiations falter."
The EU’s sharpest warning, however, was reserved for Israel over its continued settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territories. "They [the settlements] are illegal under international law. They make a two state-solution more difficult, and they undermine trust in a peace process," Faaborg-Andersen said.
Each year the 28-nation EU provides about 1 billion euros ($1.4bn) of assistance to the Palestinian Authority - by far its largest donor.
But Palestinian leaders representing various political orientations said financial “blackmail” by the European Union or the United States wouldn't force the PA to surrender far-reaching concessions to Israel.
Wasel Abu Yousef is a member of the PLO executive committee, the highest Palestinian decision-making body to which the PA and its leader Mahmoud Abbas are answerable. He said no leader would respond to "financial bullying" by international donors.
"Any Palestinian leader budging under financial pressure from the US or EU would lose public support, and if and when this happens, that leader is finished," Abu Yousef told Al Jazeera. "If there were the slightest chance that we would cave in to financial pressure our national cause would have been liquidated a long time ago. I think the EU and the US know this fact very well."
He said, for many Palestinians, the peace talks with Israel are viewed with disdain anyhow. "The so-called peace talks have been futile from the very inception,” Abu Yousef said.
Balata: A camp of transitory permanance
Palestinian refugees face the paradoxical nature of 'temporary' shelter which has lasted 63 years, with no end in sight.
Jonathan Brown Last updated: 22 Jan 2014 06:13
Balata, Occupied Palestinian Territories - What does a refugee camp look like? Images of Syria's displaced millions have crystallised the common features, the stereotypes.
Zaatari in northern Jordan is a poignant example. After it opened in July 2012, its population swelled to more than 200,000 in less than a year. It became Jordan's fourth-largest "city". One-and-a-half years later, it is still all tents and temporary structures - the prevailing image is one of impermanence. So what does a permanent refugee camp look like?
One-hundred kilometres west of Zaatari is Balata, the West Bank's largest refugee camp. But, hovering just beyond Nablus in the northern West Bank, it defies the stereotypes. The United Nations opened Balata in 1950, in what was then the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and unlike its younger counterparts, Balata's humanitarian crisis is not at the fore of its character.
Rather, Balata is renowned as a hub of armed resistance to both Palestinian and Israeli military intrusion, and unexpectedly, it's famed for fostering tremendous football talent.
Ramsis is in his early 20s and still at university. His origins are a delicate issue. Ramsis is careful to make the distinction, he is "from Jaffa; born in Balata". Most refugees here are from Jaffa, near Tel Aviv in Israel.
"Many in Balata," Ramsis told Al Jazeera, "have held onto the keys to their houses in Jaffa, hoping to return one day." The Jaffa Cultural Centre in Balata encourages maintaining sentimental ties to Jaffa; it teaches the camp's residents about their "right to return".
Ramsis is not alone in embracing this lesson.
The isolation, Ramsis said, is not geographical. In reality, Balata is crammed stubbornly into the urban fabric of Nablus. The camp's boundaries are barely distinguishable from Nablus' suburbs at street level; the unsuspecting pedestrian could walk past the camp without realising it, oblivious to the largely self-sufficient society inside.
Two historical sites of biblical significance loom over Balata's doorstep. Jacob's Well is literally a stone's throw away from the camp's northern boundary. The sacred well is built into the compound of an ornate Greek Orthodox monastery. Tell Balata , meanwhile, is an ancient archaeological site dating from the 2nd century BC, and is crucial in framing Nablus' historical profile. Tell Balata draws a wide international and academic focus.
With the persistent attention Balata's ancient neighbours demand, the camp's population is constantly inferring that their place in history is rarely prioritised - at home or internationally. Balata's proximity to these ancient sites and the transparency of the camp's boundaries mean religious tourists from Israel to Nablus regularly travel with armed accompaniment. Too often, these are the ears that hear Balata's message of acute frustration. Too often, Balata is seen resorting to volleys of stones, road-blocks, and flaming tyres to deliver this statement.
Palestinians honour Gaza psychiatric pioneer
Dr Eyad El-Sarraj, a Palestinian psychiatrist and human rights defender, dies after long battle with cancer.
Jillian Kestler-D'Amours Last updated: 18 Dec 2013 12:51
Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj was a dedicated medical professional and pioneer in the field of mental health.
But to those who knew him best, the respected Palestinian psychiatrist and human rights defender - who died on Tuesday evening after a long battle with cancer - was something even more powerful: a dreamer.
"He was some sort of romantic revolutionary because he dreamt about things that to others were not achievable," said Jaber Wishah, deputy director of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza City, and one of his close friends.
El-Sarraj, 70, died on Tuesday in an Israeli hospital where he was receiving cancer treatment.
His body was being brought back to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday morning, and his funeral was expected to begin after midday prayer at al-Omari mosque in Gaza City that same day.
"In a conservative community like the Palestinian community, mental health and psycho-threapy [are] not in the eyes of the people," Wishah told Al Jazeera.
"But with his courage and his commitment and his honesty and his personality, he gradually introduced this culture of [looking at] the impact of the occupation. He is the pioneer."
El-Sarraj was born in 1944 in Bir al-Saba' (now known as Beersheba). His family fled to the Gaza Strip in 1948 after some 750,000 Palestinians were displaced following the creation of the state of Israel, a period known to Palestinians as the "Nakba", or catastrophe.
After receiving degrees from Alexandria University in Egypt and the University of London's Institute of Psychiatry, El-Sarraj founded the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme (GCMHP) in 1990.
The GCMHP provided much-needed psychological support and rehabilitation for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, especially women and children.
Husam El-Nounou, who worked alongside him at the GCMHP for 22 years, said the organisation has helped some 35,000 Palestinians since its creation.
"Dr. Sarraj paved the way for a discipline that was not well-known, a discipline that was stigmatized not only for the patients, but also for the workers. He lit a candle and he founded an enlightened movement for Gaza and for Palestine," El-Nounou told Al Jazeera.
"I have lost a father and a teacher, a person whom I love [and] respect. I learned a lot from him, and I feel all this sorrow now," he said.
El-Sarraj was a staunch critic of both Israeli policies towards Palestinians, and the Palestinian leadership, and was arrested and allegedly tortured by Palestinian authorities in 1996 for condemning rights abuses.
He was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority (PA) three times.
Despite this, he continued his work in Gaza and earned widespread international recognition.
He received the Physicians for Human Rights Award in 1997, the Martin Ennals Award for human rights defenders in 1998, and the Juan Lopez Ibor award in 2010.
El-Sarraj also received the Olof Palme Prize in 2010 for his "self-sacrificing and indefatigable struggle for common sense, reconciliation and peace between Palestine and Israel".
"I am proud and happy to receive this prize, but I consider that the real heroes are the victims of violence, torture and war… This prize gives me hope and encourages me to continue to fight to defend those whose rights have been abused, and to work for justice and peace," El-Sarraj said after receiving the award.
Mental health needs
“It's a big loss,” said Shawan Jabarin, head of Al Haq, a Ramallah-based Palestinian human rights organisation, on hearing about El-Sarraj's death.
“He was a well-known person and he used to speak loudly and critically and his voice was heard by all the people, not just here in Palestine, but also on the international level,” he said.
Jabarin told Al Jazeera that El-Sarraj’s work was invaluable for the 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza, many of whom suffer from psychological issues due to the tight Egyptian-Israeli siege, and recent destructive Israeli military operations, on the Palestinian territory.
The lastest Israeli offensive into Gaza, dubbed "Operation Pillar of Defence", left over 100 Palestinian civilians dead in November 2012.
Two months after the operation, the United Nations' agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) found that the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in Gaza rose by 100 percent, and that 42 percent of patients were under the age of nine.
A UNICEF report released immediately after the ceasefire reported that 91 percent of children surveyed in Gaza had trouble sleeping, 85 percent couldn't concentrate, and 82 percent reported feelings of anger and symptoms of mental strain.
El-Sarraj also testified in June 2009 before the UN fact-finding mission investigating Israel's 18-day assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008-09, termed "Operation Cast Lead", which killed some 1,400 Palestinians, including 352 children.
Widely known as the Goldstone report, after South African judge Richard Goldstone who headed the UN team, the report accused both Israel and armed Palestinian groups in Gaza of committing war crimes during the fighting.
El-Sarraj stated that more than 20 percent of Palestinian children in Gaza suffered from PTSD after the war, and that some 300 mental health specialists were needed to meet the health needs of the entire community.
"I wish that the Israelis would start... to walk on the road of dealing with the consequences of their own victimization and to start dealing with the Palestinian as a human being, a full human being who’s equal in rights with the Israeli," El-Sarraj said in his testimony.
"And also the other way around, the Palestinian must deal with himself, must respect himself and respect his own differences in order to be able to stand before the Israeli also as a full human being with equal rights and obligations. This is the real road for justice and for peace."
El-Sarraj was an outspoken critic of the ongoing siege of Gaza.
In an October 2011 opinion piece, co-authored with PCHR director Raji Souhani, El Sarraj wrote: "As many as 1.8 million Gazans remain locked inside the world's largest open-air prison. The international community cannot allow this crime to continue."
He also pushed strongly for an end to the ongoing division between the two major Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas.
According to friend Jaber Wishah, El-Sarraj would organise meetings at his Gaza home in efforts to bring the two sides to reconcile.
"We will hear long speeches commemmorating the passing of Dr. Eyad, but a real commemoration is to bring this ugly political split to an end. This is the deal that Dr. Eyad was dreaming to be fulfilled in his life," Wishah told Al Jazeera.
"If we are sincere, we should bring this dream to reality."
Palestinians police Israeli-controlled area
Unprecedented patrols in crime-infested town by Palestinian security forces raise questions.
Dalia Hatuqa Last updated: 19 Nov 2013 11:59
Al Ram, West Bank - Residents in this small town were surprised last week to see armed Palestinian Authority security forces patrolling the streets. The area has become a drug-infested, crime-ridden hub for outlaws after years of Israeli neglect and because the PA wasn't allowed to operate in the area.
Once a thriving suburb of Jerusalem, Al Ram began to change when Israel started building the separation barrier in 2002. Eventually the town was surrounded by the wall on three sides, cutting off Al Ram from the eastern part of Jerusalem and causing residents to move and business owners to close up shop. Much of Al Ram's land was left on the Israeli side of the wall, and the town also was cut off from many nearby villages.
Once a commercial hub, it soon turned into a ghost town and after Israeli police patrols ended, criminals began taking advantage of the security limbo.
Last week's unprecedented operation carried out by Palestinian security forces to weed out criminals came as a welcome surprise to some officials.
"Al Ram is in a state of chaos," said Ali Maslamani, the town's mayor. "It has been like this for a very long time. Because of the occupation, weapons in the hands of outlaws are ubiquitous. Gunfire is heard on a daily basis, even armed robberies, attacks on citizens, stolen cars."
Cash crunch cripples Palestinian colleges
Massive budget deficits have forced education institutions to cut staff and programmes.
Khalid Amayreh Last Modified: 28 Oct 2013 12:57
Ramallah, Occupied West Bank - Until recently Palestinian colleges were among the best in the Arab world, but amid severe shortages in public and private funding, many are now struggling to make ends meet.
As a result institutions such as Birzeit University - whose students recently blocked lecturers from entering classes in protest against tuition hikes - have been forced to freeze programmes and adopt stiff austerity measures in order to stay afloat.
Other Palestinian universities such as Nablus' al-Najah University have boosted student registration in order to raise more funds. But critics say this solution could compromise the quality of education.
About 14 universities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip cater to roughly 150,000 college students.
These institutions not only meet the needs of the local and relatively small market for skilled workers, they also play a national political role by removing the need for young Palestinians to seek college education abroad which, in many cases, ends up with students permanently living in other countries.
Palestinian college officials vehemently deny that poor students who cannot pay tuition are being expelled. However, they don't deny that students are quitting college or postponing semesters because they can't afford to cover the rising costs of college education.
Moreover, students who don't repay their debt are often prevented from graduating and receiving their diplomas pending "financial clearance".
Many poor students who are unable to cover their education costs work in Israel or in Jewish settlements in the West Bank to save enough money for the next semester.
University administrations are trying to manage the crisis as best they can.
Ahmed Atawneh is president of al-Khalil (Hebron) University, the oldest in the occupied territories. Atawneh says Palestinian universities have been forced to use staff pension funds to pay wages, while colleges have taken bank loans to keep running.