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News from Palestine: Streets of Gaza turn to gold as thousands rally to Fatah cause

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  • Zafar Khan
    Streets of Gaza turn to gold as thousands rally to Fatah cause Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured onto the streets of Gaza on Friday in a display of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 5, 2013
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      Streets of Gaza turn to gold as thousands rally to Fatah cause
      Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians poured onto the streets of Gaza on Friday in a display of popular support for the Fatah faction of the Palestinian leadership as resentment rises against the Islamist Hamas movement.
      By Robert Tait, Gaza City9:27PM GMT 04 Jan 2013

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/palestinianauthority/9781875/Streets-of-Gaza-turn-to-gold-as-thousands-rally-to-Fatah-cause.html

      Central Gaza city was transformed into a mass of yellow flags as Fatah staged its first rally since it was thrown out of Gaza five years ago in a brutal offensive by Hamas.
      The rally heard calls for a renewal of the united front between the two groups as Fatah leaders sought to begin the next stage of reconciliation after the years of mutual and violent hostility following Hamas's seizure of power in 2007.
      Friday's event was permitted in reciprocation for rallies Hamas was allowed in the Fatah-controlled West Bank last month. The groups had previously banned each other from organising parades in their respective strongholds for the past five years and had carried out mutual crackdowns on memberships.
      Addressing the gathering by video link from Ramallah in the West Bank, Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and president of the Palestinian Authority, said division had to end: "There is no alternative to unity to achieve our goals."
      That message was undermined on the streets by the anger of Fatah supporters, who said Hamas's rule was characterised by human rights abuses, restrictions on free speech, and economic privations, including soaring unemployment and high taxes.

      "You look at all these people today and they are smiling – you haven't seen that for the last five years because Hamas has been governing the Gaza Strip," said Khaled Shokoky, 27, a nurse in the European hospital in Gaza. "People have not liked the limits on their freedoms. You are not allowed to talk about Hamas's mistakes. People have been shot in the legs because they criticised Hamas."
      The rally, marking the 48th anniversary of Fatah's first armed attack on Israel, was the culmination of several days of apparently spontaneous carnival-like scenes. Cars were driven with horns blaring up and down Omar el-Mukhtar Street, the city's central thoroughfare, for hours on Thursday night, their occupants waving flags and shouting pro-Fatah slogans. Many people camped out overnight to ensure a good vantage point at the rally in Soraya Square, where Gaza's central prison once stood. In the ensuing crush, at least 20 people were reported to have been injured, and one man was said to have died of a heart attack.

      Despite the feeling on the streets, a Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, said that the event could bring about reconciliation. "The success of the rally is a success for Fatah, and for Hamas too. The positive atmosphere is a step on the way to regain national unity," he said.
      An Egyptian official said yesterday that the groups would hold further talks within two weeks after suggestions that Hamas – which refuses to recognise Israel – could join the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), the main Palestinian umbrella organisation that has sanctioned years of peace negotiations.
      But Abdel Kadir al-Afifi, 59, a veteran Fatah activist, believed the chances of reconciliation were slim. "Hamas wants everything," he said. "They don't want to share leadership or work with others. They want to be the alternative to the PLO, not become part of it."
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      Writing a people's history of Israel/Palestine
      People's history opens a new understanding of the current situation in the Israeli/Palestine conflict.
      Last Modified: 02 Jan 2013 09:50

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/01/201311101513104372.html

      For well over a century now Zionist Jews and Palestinian Arabs have struggled for control over the territory of Palestine/Israel.

      The contest over land has taken place in the context of an equally important set of struggles over identity, not merely between the two national movements but within them as well.

      The dominant Zionist/Israeli and Palestinian identities have long defined themselves through the land and against the other in a unilinear historical progression characterised either by miraculous triumph (the rebirth of Israel out of the ashes of the Holocaust and the subsequent military victories against an array of Arab enemies) or disaster followed by repeated setbacks, with a few small victories in between (1948, 1967, and the two intifadas for Palestinians).

      The reality of Palestinian-Jewish interaction in Ottoman, Mandate and then post-1948 Palestine/Israel as well as their diasporas is far more complex.

      The everyday lives and struggles, not merely of elites but even more so of the "ordinary" people whose lives are rarely captured by scholars, opens new understandings of the history that produced the present moment, and alternative futures in which the two people might better co-exist with equal freedom, dignity and political, economic and social possibilities.

      Inspired by the pioneering work of historian Edmund Burke III, whose volume Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East first brought the lives of every-day peoples in the Middle East to the attention of scholars, students and the general public. I along with UC San Diego sociologist Gershon Shafir edited a new collection of life stories specifically rooted in the conflicted history Palestine/Israel and the myriad communities whose lives have intersected in it during the last 150 years.

      Titled Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel, the volume contains two dozen chapters, offering an unprecedented set of biographies of members of the two communities, from slaves to construction workers, journalists to Holocaust survivors, who have called the land home during the late Ottoman, Mandate, post-1948 and contemporary periods.
      ...
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      It's time Gaza joined Egypt
      By IBRAHIM AL MAJARI
      Monday, 24 December 2012

      http://english.alarabiya.net/views/2012/12/24/256758.html
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      No room at the inn – but Bethlehem's popularity is a boon for Palestinians
      More visitors and statehood recognition raises hopes for tourism industry in West Bank city, which is largely controlled by Israel
      Harriet Sherwood in Bethlehem
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 December 2012 17.26 GMT

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/21/bethlehem-popularity-boon-palestinians
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      'Useless, useless, useless': the Palestinian verdict on Tony Blair's job
      Former Prime Minister's role as representative of Middle East Quartet comes in for fiercest criticism yet
      MATTHEW KALMAN JERUSALEM SUNDAY 16 DECEMBER 2012

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/useless-useless-useless-the-palestinian-verdict-on-tony-blairs-job-8421163.html
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      Gaza faces prospect of powerless winter
      Electricity cuts last up to eight hours a day as Gaza's only power station struggles to cope with demand.
      Last Modified: 16 Dec 2012 12:47

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/201212168337493646.html
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      Palestinians working under fire in Israel
      During the recent attacks on Gaza, some Palestinians laboured in Israel, even as rockets flew overhead.
      Sean O'Neill Last Modified: 16 Dec 2012 12:46

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2012/12/2012121110361755969.html
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      Hamas holds rare West Bank rally
      Palestinian authority permits rally in the Israeli-occupied territory as Hamas supporters celebrate its anniversary.
      Last Modified: 14 Dec 2012 02:31

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/201212142617934671.html
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      Palestinian teenager shot dead in West Bank
      Clashes reported in Hebron's Old City after Israeli security forces kill seventeen year old at a checkpoint.
      Last Modified: 12 Dec 2012 19:12

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/20121212182154112674.html
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      Israeli separation wall threatens Battir's ancient terraces
      Israeli environmentalists and even the state parks authority are backing Palestinian villagers' attempts to preserve landscape that is expected to be declared world heritage site by Unesco
      Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
      The Guardian, Tuesday 11 December 2012 16.42 GMT

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/11/israel-palestinians-battir-separation-wall

      The future of an ancient agricultural landscape, incorporating extensive stone-walled terraces and a unique natural irrigation system, could be decided on Wednesday when a petition against the planned route of Israel's vast concrete and steel separation barrier is heard by the high court.

      The terraces of the Palestinian village of Battir, near Bethlehem, are expected to be declared a world heritage site by Unesco, the United Nations' cultural body, in the coming months.

      But, Friends of the Earth, which filed the petition, says Israel's decision to construct the West Bank barrier through a valley running between the terraces threatens to inflict irreversible harm to the landscape.

      The case has been bolstered by a last-minute U-turn by Israel's nature and parks authority, which called on the court on Tuesday to accept the petition, saying the "special and valuable area" should be protected in the public interest. The authority argued there was no longer an emergency security environment requiring environmental considerations to be cast aside.

      According to Gidon Bromberg, of Friends of the Earth Middle East, Battir is "one of the earliest examples of terraced agriculture, and continues today in basically the same state. Around half a billion stones were collected generation after generation, repaired after every winter season, expanded over time."

      The trees and crops planted on the terraces, which stretch for more than 325 hectares, are fed by a natural irrigation system dating from the Roman era, which channels water from seven springs and is worked as a co-operative by the eight main extended families of the village.

      Battir's terraces straddle a valley through which the 1949 armistice line, separating Israel from the West Bank, runs. The village buildings and some terraces are on the West Bank side of what is known as the Green Line; most of the terraces lie within Israel. In 1949, Israel's famous military leader Moshe Dayan gave permission for Battir's villagers to tend their land on the Israeli side of the line.

      But 10 years ago Israel began building the barrier wall in response to a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings. In a statement, the Israeli defence ministry said: "The security fence has helped to reduce the number of attacks and fatalities. However, there are still natural entries, through which tens of illegal infiltrators are intercepted every day.

      "It is for this reason that the final parts of the Jerusalem envelope (the southern section) must be completed. Without these sections, Jerusalem remains vulnerable to terror."

      The original route near Battir had already been changed after objections from nature and environmental groups, it added. Villagers would be able to access their land on the Israeli side of the barrier through two gates, and the irrigation system would not be affected, it said.

      The stretch of the barrier close to Bethlehem has faced a number of legal challenges, including one from villagers and Christian monks and nuns in the nearby Cremisan valley. The present route of the 800km-long barrier, which is about two-thirds complete, transfers almost 10% of West Bank land on to the Israeli side.

      "The barrier will destroy the cultural and natural heritage of Battir," said Bromberg. "International and Israeli experts believe this area is worthy of protection. It's all about preserving the way things have been done for thousands of years."
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      Gaza: 'My child was killed and nothing has changed'
      After eight days of war, an uneasy peace has been patched up once again between Israel and Gaza. Hamas are jubilant, but for ordinary people, there's little cause to celebrate amid the ruins of a shattered city
      Harriet Sherwood
      The Guardian, Tuesday 11 December 2012 17.43 GMT

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/11/gaza-child-killed-nothing-changed

      The morning ritual goes like this: three-year-old Ali Misharawi wakes up and reaches for his father's mobile phone. He kisses and strokes the face of his baby brother, Omar, on its small screen. Then he starts asking questions. Why is Omar in paradise? Why did you put my brother into the ground? Why can't I play with him any more?

      "He asks a lot of questions. Every day he asks if Omar is alive or dead. He knows what happened, he was there, but he needs to make sense of it," says his father, Jihad Misharawi, whose family was devastated in an inferno on the first full day of last month's war. Misharawi's 11-month-old son Omar and 19-year-old sister-in-law Heba were killed instantly; his brother Ahmed, 18, died after 12 days in intensive care with burns to 85% of his body.

      A photograph of Misharawi, a video editor employed by the BBC, with eyes closed and head tilted up in agonised grief while clutching the shrouded body of his baby, was one of the searing images of the eight-day war between Israel and Gaza. Standing amid blackened wreckage the day after Omar's death, Misharawi showed me other haunting photographs on a mobile phone: his infant's scorched, rigid corpse; the child's mouth stretched in a charred rictus.

      Three weeks on, Gaza City has almost returned to what passes for normal in this densely overcrowded, impoverished and war-ravaged strip of land whose borders – apart from one exit to Egypt – are tightly controlled by Israel. In sharp contrast to the deserted streets and shuttered shops during the conflict, cars, trucks, tuk-tuks and donkey-drawn carts clog the roads; traders are open for business; boys play football on open patches of scrubby land; teenage girls, wearing white hijabs and floor-length jilbabs to cover their skinny jeans, amble home from school.

      But the city also bears the ugly physical scars of eight days of intensive bombardment by Israel: mounds of crushed masonry, twisted metal and shattered glass that were previously homes, offices or public buildings. The Israeli military said it struck 1,500 targets during the offensive, an average of 187 a day. According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), 167 people were killed, a majority of whom were civilians, including 35 children. Six Israelis were also killed.

      Ahead of a massive triumphalist rally, marking both the Islamist organisation's 25th anniversary and what Hamas leaders claimed was its victory over Israel in the war, the streets of Gaza City are festooned with green Hamas bunting. An enormous model of a rocket, emblazoned "Made in Gaza", illustrates Hamas's exultation.

      "We believe Israel lost this war, and victory is ours," Hamas official Taher al-Nounou told me a few days before the rally. "Not a military victory, but a victory for our will."

      Despite the scale of devastation and casualties, he insisted: "They tried to destroy our government and failed. They tried to stop Hamas rockets and failed. After six years of isolation, we are more powerful than ever before."

      The night the ceasefire was announced, Hamas supporters poured on to the streets, firing guns in the air, blasting horns, letting off fireworks and whooping over their "victory". There were no celebrations in Misharawi's family, who watched the gunmen with dismay and bitterness. "I think Hamas is fooling itself when it says there was a victory," says Misharawi, 27. "How can you have a victory when all these people were killed and injured? What was achieved? Only sorrow, frustration and death for ordinary people." He tells me he is "OK now" compared to our first meeting, but anger and grief bubble close to the surface.

      Hamdi Shaqqura of PCHR accuses Israel of "an offensive against civilians and civilian targets". Victory or defeat is, he says, "a political interpretation. I'm concerned with the loss of human life and civilian property. This has been horrific for the civilian population of Gaza." More than 1,000 people had been injured, 96% of whom were civilians, and some of whom suffered "permanent injury" such as loss of limbs, he explains.

      Hamas political officials and military commanders were believed to have spent the war sheltering in a network of underground bunkers and tunnels, although al-Nounou claimed that "all the Hamas leadership were working regularly in their offices". Above ground, in a city with no public bomb shelters and no air-raid warning system, the civilian population huddled in their homes, awaiting the next shuddering blast.

      Some desperately tried to move their families to more secure locations, only to realise there were no safe places. One family I met on a roadside during the offensive were waiting for a taxi to take them and a few belongings stuffed into plastic bags to the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood, which they believed would not be targeted. The next day, it was the scene of a massive airstrike, which destroyed the home of the Dalou family, killing 12 people including four children.

      Israel insisted its airstrikes were precision-targeted at legitimate sites: weapons stores, Hamas-run government buildings, training and rocket-launching grounds. But it also targeted what it claimed were the homes of militants. In the dense residential streets of Gaza City and other towns, relatives and neighbours were killed or injured and adjacent homes suffered extensive damage.

      At the site of the Dalou family home, the detritus of family life – odd shoes, half-buried rugs, plastic toys – was visible amid the rubble last week. Houses on three sides were badly damaged by the explosion; two neighbours were among the dead. Tribute banners showing the four Dalou children – smiling portraits alongside a harrowing picture of their corpses squashed together on a morgue tray – hung from the wreckage.
      ...
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      'If they build here, there will never be peace with Israel'
      As Israeli plans to build settlements on the disputed E1 area continue, Matthew Kalman meets the Bedouin people in Ma'ale Adumim who face eviction from the land
      MATTHEW KALMAN MONDAY 10 DECEMBER 2012

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/if-they-build-here-there-will-never-be-peace-with-israel-8399646.html

      From the roof of City Hall in Ma'ale Adumim, municipality spokesman Hezki Zisman has a glorious view in all directions that doubles as a basic geography primer on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

      From a distance, the undulating hills, Bedouin encampments and limestone villages rising to the tower-topped mountains of Jerusalem radiate a natural beauty that seems to provide a storybook setting for peace. On closer inspection, the landscape is dotted with military checkpoints and bisected by a concrete security barrier to halt the passage of would-be suicide bombers into Israeli-controlled territory.

      As both sides search for the elusive formula that might defuse the conflict that divides the residents of neighbouring hills, recent plans announced by Israel have raised fears that the delicate political tapestry of this complex landscape will be permanently altered.

      To the west, the outskirts of East Jerusalem cascade over the Mount of Olives into the deep valley that divides this large West Bank settlement of 40,000 residents from the nearby Israeli capital. To the south lies Abu Dis, a Palestinian-controlled village and home of Al-Quds University, where Yasser Arafat constructed a parliament building for the future state of Palestine only to see it sealed off from neighbouring Jerusalem by the 30-foot high Israeli security wall. To the east, the spectacular folds of the Judean desert plunge 700 metres towards Jericho and the Dead Sea before the horizon soars again up to Amman and the Mountains of Moab.

      But Mr Zisman's focus today is to the north, across the main highway leading from Jerusalem to Jericho, where the mayor of Ma'ale Adumim unveiled a plaque in September 2009 renaming the five-square-mile plot of largely barren hillsides as the settlement's newest neighbourhood, Mevasseret Adumim.

      "There is no more land, no other area for Ma'ale Adumim to expand in any direction," Mr Zisman says. "It's important because we want to come close to Jerusalem. It's a strategic place for the country. It sits on the main road."

      The area, known as E1, has remained almost deserted despite the mayor's plaque. A single winding road dotted with roundabouts leads to the only permanent building, a heavily fortified regional police HQ opened in 2008. There are street lights, electricity cables and water mains, but no houses. Plans to build 3,900 homes have been frozen by international pressure since 2004. A bridge linking the area to the mother settlement across the highway constructed a decade ago has been blocked by boulders.

      The Palestinians consider E1 a vital land bridge linking Ramallah and Nablus in the northern West Bank to Bethlehem and Hebron in the south. Its border would allow the future Palestinian state one of its few points of strategic contact with East Jerusalem.

      "If implemented, these plans would alter the situation on the ground on a scale that makes the two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital, increasingly difficult to achieve," says Foreign Secretary William Hague.

      But last week, Israel defied international objections and revived the E1 development plan in response to the PLO's successful upgrade of its mission at the United Nations to the position of a non-member state.

      Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday: "Everybody understands that these suburbs are going to remain part of Israel as a final settlement of peace. The same applies to the narrow corridor that connects Ma'ale Adumim to Jerusalem. This was part of all the plans."

      He added: "You'll have a Palestinian state between Gaza and Judea-Samaria, the West Bank, and they are divided by 60 kilometres. That doesn't preclude a Palestinian state, but the fact that Ma'ale Adumim will be connected to Jerusalem in a corridor that is two, three kilometres long, that somehow prevents a Palestinian state. That's not true. It's simply false."

      But Abdullah Arare, a Bedouin shepherd tending his flock of 450 goats with his daughter on a hill in E1 overlooking the police station, is certain the Israeli prime minister is wrong.

      "This is Palestinian land. If they build here, there will be no peace," says Mr Arare. "How can we build a state without land? This is the link between the cities in the north and the south."

      A few miles to the west, close by the security wall that marks the border with Jerusalem, Ibrahim Saidi, his four wives, 30 children and numerous grandchildren, graze their 1,000 sheep and goats and nine camels on the other side of E1. "We have been here for 50 years," says Mr Saidi. "If they build here, we will be unable to graze our flocks and I will have to double the amount of feed I buy for the animals. I can't afford it. I'll have to sell the flocks and stop being a shepherd."

      In the neighbouring patch of land just across the wall in occupied East Jerusalem, there is a similar fear of upheaval.

      Jadua Al-Kurshan, 55, lives in a valley under the north Jerusalem neighbourhood of French Hill, known in Arabic as Kurshan and in Hebrew as Nahal Og. The community of 17 families, about 90 people, is the last remaining Bedouin encampment within the municipal boundary of Jerusalem. On 1 November, the local planning committee published Plan 13900 advocating the removal of Mr Al-Kurshan's community so the valley can be used as an industrial waste landfill before being landscaped into a new public park.

      It is not the first time the Jerusalem authorities have tried to move the Bedouin. The area was an empty space miles from the city when they first moved there in the 1970s. Now the new Israeli suburbs built across the pre-1967 border are creeping towards them.

      "Four years ago the municipality gave us an eviction order. We went to court and won. They were told they couldn't remove the people because they didn't have enough evidence to enforce the order," Mr Al-Kurshan says.

      The Jerusalem Municipality says Plan 13900 is the result of years of research into possible locations for a badly needed dump that will afterwards be beautified for the benefit of all residents. "There are illegal buildings on the site that have been the subject of legal proceedings," says a spokesman. "The court decided that the moment the municipal building plan was approved the demolition orders would be enforceable."

      Sari Kronish, an architect at Bimkom, a group that raises human rights issues in planning procedures in Jerusalem, says the environmental arguments in favour of a landfill and park disguise a policy in which parks are being used to close off development opportunities for Palestinians in East Jerusalem.

      "I'm concerned at the complete disregard for the people who live there at the moment and the fact that the plan does not include any alternative solution for the people who have livelihoods in this area," says Ms Kronish.

      A Bimkom report on plans for national parks in Jerusalem suggests the motivation is as much political as environmental. "Their intention is to curb the development of the Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem," says Ms Kronish.

      In the Kurshan/Nahal Og valley, the implications of that policy flow beyond the municipal boundary. The Israeli land barrier that Palestinians fear will destroy the geographical integrity of their future state and weaken its physical connection to Jerusalem begins in Kurshan, which connects directly to E1 and from there to the settlement of Ma'ale Adumim.
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      Hamas' Meshaal vows to 'continue resistance'
      Statehood will not be "fruit of negotiations" with Israel, leader of Palestinian group says during first visit to Gaza.
      Last Modified: 09 Dec 2012 07:48

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/20121284378161786.html
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      Gaza's armed groups unite against Israel
      Recent conflict with Israel sees unprecedented level of co-operation between fighters.
      Last Modified: 07 Dec 2012 21:43

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/2012127204410255627.html
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      Hamas chief Meshaal makes historic Gaza visit
      On first-ever visit to the Gaza Strip, Khaled Meshaal says he hopes to become "a martyr" in the besieged territory.
      Last Modified: 07 Dec 2012 20:59

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2012/12/20121277728612380.html
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      The demographic success of Israel's settlement project
      The numbers suggest that President Mahmoud Abbas' bid to the United Nations General Assembly was too little, too late.
      Last Modified: 06 Dec 2012 12:45

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/12/2012124135935526146.html
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      Munib al-Masri: 'The spring is coming'
      One of the most influential Palestinians discusses his fears for the future of both Palestinians and Israel.
      The Frost Interview Last Modified: 27 Nov 2012 12:59

      http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/frostinterview/2012/11/2012111215181959306.html
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      Palestinian rivals unite to celebrate UN statehood vote
      MATTHEW KALMAN , NIKHIL KUMAR THURSDAY 29 NOVEMBER 2012

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/palestinian-rivals-unite-to-celebrate-un-statehood-vote-8369031.html
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      A historic triumph: Palestine is recognised as a state by the UN and democracies in Europe - though not by America. Will David Cameron stand with them?
      Peace at any price is a non-starter. So too is peace at Mr Netanyahu’s price
      ROBERT FISK
      Thursday 29 November 2012

      http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/a-historic-triumph-palestine-is-recognised-as-a-state-by-the-un-and-democracies-in-europe--though-not-by-america-will-david-cameron-stand-with-them-8368638.html
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      Nobel peace laureates call for Israel military boycott over Gaza assault
      Letter with 52 signatories including artists and activists also denounces US and EU 'complicity' through weapons sales
      Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
      guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 28 November 2012 10.34 GMT

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/28/nobel-laureates-call-israel-boycott

      A group of Nobel peace prize-winners, prominent artists and activists have issued a call for an international military boycott of Israel following its assault on the Gaza Strip this month.

      The letter also denounces the US, EU and several developing countries for what it describes as their "complicity" through weapons sales and other military support in the attack that killed 160 Palestinians, many of them civilians, including about 35 children.

      The 52 signatories include the Nobel peace laureates Mairead Maguire and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel; the film directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach; the author Alice Walker; the US academic Noam Chomsky; Roger Waters of Pink Floyd; and Stéphane Hessel, a former French diplomat and Holocaust survivor who was co-author of the universal declaration of human rights.

      "Horrified at the latest round of Israeli aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip and conscious of the impunity that has enabled this new chapter in Israel's decades-old violations of international law and Palestinian rights, we believe there is an urgent need for international action towards a mandatory, comprehensive military embargo against Israel," the letter says.

      "Such a measure has been subject to several UN resolutions and is similar to the arms embargo imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past."

      The letter accuses several countries of providing important military support that facilitated the assault on Gaza. "While the United States has been the largest sponsor of Israel, supplying billions of dollars of advanced military hardware every year, the role of the European Union must not go unnoticed, in particular its hefty subsidies to Israel's military complex through its research programmes.

      "Similarly, the growing military ties between Israel and the emerging economies of Brazil, India and South Korea are unconscionable given their nominal support for Palestinian freedom," it says.

      The letter opens with a quote from Nelson Mandela: "For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

      The other signatories include John Dugard, a South African jurist and former UN special rapporteur in the occupied territories; Luisa Morgantini, former president of the European parliament; Cynthia McKinney, a former member of the US Congress; Ronnie Kasrils, a South African former cabinet minister; and the dramatist Caryl Churchill.
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      Few facts, a lot of racism: Palestine in US media
      Western media has been struggling to question the Israeli narrative when it comes to conflict and perspective.
      Last Modified: 24 Nov 2012 16:33

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/11/20121124105710534138.html

      The worst time to try to grasp a political conflict is during a military confrontation. And yet, it is only at such times that the US media covers the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

      On November 20, one day before the ceasefire was reached between Palestinians and Israelis and eight days after Israel broke the prior truce by assassinating Ahmed Jabari, Gary Rudoren, the husband of the New York Times' Jerusalem Bureau Chief, Jodi Rudoren, disbosomed himself of his anxieties about seeing his wife enter the fray of F-16 and drone strikes on Gaza: "We've been in Israel for five months now. It's been in my head since the beginning that at some point there would be a need for her to cover a situation."

      It was a rare instance of honesty - even if inadvertent - for the Times. Mr Rudoren unapologetically conceded that Ms Rudoren had been absent in covering the ongoing "situation" in Palestine.

      One can only wonder what the Jerusalem Chief for the US paper of record had been up to since she replaced the problematic Ethan Bronner, introduced herself on Twitter and set up housekeeping in the West Jerusalem home that was stolen from the family of noted author Ghada Karmi, a family that was forced to flee during the expulsion of Palestinians in 1948.

      Eye on Gaza

      Rudoren turned her attention to Gaza when she arrived - like most foreign journalists - in the middle of the recent violent attack. Her dispatches read more like postcards back home from a witless tourist who happened to land in the midst of a conflict zone and whose casual racism - while unsavory - is not surprising given her sheltered and uninformed background. But Jodi Rudoren is not your racist neighbour or family member and should not be uninformed; she is the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the paper of record - a paper reaffirming itself as willing to trade in overt racism where Palestinians and Arabs are concerned.

      Of repugnant note: In writing about the funeral of the al-Dalu family, of which 12 members were killed in Gaza, Rudoren coolly inserts her own orientalist fantasies of Palestinians: "But the tone [of the funeral], far more fundamentalist than funereal, was also a potent sign of the culture of martyrdom that pervades this place, and the numbness that many here have developed to death and destruction after years of cross-border conflict."

      While Rudoren has attempted to qualify and soften her outrageous commentary on Palestinian lives in response to pointed criticism, she had already exposed the racist and condescending position from which she views Palestinians.

      In her lack of respect or empathy for Palestine, Rudoren is not all that different from other US commentators on the Israeli assault on Gaza Strip. US mainstream media largely ignore the reality of life for Palestinians - whether in Gaza, the West Bank or the diaspora - until there is a surge in violence or an attack on Israelis. The ongoing suffering and losses experienced by Palestinians at the hands of the Zionist state is simply not discussed.

      While the callow and callous nature of Rudoren's words is appalling, any exposés on death, grief and destruction are of little real value when they appear in a newspaper that has done nothing to clear the fog of the "intractable conflict" that leads people on all sides of the political spectrum to throw up their hands and conclude the situation is just a big "mess".

      Tortured balance

      The NYT is not alone. The New Yorker book-ended its coverage of the carnage with two pieces by militant Israelis cheerleading Netanyahu's crackdown on Hamas. Introducing the recent escalation in bloodshed on November 16, Avi Issacharof congratulated Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for proving that he is not a man of restraint. And on November 21, Ari Shavit commented on the ceasefire, saying, "It also proved that when Israel manifests sanity, some of its neighbours respond with sanity, too." This was after he established the "context" in which Israel launched "Operation Pillar of Defence":

      "For after Israel tried occupying Gaza and tried peace in Gaza and tried unilateralism in Gaza and tried brutality in Gaza we learned that nothing works in Gaza. With more than a million and a half inhabitants squeezed into a hundred and forty square miles of despair, Gaza has no solution, at least none based in reality. Gaza contains within it all the poison of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For Gaza is not merely a place. It is where all the sins of the Jewish national movement and all the sins of the Palestinian national movement have created an unbearable human condition that forms the bile duct of the Middle East."

      The New Yorker also published three articles critical of Israel's assault on Gaza and to its credit two of them were written by Palestinians, including prominent political analyst Yousef Munayyer. Again, one has to question how much impact these worthy articles can have toward achieving clarity in the highly biased atmosphere the magazine has established. Earlier this year, The New Yorker published a seven-page feature on Meir Dagan, former head of Mossad, as well as a blatantly propagandistic fiction piece by a former Israeli soldier that blames Palestinians when Israeli soldiers shoot them.

      In The New Republic, Nathan Brown places his hope for "peace" as dependent on Hamas' ability to "transform" itself into - presumably - the equivalent of the West Bank's domesticated (read: quisling) Palestinian Authority. The magazine had given space on November 16 to Israeli author Yossi Klein Halevi to introduce the "current round of fighting" as a result of the non-existent "peace process", and lament that fighting would distract voters in the upcoming Israeli elections from important domestic issues.

      The Atlantic served up Jeffrey Goldberg's plea to his American readers that they not compare the number of dead Palestinians and Israelis, but rather assess the differing "intentions" between Israeli strikes and Hamas' rockets. "The Israeli body count isn't low because Hamas is trying to minimise Israeli casualties. Quite the opposite: Hamas's intention is to kill as many Israelis as possible."

      In other words, he'd like the American public to not only disregard the reality of what occurs when Israel bombards one of the most densely populated places on earth, but also be the judges of thoughts, which can be divined by utilising the wise principle of the United States' radicalisation theory that identifies "being Muslim" as the second step to becoming a terrorist.

      Slate Magazine's two articles included Dahlia Lithwick's paean to the 1979 Camp David Accords between Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat, contrasting it with today's "mess"; and William Salaten - channelling Alan Dershowitz - putting the blame for the escalation squarely on Hamas (and Egypt) and arguing that Israel only strikes military targets.

      The US media intentionally ignores unambiguous Israeli policies pertinent to the ongoing conflict such as the Dahiya doctrine and the policy of preemption, which was presciently explored by Andrew Bacevich in his November article for Harper's Magazine. As talk of "intentions" regarding attacks on civilians consumes media coverage of the recent escalation, any reasonable discussion must include this information.

      The Dahiya doctrine refers to an Israeli "security" tactic to target and destroy civilian life so as to deter resistance. In the words of the 2009 Goldstone Report, the Dahiya doctrine involves "The application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure and suffering to civilian populations."

      Lest anyone forgot this explicit policy of targeting civilian infrastructure, Israeli Interior Minister, Eli Yishai helpfully reiterated it on November 17: "The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages."

      And despite that policy being on flagrant display yet again during the eight day bombardment of Gaza, with police stations, media centres, banks, a football stadium, as well as the buildings of the ministry of culture and education and homes being decimated, "Dahiya" does not make an appearance in US coverage. The press is largely silent about these policies.

      The failure of the US press to adequately cover Israeli militarism clearly extends to American militarism as well. The massive Israeli arms arsenal is primarily provided by US indebted coffers. Moreover, President Barak Obama tempted Netanyahu to accept the offer of the ceasefire on the table by promising to increase military assistance to Israel, help prevent arms smuggling into Gaza, and fund more Iron Dome and anti-missile systems.

      Acknowledging these realities in its coverage of Palestine would afford the press the ability as well as the compunction to scrutinise and challenge the talking points put forth by the Israeli government and military during times of violent onslaught. Therefore, it's unlikely that these realities will be acknowledged any time soon.

      Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in San Francisco and the West Bank. She is a graduate of Stanford University.

      Follow her on Twitter: @CharEsilver
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