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Israel War Crimes: Gazan killed, 7 children hurt in Israeli strike: doctors

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  • Zafar Khan
    Gazan killed, 7 children hurt in Israeli strike: doctors A Gaza civilian was killed and 12 others wounded, among them seven children, when an Israeli air
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 16, 2011
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      Gazan killed, 7 children hurt in Israeli strike: doctors
      A Gaza civilian was killed and 12 others wounded, among them seven children, when an Israeli air strike hit a home next to a militant training ground, medics said on Friday
      AFPPublished: 12:22 December 9, 2011


      Gaza City: A Gaza civilian was killed and 12 others wounded, among them seven children, when an Israeli air strike hit a home next to a militant training ground, medics said on Friday.
      The raid destroyed a home in eastern Gaza City, killing Bahjat Al Zaalan, 37, and injuring many of his family members, more than half of them children, emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya said.
      “ Seven children were wounded, two of them very seriously ”
      Emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya
      "Seven children were wounded, two of them very seriously," he said, indicating that Zaalan's wife and daughter were also hurt in the attack as well as three other people.
      The strike, which targeted a Hamas militant training ground nearby, caused the house to collapse, and several other houses nearby were also partly destroyed or burned.

      The Israeli military issued a laconic statement confirming it carried out two overnight raids on "terror activity sites," one of which was in northern Gaza, but made no mention of the civilian casualties.
      "Overnight, IAF aircraft targeted two terror activity sites in the northern and southern Gaza Strip. Directs hits were confirmed," a military statement said, with a spokeswoman saying the raids were in response to overnight rocketfire on southern Israel.
      City of Rafah
      An AFP photographer confirmed a second Israeli strike on the southern city of Rafah, saying it had hit a militant training ground. No-one was injured in the raid.
      The strikes came several hours after at least three rockets were fired into southern Israel, causing no injuries or damage, police sources said.
      The rocket fire was in response to an earlier deadly Israeli raid on Thursday afternoon which targeted a car in Gaza City, killing two militants and injuring another four people.
      Israel said one of the men was responsible for planning a deadly bombing in Eilat in 2007 which killed three Israelis.

      Israeli settlers harass released prisoners, threaten them with death
      Brendan Work The Electronic Intifada West Bank 1 December 2011


      When olive season came to the northern West Bank village of Tell, the Ramadan family could be found spreading tarps underneath trees and thwacking down the high-hanging fruits with sticks. The talk was of cousins Khwaylid and Nizar Ramadan, two native sons freed from Israeli military prison as part of mid-October’s prisoner swap deal and exiled to the Gaza Strip and Qatar, respectively. Then, the day after the swap, a group of Israeli settlers put up wanted posters of the Ramadan cousins on Facebook: $100,000 would be paid for information leading to the death or capture of each.

      Khwaylid and Nizar are two of four Palestinian ex-prisoners with prices on their heads, offered and advertised by fringe ideologues in the Jewish settler community in violation of Israeli and international law. A group of settlers affiliated with the Kach party in Hebron are responsible for the $100,000 rewards on two other Palestinians, Mustafa Muslimani and Hani Jaber. Baruch Marzel, one of the settlers, has been seen in public hanging posters with Jaber’s face under stark Hebrew letters spelling, “Kill him first,” according to an article in the Israeli daily Ynet (“Right-wing activists in Hebron hunt for released terrorist,” Ynet,” 26 October 2011 [Hebrew]).

      The Ramadan cousins were convicted in 1998 in an Israeli military court of killing Shlomo Liebman and Harel Ben-Nun, two yeshiva students in the Jewish settlement of Yitzhar, which sits atop the opposite hill from Tell. Both were sentenced to life imprisonment, but when the Liebman family heard they had been released, they decided that “by the laws of Moses” their lives were again forfeit.

      “I was and wasn’t expecting that from them,” said Khwaylid’s father, who asked that his name be withheld. “They’re more dangerous than other settlers. They’re out of their minds.”

      Nonetheless, he said he’s happy to report that Khwaylid is in good health in Gaza and unworried. Others in Tell familiar with the death threat said Khwaylid had hired two bodyguards. Scoffing at the matter altogether, Khwaylid’s uncle Ahmed Ramadan repeated a fatalistic refrain.

      “Our times are in God’s hands,” he said. “I’m not scared and neither is he. If you live, you live, and if you die, you die. [Khwaylid] could be in a car or plane or bus and die there.”

      Settlers receiving funds from US institution

      In Ahmed Ramadan’s memory, however, this is the first time settlers have put a price — much less one so high — on the head of a particular Palestinian. The wanted posters were written in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Turkish (the Liebman family originally believed Nazzar would be exiled to Turkey) and distributed on Facebook until the site deleted them after a month.

      The Arabic poster, the Ramadan family fears, was specifically intended for collaborators in Gaza. The English version promises $100,000 to “the first to catch the terrorists who killed our dear brother Shlomo Liebman in 1998 while guarding the Yizhar settlement in Samaria and our revenge to avenge them [sic] by the laws of Moses” (“Initial release: $100,000 on the heads of the murderers of Shlomo Liebman,” 18 October 2011 [Hebrew]).

      It is not known whether the reward money in any of the four cases comes from the Liebman family wealth or otherwise private coffers in Hebron. Yitzhar receives about a half million dollars each year from the Israeli government, despite calls from the Israeli general security service Shin Bet (Shabak) to halt the funding over reports that the yeshiva’s senior rabbis were encouraging students to attack Palestinians (“Shin Bet urges Israeli government to halt funding of West Bank yeshiva,” Haaretz, 27 September 2011).

      The settlement also receives tens of thousands of dollars in tax-deductible donations from the New York-based Central Fund for Israel, as do Hebron settlers from the Hebron Fund (“US tax dollars fund rabbi who excused killing gentile babies,” Haaretz, 15 December 2009).

      The Liebman family did not respond to media requests.

      Israel to forcibly remove bedouin communities in settlements push
      Relocation of 2,300 people in West Bank to site near Jerusalem rubbish tip would make contiguous Palestinian state impossible
      Harriet Sherwood in Khan al-Ahmar
      guardian.co.uk, Monday 5 December 2011 16.43 GMT


      Around 20 bedouin communities between Jerusalem and Jericho are to be forcibly relocated from the land on which they have lived for 60 years under an Israeli plan to expand a huge Jewish settlement.

      The removal of around 2,300 members of the bedouin Jahalin tribe, two-thirds of whom are children, is due to begin next month. The Israeli authorities plan to relocate the families from the West Bank to a site close to a municipal rubbish dump on the edge of Jerusalem.

      The bedouin say the move would expose them to health hazards, deny them access to land to graze their livestock and endanger their traditional lifestyle. They add that the viability of their existing communities has been seriously eroded by the growth of Jewish settlements, the creation of military zones, demolitions of homes and animal pens, and the building of a highway which cuts through their encampments.

      "Because of the [military] closures and the settlements, we are living in a jail which gets smaller every year," said Eid Hamis Swelem Jahalin, 46, who was born in the encampment of Khan al-Ahmar, and has lived there almost all his life.

      The relocation plan is the first phase of a longer term programme to remove around 27,000 bedouin Arabs from area C, the 62% of the West Bank under Israeli military control.

      The communities have not been formally notified of the plan, which was disclosed by Israel's civil administration, the military body governing area C, to a UN agency.

      The head of the civil administration visited Khan al-Ahmar three weeks ago to give verbal warning of the impending removal, said Hamis. "He said the land belongs to the government, that we are illegally here. I told him that I lived here before 1967, before you even came to our land."

      The tiny communities perched on the bleak rocky hills which roll down towards the Dead Sea endure a harsh existence without electricity, running water, sanitation, paved roads and medical facilities. The bedouin homes are makeshift structures of wood, corrugated iron and tarpaulin.

      The nearby Jewish settlements, in contrast, are connected to utilities and services. Ma'ale Adumim, home to almost 40,000 people and which overlooks the Jahalin communities, has 21 schools, 80 kindergartens, a public transport network, libraries, swimming pools and shopping malls.

      The area on which the Jahalin live has been designated by Israel for the expansion of Ma'ale Adumim. Many Palestinians see this as part of a strategic plan to close a ring of Jewish settlements that would cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank. By stretching down to the Jordan valley, an expanded Ma'ale Adumim would also bisect the West Bank, making a contiguous Palestinian state impossible.

      "They want to empty the bedouin from the whole area, and they will put settlers in our place, and there will be no Palestinian state," said Hamis. All Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.

      The Jahalin were originally from the Negev desert, from which they fled or were forced out following the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Now the extended tribe is scattered across the West Bank. Those threatened with relocation say they rented the land from its Palestinian owners, who live in the nearby village of Anata. But the Israeli authorities say the land now belongs to the state, and their homes, animal pens and small schools are built without permission – which is practically impossible to obtain – and therefore subject to demolition.

      All 257 Jahalin families in the five villages straddling the Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway have been issued with demolition orders.

      A school serving their young children, built two and a half years ago from old car tyres and mud, is also threatened following pressure from nearby settlers. "Since the beginning they wanted to move us from here, but building the school made it worse," said Hamis, adding that the settlers saw it as a sign of permanence.

      The removal plans are not final, according to the civil administration, whose spokesman has been quoted as saying the Israeli authorities are trying to find an acceptable solution for the bedouin whose communities are "illegally located".

      The proposed relocation site is already home to around 4,000 Jahalin who were evicted from their encampments in the mid-1990s. According to the UN, the site "does not meet minimum standards in terms of distance from the municipal dumping grounds … previously relocated families report negative consequences, including health concerns, loss of livelihood, deteriorated living conditions, loss of tribal cohesion and erosion of traditional lifestyles."

      Jerusalem mosque set alight in suspected 'price tag' attack
      Jerusalem Mayor denounces arsonists' attack on burial site of noted Muslim figure, saying zero tolerance should be shown to violence of any kind, and that coexistence in the city must be kept.

      By Oz Rosenberg and Nir Hasson


      Vandals attack disused Jerusalem mosque
      Vandals have set fire to a disused 12th Century mosque in the centre of Jerusalem and left graffiti insulting the Prophet Muhammad on its walls.
      14 December 2011 Last updated at 11:42


      Jerusalem's mayor denounced the attack, which caused no structural damage.

      The incident is being linked to a wave of attacks by Jewish settlers and right-wing extremists angered by what they see as Israeli government attempts to restrict settlement building.

      Early on Tuesday, protesters broke into an Israeli army base in the West Bank.

      They set tyres alight and damaged vehicles inside the Ephraim Brigade's headquarters near Qalqilya, officials said. The brigade's commander was also slightly injured when his vehicle was pelted with stones.

      Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the violence "intolerable" and told security forces to "to act aggressively" against those responsible.

      Jewish settlers set fire to another mosque
      Published: Dec 15, 2011 15:08 Updated: Dec 16, 2011 00:34


      JERUSALEM: People thought to be Jewish settlers set fire to a mosque, damaging its interior, in the West Bank on Thursday after Israeli forces tore down structures in a settler-outpost built without government approval.

      The vandalism appeared to be the latest act of defiance by militant settlers whom Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to rein in after similar attacks on mosques and vandalism at an Israeli military base.

      In pictures: When a non-violent protest ends in death
      Palestinian villager killed after being shot in the face with a tear gas canister by an Israeli soldier at close range.
      Lazar Simeonov and Renee Lewis Last Modified: 11 Dec 2011 13:03


      Nabi Saleh, a small village of about 550 people, 20 km northwest of Ramallah in the West Bank, has been organising non-violent protests against land theft since 2009.

      On December 9, 2011, the Friday demonstration began as it always did: villagers, international and Israeli activists gathered in the centre of the village and marched towards land usurped by the Israeli settlement of Halamish. Soon after, the Israeli military drove to the entrance of the village in jeeps and began firing teargas at the protesters.

      Mustafa Tamimi, 28, was protesting with other young men from the village. As the jeeps stopped to let a bulldozer clear rocks that had been placed in the road to prevent their entrance, Tamimi and a few others moved closer to throw stones in a symbolic gesture against occupation.

      An Israeli soldier opened his door, aimed his gun and shot Tamimi directly in the face with an "extended range" teargas canister; he was shot from a distance of less than 10 metres, according to witnesses.

      Tamimi died from his injuries.

      Some experts trace conflict in the area back to 1976, when the illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish (or Neveh Tzuf) was established on land belonging to Nabi Saleh. Since then, the settlement has continued to grow and expand. In 2008, residents of the village challenged the construction of a fence by Israeli settlers on private Palestinian land.

      When the case was brought to Israeli court, it was decided that the fence must be removed. However, like many Israeli court rulings on Palestinian grievances, it was not upheld "on the ground" and the settlement continued to illegally annex Palestinian land.

      Soon after, settlers seized control of several springs which were all located on land belonging to Nabi Saleh residents.

      Today, around 13 per cent of the villagers has been arrested by Israeli authorities for participating in the demonstrations - including 29 children and four women.

      Recently, two prominent leaders of the non-violent struggle, Naji Tamimi and Bassem Tamimi, were arrested and remain prisoners in Israel. They are charged with "incitement" and organising "illegal" demonstrations.

      Israeli plan would uproot 30,000 Bedouin

      By REUTERS
      Published: Nov 23, 2011 21:31 Updated: Nov 23, 2011 21:31


      AL-ARAKIB, Israel: Bulldozed by Israel more than two dozen times, a village known by Bedouin Arabs as Al-Arakib is one of many ramshackle desert communities whose names have never appeared on any official map.

      If Israel's Parliament adopts proposed new legislation, it never will.

      The plan to demolish more Bedouin homes in the southern Negev region and move 30,000 people to government-authorized villages connected to power and water lines has been hailed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "historic opportunity" to improve Bedouin lives.

      But Israeli Arab leaders, who have long complained about discrimination against their community in the Jewish state, call it "ethnic cleansing," and aim to thwart the project with protests, a general strike and appeals to the United Nations to intervene.

      "I will never leave here, I intend to stay until I die," said Abu-Madyam, 46, a farmer from Al-Arakib.

      He and his family of nine live in a makeshift plastic-sided shack in a cemetery near the ruins of their wooden home, razed by Israeli authorities last year.

      The project is the most ambitious attempt in decades by the government to resettle Negev Bedouin and free up land in the largely open spaces of southern Israel for development and construction of military bases to replace facilities in the crowded center of the country.

      Some Israelis argue the Bedouin have grown too dominant in the Negev, a geographic area wedged between Hamas-ruled Gaza and the occupied West Bank where Palestinians want a state, and that they pose a possible security risk.

      The area being restructured also abuts Israel's largest Negev city of Beersheba and is near several military bases.

      For decades, Israeli governments have tried to attract Jewish Israelis to move to the Negev, offering mortgage and tax breaks, but the region has fewer opportunities for employment than in the heavily populated center of the country.

      Only 20 percent of Israel's Jewish population lives in the Negev, which covers more than 60 percent of the nation's land area. Bedouin villages take up two percent of Negev land.

      Arabs make up about 20 percent of Israel's population of seven million, 200,000 of them Bedouin citizens. Most of Israel's Bedouin, who predominate in the desert area that accounts for two-thirds of its territory, are descendants of nomadic tribes that had wandered across the Middle East from time immemorial.

      Half of the Bedouin live in towns and villages recognized as formal communities by the government. Others live rough, in tents and shacks on patches of desert.

      Israel's self-fulfilling prophecy on Iran
      Another round of Middle East confrontation involving Israel may kick-start after the latest IAEA report.
      John Bell and John Zada Last Modified: 10 Nov 2011 12:56


      From Palestine to Israel: A photographic record of destruction and state
      By Rachael Cloughton
      Notebook - A selection of Independent views -
      Tuesday, 8 November 2011 at 4:11 pm


      Formation is an assembly of photographs taken from various Israeli state archives, documenting the period between 1947-50. The images have been reorganised in an attempt to detach them from the national assumptions that previously lead the photograph’s meaning. Instead, they disclose the reality of the events they document.

      A re-write of the captions accompanying the 214 photographs in the exhibition is instrumental to achieving this alternative ‘civil’ archive. Replacing the former IDF denotations are descriptions by the project’s curator – Ariella Azoulay, an Israeli Jew and director of Photo-Lexic, an International Research Centre at Tel Aviv University.

      The newly written captions now emphasise what the image contains, not the ideologies it has been used to propagate, or the false significations created to justify occupation and State formation. As a corollary, muted emergency claims nullified by the dominant Zionist narrative that has manipulated the photograph’s reading for the past 60 years, come to the fore. The IDF captions are ‘inadequate to describe what they show, they usually also serve to make what appears in them look like something else,’ according to Azoulay. When the military perspective is shed the catastrophe documented within the image becomes evident.

      One photograph titled ‘Afula’ was previously described to depict ‘Arab citizens harvesting crops in the fields; Haganah members guarding them,’ by the IDF. Azoulay here re-writes the past to describe what really happened. The Arab citizens are not gathering crops in ‘Afula’, she holds that they are digging a hole to bury those murdered during fighting or massacre. ‘The generality imposed on this photograph enables it to illustrate accurately repetitive Palestinian testimonies about the general recurrent procedure: a number of village men are taken under threat to bury those who has previously been shot…in secret or before their eyes,’ the caption asserts.

      The reality of the event at ‘Afula’ exists visibly within the image; the guards are equipped with guns and are wearing masks to shield against the stench of rotting flesh that surrounds them – unlikely garb for the protectors of farmers. Yet, the dominance of the previous IDF narrative has diverted attention away from what is apparent.

      Apartheid and the occupation of Palestine
      As the Russell Tribunal convenes to discuss apartheid, Israel has already surpassed South Africa's racist era.
      John Dugard Last Modified: 04 Nov 2011 09:00


      This week, the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will consider the question of whether Israel's practices in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) constitute the crime of apartheid within the meaning of the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. This Convention, which has been incorporated into the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, is not confined to apartheid in South Africa. Instead it criminalises, under international law, practices that resemble apartheid.

      The Russell Tribunal was initiated in the 1960s by the philosopher Bertrand Russell to examine war crimes committed during the Vietnam War. It has now been revived to consider Israel's violations of international law. It is not a judicial tribunal, but a tribunal comprising reputable jurors from different countries, that seeks to examine whether Israel has violated international criminal law and should be held accountable.

      In essence, the Russell Tribunal is a court of international public opinion. It will hear evidence in Cape Town on the scope of the 1973 Apartheid Convention, on apartheid as practiced in South Africa, on Israeli practices in the OPT, particularly the West Bank, and on the question whether these practices so closely resemble those of apartheid as to bring them within the prohibitions of the 1973 Apartheid Convention. The Israeli government has been invited to testify before the tribunal, but, at this stage, has not replied to the invitation. Most of the evidence will inevitably, therefore, be critical of Israel.

      Israel cannot be held accountable for its actions by any international tribunal as it refuses to accept the jurisdiction of either the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court. The Russell Tribunal seeks to remedy this weakness in the international system of justice by providing for accountability by a court of international opinion. It does not seek to obstruct the peace process. On the contrary, it wishes to promote it. But there can be no peace without justice. This is a basic principle that Richard Goldstone, who has written an op-ed criticising the Russell Tribunal (Israel and the Apartheid Slander, New York Times, October 31, 2011), has devoted much his life to, as prosecutor before the Yugoslavia Tribunal.

      Is it true to say, as Richard Goldstone has argued, that there is no basis for likening Israel's occupation of the OPT to that of apartheid? Is it true, as he argues, that such suggestions are "pernicious" and "inaccurate"? Or is there substance in these suggestions?

      Of course, the regimes of apartheid and occupation are different. Apartheid South Africa was a state that practiced discrimination against its own people. It sought to fragment the country into white South Africa and black Bantustans. Its security laws were used to brutally suppress opposition to apartheid. Israel, on the other hand, is an occupying power that controls a foreign territory and its people under a regime recognised by international law - belligerent occupation.

      However, in practice, there is little difference. Both regimes were/are characterised by discrimination, repression and territorial fragmentation (that is, land seizures).

      The Bedouin vs Israel's bulldozers
      As Jewish settlers move into the desert to make it 'bloom', an ancient way of life is under threat. In Alsra, Catrina Stewart speaks to Arab families on the fault line


      At the top of an unmarked track leading into the small village of Alsra, in the Negev desert, somebody has placed a triangular road sign barring the entry of bulldozers. They will come, nevertheless, for every family in this village has been served with a demolition order by the Israeli authorities.

      The indigenous Bedouin Arabs have eked out an existence in the desert for generations, but despite being citizens of Israel, their communities do not exist officially. Alsra, and others like it, does not appear on any official map; does not connect to any roads, and does not receive basic services from the state, such as electricity or sewage treatment.

      By contrast, Jewish families have been encouraged to settle in this part of the country to make the desert "bloom" and small, gated farming communities – fully serviced with water and electricity – have sprung up close to the Bedouin villages.

      For the Bedouin, however, worse is to come. Under a sweeping new proposal, dubbed the Prawer report, Israel is seeking to corral 30,000 Bedouin living in the Negev's "unrecognised" villages – some little more than tented encampments – into destitute Bedouin townships, a move that human rights groups say will not only dispossess a people of their ancestral lands but also shatter a disappearing way of life.

      Those townships are some of the poorest, most overcrowded and crime-ridden communities in Israel, a far cry from the farms where the Bedouin can tend their livestock.

      "It is our second naqba," says Khalil Alamour, a teacher from Alsra. Naqba is the Arabic for catastrophe and refers to the events of 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Arabs fled their homes or were driven out during fighting as the State of Israel was formed, many of them doomed to become refugees. "There will be no more Bedouin."

      Although nobody knows for sure which communities will be affected, the residents of Alsra, that existed long before the creation of the Jewish state, believe it is almost certain to go.

      Sitting on the shaded veranda of an attractive brick home, Mr Alamour says that this land has remained in his family's hands for generations. He produces original ownership deeds, stamped by British Mandate officials in 1921. His family paid taxes on the land until the 1950s, when Israel ceased to collect it.

      But like every other house in this village, it was built without a permit, permits that are impossible to obtain in light of a 1965 planning law that ignores the existence of the Bedouin villages. The Israeli government says that it wants a solution to the unchecked spread of Bedouin communities in the Negev, with many officials viewing the Bedouin as squatters on state land.

      Meeting Bedouin leaders this week, the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said they were facing an "historic opportunity".

      "The plan will allow the Bedouin, for the first time, to realise their assets and turn them from dead capital into living capital – to receive ownership of the land, which will allow for home construction according to law and for the development of enterprises and employment," he said.

      But despite a £200m sweetener that accompanies the plan, the Bedouin are incensed that such an important decision has been made without consulting them. "The Bedouin are not against a plan... but the issue is to consult with them and see what their needs are," says Mansour Nsasra, an Israeli Bedouin researching his PhD at Exeter University.

      Moving them to townships, he says, "is not a solution".

      The Prawer plan envisages a five-year implementation, where Bedouin will be compensated for up to 50 per cent of their land claims. But swathes of Bedouin internally displaced in the 1950s will be ineligible, while those who hope to receive compensation must not only agree to evacuate their lands but also meet complicated criteria, meaning that the eventual payout will be much less, according to Israel's Association for Civil Rights.

      Some 160,000 Bedouin live in the Negev, a people whose plight is generally forgotten in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Today, they live on 5 per cent of the Negev, roughly half of them in designated towns; the remainder in 45 villages, 35 of which are still unrecognised and receive no services from the state.Every Bedouin has closely followed the fate of Al Araqib, an hour's drive away from Alsyra, which has been destroyed 29 times by Israeli soldiers in the past year. The villagers return every time to rebuild, only for the soldiers to knock it down again to make way for the planting of a new forest. Many fear that what is happening in Al Araqib is a "dry run" for the expulsion of Bedouin who resist in other communities. Mr Alamour faces far more than just losing his home if the government's proposals come to fruition. "My only ambition is to maintain my lifestyle, my traditions and values," the teacher says. "This is what I will lose
      if they transfer my family to the townships."

      In the 1970s, Israel built seven designated towns for the Bedouin in the Negev, persuading thousands of Arabs to move through a mixture of force and inducements. Rahat is the largest of these, home to 53,000 people. It is also one of the poorest cities in Israel, with a soaring birthrate, 37 per cent unemployment and 50 per cent of its residents living below the poverty line by the most conservative estimates.

      In his office, Rahat's mayor is feeling particularly gloomy. He looks at the map behind his desk of the densely populated city and asks nobody in particular where a new influx of Bedouin can go. "It will create a new intifada in the Naqab [Negev]. It is impossible to transfer 30,000 people," Faiz Abu Sahiban says. "We tell them: 'Stay where you are and ask for your rights'."

      Outside the municipality, several Bedouin youths are haring around a parking lot in a souped-up Toyota, a reminder of the lack of opportunity and jobs facing many of the city's residents today. The city has suffered from chronic underinvestment. Rahat receives an annual budget of 153 million shekels (£26.4m) from the Israeli government, less than half of the 380m shekels (£65.7m) that goes to Kiryat Gat, a nearby Jewish town roughly equivalent in size, according to the municipality. If Rahat agrees to take in 3,000 Bedouin living in villages on its immediate outskirts, the Israeli government will give it 100,000 shekels (£17,300) for each one, Mr Abu Sahiban says. "It is a bribe for the city. They refuse to develop [Rahat] until we accept the offer."

      Speaking to local residents, there is a sense of hopelessness in this city and the Bedouin are unconvinced that the government has their best interests at heart. The uprooting of the Bedouin in the 1970s was a "huge failure", says Naif al-Tlalka, 65, a resident of Rahat who moved to the city in 1981 when his family was forced from their homes for a second time after being driven off their land in the western Negev in the 1950s.

      "We used to laugh at the people who lived in these conditions. We used to say they lived in boxes," he says with a wry smile, as he fondly watches his many grandchildren playing in the yard.

      "How I wish I could go back to a time before, where I could hear the sound of the wind, the birds and the animals and smell the clean air."

      Desert dwellers

      * The Bedouin are traditionally desert dwellers, who until the past 50 years or so lived nomadic or semi-nomadic lives in some of the harshest environments known to man.

      * They are scattered across the Middle East, from Saudi Arabia to Syria to Israel, and have been described as the "true wanderers" of the desert.

      * In times past, the Bedouin lived in tents, the camel their workhorse, as they roamed the desert, moving from pasture to pasture, unhindered by the lack of artificial national boundaries that have hemmed in the Bedouin the last century or so.

      * Famed for their desert hospitality, they would feed and water a visitor for three days and extend protection to them for a further three days.

      * To varying degrees, the Bedouin have seen their traditional nomadic and pastoral traditions disappear, as creeping urbanisation, drought and government policy have guided them towards a more settled and conventional life.

      * When Wilfred Thesiger, the explorer, wrote about the Bedouin in the Arabian Empty Quarter in the 1940s and 1950s, he believed that he was recording a dying way of life.

      Indeed, the warring and raiding by the different tribes that he so memorably described is now a thing of the distant past and the camel has long been replaced by the motor car. While many Bedouin still live in tents across the Middle East, many others have settled in permanent, mostly agricultural communities, their homes made of brick or mortar.

      * In the Negev desert, the Bedouin are typically engaged in farming goats and sheep. Pre-1948, 90,000 Bedouin lived in Palestine. Only 11,000 remained after the new state was formed, the remainder having either fled or been driven out during fighting.

      Israeli doctors 'failing to report torture of Palestinian detainees'
      Human rights groups accuse doctors of failing to document signs of torture and returning detainees to interrogators
      Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
      guardian.co.uk, Thursday 3 November 2011 08.53 GMT


      Settlement building to ramp up as punishment for UNESCO vote
      Announcement is Israel's first real response to the Palestinian application for membership in the United Nations in September.

      By Avi Issacharoff and Barak Ravid
      Tags: UNESCO


      Muslim and Christian graves desecrated in Israeli city of Jaffa
      Militant Jewish settlers smash tombs and spray stones with graffiti on Yom Kippur and firebomb is thrown at synagogue
      guardian.co.uk, Sunday 9 October 2011 11.31 BST


      Ex-soldier jailed for leaking Israeli assassination policy


      Israel has sentenced a former soldier to four and a half years in prison for leaking classified documents to a journalist who used them to expose an alleged army policy to assassinate wanted Palestinian militants in violation of court rulings.

      Anat Kam, 24, was convicted in February for copying 2,085 military documents on to a disc as she completed her mandatory army service and passing some of them to Uri Blau, an investigative reporter with the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper.

      She escaped the much more serious charges of harming state security after reaching a plea bargain.

      Her case provoked a domestic uproar – in part because she was held for four months under secret house arrest with the Israeli media banned from reporting on it, but also because it was viewed as an assault on the freedom of the press. The Independent was the first newspaper to report on Ms Kam's arrest.

      In passing sentence yesterday, the three-judge panel elected to send a clear message to other would-be whistleblowers. "If the army cannot trust the soldiers serving in various units and exposed to sensitive issues, then it cannot function as a regular army," the judges wrote. They said that Ms Kam's motive for taking the documents was "mainly ideological". Ms Kam has already served nearly two years of house arrest, which will not count towards her prison term, and she received a further 18-month suspended sentence.

      As a clerk in the Israeli Defence Forces' central command, Ms Kam stumbled across documents that appeared to point to the premeditated killing of Palestinian militants in the West Bank, despite a Supreme Court ruling that severely restricted such operations, determining that the army should arrest suspects if possible.

      These documents formed the basis of Mr Blau's November 2008 story in which he questioned the army's claim that two Islamic Jihad militants killed in the West Bank the year before had died in an exchange of fire. He claimed that one of the two men had been identified months earlier by Israeli commanders as a target for assassination.

      Over a year later, Ms Kam, by then a reporter at Walla!, a Hebrew web site, was quietly arrested. Although colleagues were aware of her fate, they were prevented from reporting on it because of a court gag order. As the story started to break internationally, frustrated Israeli journalists turned to increasingly inventive ways to tell the story at home, with one newspaper suggesting its readers google "Israeli journalist gag".

      Mr Blau, meanwhile, had taken refuge in Britain. He later reached a plea bargain with Israel's security services, agreeing to return all of the classified documents in his possession, but could still reportedly face criminal charges.

      Ms Kam's lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, slammed the sentence as too severe. That the army had allegedly violated a Supreme Court ruling "didn't get any attention by the government or the public", he told The Independent. "Instead it is Anat Kam being punished."

      Israel plans new settlement of 2,600 that will isolate Arab East Jerusalem
      Britain, the EU and the UN condemn Israel's decision as provocative and a further threat to the peace process
      Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
      guardian.co.uk, Sunday 16 October 2011 19.13 BST

      Israel has submitted plans to build the first big Jewish settlement in the occupied territories in 25 years, in a move condemned as an "assassination" of attempts to revive peace negotiations.

      A leading Israeli peace group, Peace Now, denounced the plan to build 2,600 homes at Givat Hamatos on the southern edge of Jerusalem as a "game changer" because it would virtually cut off the Arab east of the city from the rest of the occupied West Bank.

      The UN, the EU and Britain joined the Palestinians in condemning the move as provocative at a time when the major powers are struggling to rekindle negotiations while the Palestinian bid for statehood is still before the UN security council.

      The Palestinian leadership, which has said there can be no new talks if settlement building continues, said the plans were further evidence that Israel "wants to destroy the peace process".

      Givat Hamatos would form a big part of the crescent of Jewish settlements which, in parallel with the West Bank wall and fence, has increasingly isolated East Jerusalem from the rest of the occupied territories. Israeli peace activists say the intention is to solidify Israel's claim to all of Jerusalem and to minimise the amount of the city ceded to an independent Palestine. Work could begin as early as next year.

      A fortnight ago, Israel drew strong international condemnation over plans to expand an existing settlement, Gilo, by about 1,200 homes. Meir Margalit, a leftwing member of the Jerusalem council who holds the portfolio overseeing the east of the city, said that the Givat Hamatos plan had more serious implications because, not only is it much larger but, for the first time in quarter of a century, it established a new colony.

      "This is a big deal because this is a new settlement. It's not more houses in an existing settlement but a new one that takes one of the last reserves of land remaining for the Palestinians in East Jerusalem," he said. "I don't want to be overly dramatic but this will be that last nail in the coffin of the peace process.

      "The government knows the Palestinians cannot live with this, that settlements are the most important issue for them. The people behind this are pyromaniacs and terrorists because they are lighting fires all over the place that at the end of the day will set up a new wave of terrorist attacks."

      The plans were submitted for approval by Israel's interior minister, Eli Yishai, a member of the religious, rightwing Shas party. They are likely to be backed by the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who is competing with Shas for the support of Jewish settlers and rightwing voters. Netanyahu has repeatedly said that Israel regards itself as free to build anywhere it chooses within the area it defines as Jerusalem, which cuts deeper into the West Bank since the municipal boundaries were extended after the occupation of the east of the city began in 1967.

      Givat Hamatos would be the first major new Jewish settlement since Netanyahu approved the construction of nearby Har Homar in 1997, during his first term as prime minister.

      The government has sought to minimise the significance of the plans by saying they have been around for several years and that no final decision has been taken. The proposal was originally drafted three years ago and then put on hold. But last week, with attention focused on the pending release of Gilat Shalit after five years captivity in Gaza, they were quietly revived and submitted for a 60-day public comment period, a last step before a final vote on approval. The decision will be made by the Jerusalem municipal council where there is broad support for settlements.

      The move was welcomed by David Hershovitz, a rightwing member of the city council's planning committee. He told the Jerusalem Post: "Givat Hamatos is a prerequisite for massive building in Jerusalem."

      Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said the Givat Hamatos proposal "makes a mockery of … international efforts to bring about a just and lasting peace."

      On Sunday, the British foreign secretary, William Hague, condemned "this provocative step, which further encloses East Jerusalem". Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, described the Givat Hamatos plans as "deplorable". She said the plans undermine peace efforts by breaching Israel's responsibility to create "an environment of trust conducive to negotiations".

      The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said the Givat Hamatos plans are "contrary to international law".

      "Recent developments in this regard have been unacceptable, particularly as efforts are ongoing to resume negotiations," he said.

      Margalit said that he believes the government is deliberately seeking to undermine attempts to revive talks.

      "From the one side, Netanyahu says he is ready to negotiate; from the other, the government does this and undermines any possibility of negotiations with the Palestinians," he said.

      Israeli forces demolish mosque for third time
      Published: Oct 12, 2011 00:51 Updated: Oct 12, 2011 00:51

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