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News from Israel: Israel set to jail teenage conscientious objector for eighth time

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  • Zafar Khan
    Israel set to jail teenage conscientious objector for eighth time Nathan Blanc has spent more than 100 days in prison over the past 19 weeks due to his refusal
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2013
      Israel set to jail teenage conscientious objector for eighth time
      Nathan Blanc has spent more than 100 days in prison over the past 19 weeks due to his refusal to enlist in Israeli army
      Harriet Sherwood, Jerusalem
      The Guardian, Monday 1 April 2013


      It is a routine Nathan Blanc knows well. At 9am on Tuesday morning, the 19-year-old will report, as instructed in his draft papers, to a military base near Tel Aviv. There he will state his objection to serving in the Israeli army. Following his refusal to enlist, Blanc expects to be arrested and sentenced to between 10 and 20 days in jail. He will then be taken to Military Prison Number 6 to serve his time. And then, following his release, the cycle will begin over again.

      The reason why Blanc knows what to expect is that this will be the eighth time the teenage conscientious objector has been jailed in the past 19 weeks. Since the date of his original call-up for military service, Blanc has spent more than 100 days in prison; on one occasion, he was released on a Tuesday and re-imprisoned two days later on a Thursday.

      Blanc began to consider the possibility of refusing the draft several years ago. "It was a very hard decision, it took me a long time to get to it," he says.

      The turning point was Operation Cast Lead, the war in Gaza that began at the end of 2008 and ended three weeks later with a Palestinian death toll of around 1,400. In a statement issued when he was first imprisoned, Blanc said: "The wave of aggressive militarism that swept the country then, the expressions of mutual hatred, and the vacuous talk about stamping out terror and creating a deterrent effect were the primary trigger for my refusal."

      The government, he said, was "not interested in finding a solution to the existing situation, but rather in preserving it … We will talk of deterrence, we will kill some terrorist, we will lose some civilians on both sides, and we will prepare the ground for a new generation full of hatred on both sides … We, as citizens and human beings, have a moral duty to refuse to participate in this cynical game."

      In an interview with the Guardian, he says: "The war going on in this country for more than 60 years could have ended a long time ago. But both sides are giving into extremists and fundamentalists. The occupation was supposed to be temporary, but now no one speaks of it ending."

      The Israeli state, he adds, keeps people "under our control" without democratic rights. Palestinians are subject to "collective punishment" for the actions of a few.

      Most Israelis grow up knowing that compulsory military service – three years for boys, two for girls – lies at the end of their school days. "Going to the army" is a deeply ingrained, collective experience in Israeli national identity.

      For some, it's an eagerly-anticipated patriotic duty; for others, a rite of passage; for a few, a difficult moral dilemma. But it is rare for people to refuse on grounds of conscience. Blanc says that since November, he has been the only conscientious objector among the 300-400 inmates in Military Prison Number 6.

      Most of his friends have come to accept his position – "we had the arguments a long time ago" – and some who are currently serving as combat soldiers now say they admire it. His parents, despite some anxiety, are supportive.

      Blanc rejected the option taken by some objectors of claiming a medical condition that would exempt him from military service. "I didn't want to lie. This is a point of principle."

      Neither could he seek exemption of the grounds of pacifism. "The army has a narrow definition of pacifism – someone who would never apply force in any circumstances. The [IDF's] conscience committee asks tough questions, and I would not be able to say never. I think force should be used rarely, but it can't be completely ruled out."

      Blanc is willing to undertake national service in lieu of the compulsory stint in the army, but thus far the military has refused to countenance this.

      In a statement, the IDF said it could not comment on Blanc's specific case, but conscription was a result of Israel's security situation. Although there were limited grounds for exemption, those called up were "fully aware of their responsibilities towards the military and the consequences for failing" to carry them out.

      Blanc hesitates when asked if he would describe himself as a patriot. "I feel a strong connection to this country, and I'm proud of it in many ways. But I have an aversion to nationalism."

      Prison life has taken some adjustment. Blanc, who shares a tent with around 20 other prisoners, is woken for roll call around 5am and works eight hours a day in the kitchen. The inmates, who wear surplus US military uniforms, can make calls on a public phone but are forbidden to keep their mobiles. There is a prison library, but no gym.

      "I have no idea how long this will go on for," said Blanc. "The bad scenario is that I will be put in front of a military court and sentenced to something like a year in prison. The better scenario is that they'll get tired of this, and will let me do national service instead."

      It is hard for Blanc to see beyond the game of cat-and-mouse in which he and the IDF are currently engaged, but he says: "I don't want to deal with politics and conflict all my life." He would like to study science or technology at university.

      He brushes aside a suggestion that his current stance could harm his future prospects. "I'm proud of what I'm doing. I may have caused some damage to my future, but it's minor compared to the principle at stake."

      'It's not racism. The Muslim players just shouldn't be here': Beitar Jerusalem fans walk out over signing of two Muslim Chechen players
      When a Chechen striker scored on his debut for Beitar Jerusalem, its hard-core right-wing fans walked out, reports Alistair Dawber


      ‘Ten… Nine… Eight… Seven… Six… Five… Four… Three… Two… One…War! War! War!’ A typical Beitar Jerusalem welcome, one of Israel’s biggest football clubs, on Sunday night from ‘La Familia’ the team’s hardcore fans who are in revolt over the signing of two Muslim players, two of just five non-Israeli players to ever play for the club which is identified with the country’s political right.

      On Sunday night at the Teddy Stadium, home of Beitar Jerusalem, members of the club’s hard-core support, “La Familia”, were in place an hour before kick-off for the game against Maccabi Netanya. While most fans go to games to support their team, La Familia spent the game showering the club’s owner and his two new signings with a torrent of abuse.

      What provoked their ire is the decision earlier in the season by Beitar’s president Arkady Gaydamak – father of Alexandre, former owner of Portsmouth FC – to sign two Chechen Muslims, Zaur Sadayev and Dzhabrail Kadiyev. They are two of just five non-Israeli players ever to represent the club, which has strong links to the Israeli right.

      Only the 23 year-old Sadayev, a big, heavy-set striker, played against Netanya on Sunday. In the first half, boos rang around the stadium every time he touched the ball. But what happened next was not La Familia’s script. Sadayev – who has been accompanied by a bodyguard since his arrival in Jerusalem from Chechen side Terek Grozny – ran on to a pass just after half time and slid the ball past Netanya’s goalkeeper. It was his first goal for the club. Beitar’s best player, the Argentinian Dario Fernandez, jumped on Sadayev’s shoulders and celebrated with him, but the reaction in the crowd was confused to say the least. In one stand supporters screamed with elation, but behind the goal, in the La Familia end, hundreds walked out.

      “The reaction to the Muslim players being here is not racist,” insisted 19-year-old Akeeva, a Beitar fan. “But the club’s existence is under threat. Beitar is a symbol for the whole country.”

      Jacob, another fan, agrees, “It’s just a matter of being Arab [by which he means Muslim]. It’s not racism, they just shouldn’t be here. Beitar Jerusalem has always been a clean club, but now it’s being destroyed – many of the other players are thinking of leaving because of the Muslim players being here.”

      Akeeva, Jacob and many of the other fans are angry with Mr Gaydamak for bringing in Sadayev and Kadiyev to the club. After they signed the reaction among fans was so extreme that the club’s offices in Jerusalem were burnt down. The pair have been greeted with jeers and whistles every time they step out on to the pitch.

      The home club of Sadayev and Kadiyev is no ordinary football team; Terek Grozny is run as the personal project of Chechnya’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Although he is no longer officially the club’s president, nobody doubts that he is in charge, while the money man is the oligarch Telman Ismailov, known for his lavish birthday parties in which A-list western pop stars are flown in to sing odes to him.

      The unlikely dual transfer came about after a bizarre tour to Chechnya by the entire Beitar squad early this year, which went ahead against the advice of Israeli authorities. There are rumours in the Russian media that Mr Ismailov, a friend of Mr Gaydamak, had an interest in purchasing the struggling club. Rather than travel to see the team in Jerusalem, Mr Ismailov wanted to bring them to Grozny. So it was that the brief tour to the troubled Caucasus republic took place amid extremely high security. After its conclusion – and a friendly match between Terek and Beitar – it was announced that to “strengthen Israeli-Chechen friendship”, two players would be moving to Jerusalem.

      “Chechens, like Jews, have a great number of difficult pages in their history and have lived through many tragedies,” said a press release from Mr Kadyrov’s office. “We have a lot in common.”

      The 23-year-old Sadayev was seen as a player with some potential, but since his entrance into the Terek team five years ago he has hardly set the Russian league alight – the striker has managed just eight goals in 83 appearances. Dzhabrail Kadiyev, had never started for the Terek first team.

      Sadayev said in an interview with Russian media last December, before the Israeli move was on the cards, that if he could play anywhere in the world he would like to try England.

      Details of the transfers are murky, and it is unclear whether the players have moved on loan, or permanently. Calls to Terek’s press service went unanswered yesterday. After being substituted after 73 minutes on Sunday, Sadayev received a standing ovation – although by then the boo-boys had largely left. Three minutes later Netanya scored to make it 1-1 and pushed hard until the end.

      Whether his performance is enough to win over the crowd remains to be seen, but perhaps he could afford to give his bodyguard the night off.

      Ramzan Kadyrov: despot with a taste for social media

      Terek Grozny football club is not the only plaything of Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin despot, Ramzan Kadyrov. He also has a collection of wild animals and often posts pictures to his Instagram account of himself cradling a baby leopard, perhaps.

      Instagram has become the unlikely medium through which it is best to follow Mr Kadyrov – he posts several times a day, whether on policy or news that he has given his “friend” Gérard Depardieu the gift of a five-room apartment in Grozny.

      Over the weekend he stated: “For some people, Instagram might just be entertainment, but for me it’s an additional burden.”

      Shaun Walker

      Israelis shocked by racist football chants bringing shame to a once proud team
      Arsonists torched the offices of Beitar, the Jerusalem club whose recent signing of two Chechen Muslims has provoked an uproar
      Harriet Sherwood
      The Observer, Sunday 10 February 2013


      The blackened remnants of prized football trophies stood on a shelf in the torched office. On the desk a jar of sweets, still wrapped in gold foil, had melted into a sticky clump. Charred team photographs were scattered over the floor amid singed football shirts.

      Memorabilia from Beitar Jerusalem football club's 77-year history had been housed in the office. "It's all gone, all our history is gone," said one of the staff sweeping scorched detritus into plastic sacks, pausing to draw on a cigarette and shaking his head in dismay.

      A blaze at 5am on Friday at Beitar's premises was probably ignited by burning material pushed through a high window facing outside the grounds. Police said evidence suggested it had been a deliberate arson attack. "We're looking into possible connections with recent decisions by the management," said spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

      He was referring to the signing last month of two Chechen players, a move that has plunged Beitar into a national and international furore and triggered widespread calls to rein in the virulent racism of a hard core of fans. The problem for these Beitar supporters is not that the new players are Chechens; it is that they are Muslim.


      Beitar, the only Israeli club to have never signed a player from the 20% of the country's population that is Arab, has a long history of racism among its supporters, with a favourite chant being "Death to Arabs". Before the arrival of Gabriel Kadiev and Zaur Sadayev, fans held aloft a banner at a match reading: "Beitar forever pure."

      Since joining the club, the two players have been verbally abused and spat at. They have been forced to travel to and from training under police and private security guard protection. A Beitar supporter – one of four later arrested and charged – turned up at the training ground wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "Mohammed is 100% dead".

      Beitar's owner, Arcadia Gaydamak, refused to bow to the fans' pressure. "As far as I'm concerned, there is no difference between a Jewish player and a Muslim player," he said. His stance, however, was weakened by coach Eli Cohen who drew a distinction between European and Arab Muslims, saying: "The fans here have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East."

      Condemnation of the hardcore fans' behaviour has been swift and harsh. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Friday's apparent arson attack was "shameful", adding: "The Jewish people, [who have] suffered boycotts and persecution, should be a light unto other nations."

      Beitar's manager, Itzhik Kornfein, told Israel Radio on Friday: "This has gone beyond sports and this has ramifications for Israeli society and for how we look to the world."

      Earlier, President Shimon Peres said the entire country was shocked, and former prime minister Ehud Olmert, a Beitar fan for more than 40 years, said that he would no longer attend matches because of fans' behaviour. "Ultimately, this is a matter that concerns all of us. Either we remove this group of racists from our field and cut it off from the team, or we are all like them. Until that happens, I will not go to games," he wrote.

      Israel's attorney general, Yehuda Weinstein, said police would take action against any "manifestation of [racism] that crosses the line into a criminal act". The Israeli Football Association imposed a 50,000 shekels (£8,595) fine on the club for the racist slogans of its fans and ordered the closure of the eastern stand of its stadium, where hardcore fans congregate, for five matches. Some commentators have decried these punitive actions as inadequate.

      Now attention is focused on Beitar's match this evening against Bnei Sakhnin, the only top division team from an Israeli-Arab town and regarded with sporting pride by Israel's Arab minority. There is a history of animosity towards Bnei Sakhnin among Beitar fans; its players are regularly taunted as "terrorists".

      Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli-Arab member of parliament, said he would attend the match under police guard. "Every time I go to a Beitar match, they shout at me 'Ahmed Tibi is a terrorist' and other offensive things." He described Beitar as "the most racist club in the world. No other club bans players on ethnic grounds." Bnei Sakhnin, he said, promoted coexistence in sport, with a handful of Jewish players. "Jews and Arabs are playing together. It is the total opposite of Beitar."

      Amid heightened tension, Jerusalem police say there will be a heavy security presence before, during and after the match, including undercover units, mounted police and crowd-control specialists. They will be particularly anxious to avoid a repeat of a violent rampage last March by several hundred Beitar fans at a shopping mall close to the city's Teddy stadium, in which Palestinian staff and customers were abused and assaulted. No one was arrested.

      That was blamed on a nucleus of extremist Beitar fans, known as La Familia. The group, created in 2005, routinely make monkey noises at black players and chant anti-Islamic and anti-Arab slogans at games. They reportedly booed during a minute of silence for the assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and have been accused of assaulting Palestinian maintenance staff at the club's grounds. They have also verbally abused Kornfein, Beitar's manager, for speaking out against racism in football.

      A day or so before the Chechen players' arrival, one of their number told an Israeli paper: "I'm a racist. I hate Arabs … If they bring in Muslims, the fans will burn down the club. That can't happen. Arabs and Beitar Jerusalem don't mix."

      At Beitar's grounds, hours after the office was torched, club supporter Yaniv Pesso, 43, denounced La Familia. "They are stupid. They are a very small number, like a little mafia, but they have a big voice." Sport, politics and religion should not be mixed up, he said. "I don't like Muslims, but sport is sport."

      Beitar, however, is not just about sport. In Israel, football clubs have always been associated with political parties or movements, and Beitar's alignment is with the nationalist right. Its name is shared with a Zionist youth movement linked in the 1940s to Herut, a rightwing party founded by Menachem Begin, which later merged into today's ruling Likud party, led by Netanyahu.

      Its fans are predominantly Mizrahi Jews, who came to Israel from other countries in the Middle East and north Africa, and who have always felt excluded from and shunned by the Ashkenazi – or eastern European – elite. Mizrahi Jews make up about 40% of Israel's 8 million population.

      In contrast to Beitar, for example, Hapoel Tel Aviv, a club based in Israel's most liberal city, is still associated with the historic workers' movement and today's political left – and Ashkenazi Jews.

      In the mid-1970s, Beitar won its first national championship and Likud became Israel's ruling party for the first time, with Begin becoming prime minister. Rightwing nationalism, both on the terraces and in parliament, was ascendant.

      According to Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli parliament, the club should be viewed from three perspectives. "The small picture is that every football club has a group of very extreme fans who are fanatical about the spirit of the club. The spirit of Beitar is interpreted by this group as ethnic, religious, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic.

      "The mid-sized picture is that of Jerusalem. These days it is a narrow-minded, limited, self-confined city, where the two communities [Jewish and Arab] are separated.

      "The big picture means asking if this is a symbol of a larger problem in Israel. The answer is definitely yes. It's a combination of racism and xenophobia, but a racism that is connected to religious extremism."

      But Tamar Herman of the Israeli Democracy Institute said the racism of Beitar's fans was not representative or typical of Israeli society. "Football clubs develop a certain subculture that does not necessarily reflect the entire society around them," she said.

      Anti-Arab feeling in Israel, she added, was different from European Islamophobia. "It's based on a conflict of interests. It's not because they are Arab or Muslim, but because of a constant struggle over ownership of the land. In Europe, Islamophobia is not based on a political, historical and military conflict."

      Back at Beitar's grounds, where the club's junior team was practising penalty shots in the afternoon sun, manager Barbara Barashi said she was ashamed by the apparent arson attack. "I don't want people to think we're all like that. I teach the boys that everyone is equal."

      Israeli Haredim rebel against army draft plan
      Ultra-Orthodox Jews say Torah studies can protect Israel better than an army.
      Jane Ferguson Last Modified: 27 May 2013 14:23


      Jerusalem, Israel - Entering an ultra-Orthodox, or Haredim, neighbourhood in West Jerusalem is like entering another Israel - one where religious observance, family, and a separation from non-Orthodox people take precedence over everything else.

      Boaz Naki sits around his dining table with several other male members of his Haredim community, all wearing the trademark black suits and hats. It's just a discussion about the current government's policies - but it feels like crisis talks.

      Members of the government want to draft young ultra-Orthodox men into the army. Since Israel's creation in 1948, they have been exempt from the three years of military service expected of all other Israelis over age 18. The Haredim instead study the Torah in religious Yeshiva schools full time.

      They are not opposed to the army and consider themselves patriots, but Naki's community has long argued its Haredim men contribute to the state through a spiritual tradition that strengthens Israel in the eyes of God.

      "Through studying the Torah, Israel will be mightier than with soldiers and tanks," explained Naki.

      The walls of his small apartment speak to that tradition - pictures of elderly, bearded chief rabbis fill most empty spaces, alongside one of his grandparents in their native Iran, from where many Jews have emigrated over the years.

      The problem for Boaz and his neighbours is that the rest of Israel seems to want a more tangible contribution to the state these days.

      A government committee is currently forming a draft bill that will propose that only a small number of young ultra-Orthodox men will be exempt from military service if they are shown to be exceptional students. The rest will have to either volunteer for the army or public service of some kind, or face prosecution. The proposed changes would begin in 2017.

      'Separate from the secular life'

      But military service is just one part of a much greater issue surrounding the Haredim - integration with Israeli society. Naki himself admits that his main concern about the young men joining up is not simply being away from their studies for a few years, but whether or not they will return.

      "If he comes back, he won't be the same. He will be a different person," Naki explained.

      Sending young men from a strict religious environment into a wider, more diverse and often secular world is a serious worry.

      "Being Haredi is all about being separate from the Western life, from the secular life," said Yair Ettinger, religion correspondent for Haaretz newspaper. "And this is what really bothers the leaders, the mothers, every family. Their biggest fear is to mix too much."

      But their refusal to mix has become a political and - increasingly - an economic issue.

      Haredi men generally don't work for a living. Some have jobs or small businesses within their own communities, but they rarely venture out into the greater workplace, preferring instead to study religion full-time. Most of their income is generated from foreign donations from Haredi abroad, and government aid in the form of child allowances. Traditionally, the community has large families. It is not unusual for some couples to have 10 children.

      Forcing the ultra-Orthodox into the army is a way to open the door to their greater involvement in the economy. Most people agree that the Israeli army does not necessarily need the influx of members, and that Haredi men would not likely fight on the front lines of a conflict. Rather, it is a move to break the cycle of total self-imposed segregation, and create a new generation that would get more involved in Israel's civic life.

      The timing of such bold political moves is a reflection of both Israel's economic crisis and political changes.

      A debt burden of more than 4 percent of the country's GDP has led to austerity measures to avoid economic collapse. Also, Israel's new government - formed earlier this year by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu - is the first in more than 30 years, save for a short period in 2003, to not include representatives from the ultra-Orthodox community.

      Finance Minister Yair Lapid is a major proponent of the reform. Ruling politicians such as Lapid are keen to take advantage of that loss of power - aware that many voters' patience for subsidising Haredim communities is growing thin under their own economic hardships.

      "One could argue that it's really economics that is driving this process," explained Calev Ben-David, senior correspondent for Bloomberg in Jerusalem. "Why would Netanyahu take on his natural allies? The answer is economic."

      Subsidising the Haredim

      The government spends large amounts to subsidise religious schools and child support, said Ben-David. The concern for the government is that although the Haredim constitute about 10 percent of Israel's population, that figure will rise rapidly in the coming years. Education at Yeshiva schools doesn't involve much beyond religious subjects, so even if the growing new generation of Haredim men did want to work, they would not be qualified to do much.

      "The problem is when you look into workforce participation," Ben-David said. "They are not paying taxes but keep growing in numbers ... So the perception is that they are only taking money from the government instead of contributing."

      To contribute to the economy, Haredi adults will have to study more vocational subjects in order to enter professions in demand by the economy. One of the points being discussed is whether or not to make Yeshiva schools include mainstream subjects in their curriculum, such as math, English and science, if they want to receive state funding.

      The communities know change has to come eventually, say experts, but they worry the current cries for reform are too sudden. Earlier this month about 20,000 Haredi men protested and clashed with police in Jerusalem over the draft proposal. Protests in such numbers by the community are rare, but will likely continue if the government goes ahead with its plans.

      "What we are now witnessing, I would say, is a struggle," said Ettinger, the religion correspondent. "A struggle between forces inside Israeli society - between secular and religious - and it's a political struggle."

      Naki has nine children, including one son of draft age. He said he would sooner see his son go to jail than join the military, and that most in the community feel the same, confident this phase of criticism will pass.

      "The people of Israel are used to all kinds of trends," he said. "They look fabulous, but they do not last. The Torah is eternal."

      Whether or not Naki is right, however, will depend on decisions made by a ruling system currently more concerned with bread-and-butter issues than scripture.

      Israeli journalist is accused of inciting violence after backing Palestinian stone-throwers
      Amira Hass receives hate mail for claiming Palestinian schools should teach children how to 'resist occupation'
      Harriet Sherwood Jerusalem
      The Observer, Saturday 6 April 2013 21.00 BST


      A prominent Israeli journalist, Amira Hass, has been subjected to a wave of hate mail and calls for prosecution for incitement to violence since writing an article defending the throwing of stones by Palestinian youths at Israeli soldiers.

      Hass, who has lived in and reported on the occupied Palestinian territories for 20 years, argued that "throwing stones is the birthright and duty of anyone subject to foreign rule", and suggested that Palestinian schools should offer "basic classes in resistance".

      The opinion piece, published in the liberal Israeli daily Haaretz, for whom Hass works, drew outraged reaction on the internet and from media commentators. The Yesha Council, which represents settlers, and the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel filed complaints with the police and the Israeli attorney general, and demanded that Hass be investigated for incitement to violence and terrorism.

      Hass argued that stone-throwing was "an action as well as a metaphor of resistance". She wrote: "Steadfastness (sumud) and resistance against the physical, and even more so the systemic, institutionalised violence is the core sentence in the inner syntax of Palestinians in this land. This is reflected every day, every hour, every moment, without pause... The levels of distress, suffocation, bitterness, anxiety and wrath are continually on the rise, as is the astonishment at Israelis' blindness in believing their violence can remain in control forever."

      Throwing stones was "born of boredom, excessive hormones, mimicry, boastfulness and competition. But in the inner syntax of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied, stone-throwing is the adjective attached to the subject of 'We've had enough of you, occupiers'."

      Schools, she suggested, should teach Palestinian children various forms of resistance, plus its rules and limitations – for example, "the distinction between civilians and those who carry arms, between children and those in uniform, as well as the failures and narrowness of using weapons".

      Hass's article appeared during several days of clashes in the West Bank following the death of a Palestinian prisoner whose cancer, according to Palestinian leaders, was diagnosed late and treated only with painkillers; and the shooting dead of two Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers after they allegedly threw firebombs at a checkpoint. It was published the day after a military court convicted a Palestinian man of the murder of Asher Palmer and his baby son, Jonathan, whose car crashed after being struck with stones in 2011. Another Israeli child, three-year-old Adele Bitton, was critically injured in a similar incident last month.

      Images of stone-throwing Palestinian youths, often with their faces concealed by chequered keffiyehs and sometimes using slingshots, have become symbolic of the resistance to Israel's 46-year occupation. Their actions are routinely met with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets fired by the Israeli military.

      Addressing Hass directly, Adva Bitton, the mother of injured toddler, wrote in Ma'ariv: "I agree with you that everyone deserves their freedom. Arab and Jew alike. I agree with you that we all ought to aspire to liberty, but there isn't a person on earth who will achieve freedom and liberty by means of an instrument of death. There's no reason on earth that Adele, my three-year-old daughter, should have to lie in the intensive care unit now, connected to tubes and fighting for her life, and there is no reason, Amira, for you to encourage that."

      Another comment piece in the same newspaper said Hass's "statements are the outpouring of a suppurating abscess of self-hatred, couched in hypocritical moral acrobatics. Her eyes are blind to Jewish suffering and are open only to her friends from Hamas, the champions of human rights."

      Hass said her critics had either not read or had not understood her article. "I'm surprised that they don't read the whole text – and then I'm surprised at myself for being surprised," she told the Observer, pointing out that she had drawn "a clear distinction between a citizen [as a target] and a soldier or someone who carries arms".

      Israelis, she said, adhered to "a concept of eternal victimhood which allows them to be in a state of denial about how much violence is used on a daily basis against Palestinians. They don't like to be told that someone has the right to resist their violence."

      Hass, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors, has been vilified for living among Palestinians and chronicling their lives under occupation."I call it the 'routine of catastrophes', which of course is an oxymoron. But every Palestinian is threatened in some way in his or her life, at the very least just living with a permanent feeling of insecurity."

      She lived for more than three years in Gaza, and has been based in Ramallah, the main city in the West Bank from which Israelis are legally banned from entering, since 1997. "I feel privileged to know two societies, but sometimes I feel it's futile. I've been writing about the occupation for 20 years, and it only gets worse."

      Biggest trafficker of women in Israeli history finally exposed
      At Haaretz' request, court exposes identity of Dudi Digmi, police informer who was nation's No. 1 pimp.
      By Sharon Shpurer | 16:38 05.02.13


      After over a year of legal battles, a Tel Aviv District Court judge on Monday allowed Haaretz to publish the name of David ‏(Dudi‏) Digmi, the biggest trafficker in women in Israeli history.

      Judge Chaled Kabub described Digmi as the central figure in the largest network in Israel trafficking in women, with operations and connections overseas in the former Soviet Union, Britain, Cyprus and Belgium. Four of the network’s senior members were sentenced to three to 18 years in prison, and another member is serving 18 years in a Russian jail.

      Despite Digmi being the senior figure in the network, the court put a gag order on publishing his name after he agreed to become a state’s witness and police informer. The agreement was unusual − 24 serious cases against Digmi were closed as part of the deal, including such alleged crimes as attempted rape, trafficking in women, pimping, extortion, drug possession and many more offenses committed over the course of more than a decade.

      In return for closing the cases, Digmi agreed “not to commit any crime from the time of the signing [of the agreement] until the end of his trial, and not to commit any offense that would damage his credibility.”

      But Digmi did not keep his promise. Even after signing the agreement with the state he continued to get in trouble. Already during the trial of his former confederates in trafficking, he joined forces with the head of a crime organization and committed extortion, according to court documents. While acting as a state’s witness and testifying, he was caught with drugs in his car and brass knuckles, and also was part-owner of a club in which a woman was arrested for soliciting sex.

      However, a number of complaints to the police accusing Digmi of extortion and using threats of violence during the period after he signed the agreement were closed by the police.

      Furthermore, the Tel Aviv district of the State Prosecutor’s Office, which dealt with the trafficking in women cases together with police, continued to support Digmi’s requests to the court to keep his involvement with law enforcementsecret. The prosecution claimed there was a danger to his life if his identity was exposed, which was more important than the public’s right to know.

      Kabub accepted Haaretz’s arguments that there was a clear public interest in revealing Digmi’s identity. “Digmi is the central and dominant criminal in the affair and has a heavy criminal record. He received significant benefits in the closing of dozens of open investigations against him, among other things,” the judge said. In his decision, Kabub also said Digmi allegedly continued his criminal activities with others despite the agreement he signed to become an informer and state’s witness.

      The trafficking case was exposed in 2009, and when Kabub convicted the defendants early last year, he described the affair as “one of the widest and most complex cases of trafficking in women heard in the courts in recent years, if not the largest.”

      The network smuggled hundreds of young women from small villages and towns in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldavia and Uzbekistan after convincing them to come to Israel. They were told they would find work in Israel as waitresses or dancers in clubs. In some of the cases the traffickers, including Digmi, used severe violence against the women. The women were smuggled into Israel through the Egyptian border or flown in through Turkey.

      Digmi told police how the network worked: “Rami Saban [who was convicted in the case] and another man rented an apartment on Yeshayahu Street in Tel Aviv. They would bring the women there straight from Egypt. They would call me after a few hours or a day or two and ask me to come to the apartment to choose the girls I wanted to buy. I came to the apartment. There were 10 to 15 girls who came from Russia via Egypt. I would look at the girls and examine them. How they looked, look at their chest, at their body. ... Those who were with me at the time of the examinations translated what I said for the girls since they knew [only] Russian. They translated [his instructions] to strip and turn around while I would check them,” Digmi told police.

      Israel’s ultra-racist Beitar Jerusalem football team in uproar over hiring of Muslim players from Chechyna
      Submitted by Ali Abunimah on Sat, 01/26/2013 - 23:51


      Eli Cohen, the manager of Israel’s notoriously racist Beitar Jerusalem football team, has tried to calm fans angered by a decision to recruit two players from the Russian Premier League side FC Terek Grozny which is based in the capital of the Muslim-majority region of Chechyna.

      But while ostensibly refuting the fans racism, Cohen simply compounded it by developing a hierarchy of Muslims against which bigotry is acceptable. European Muslims are OK, Arab Muslims – such as Palestinian citizens of Israel who already play for many other Israeli teams including the national squad – are out.

      Cohen told Israel’s Ynet:

      I don’t understand the fans who don’t want to see a Muslim play with Beitar. There’s a billion Muslims in the world and we need to know how to live with them. There’s a difference, and it makes a difference, between a European Muslim and an Arab Muslim and the fans here have a problem with Arabs living in the Middle East. I understand the difficulty of the subject and I hope that with the help of the Board what is needed will be done.

      Cohen spoke after Beitar lost a match to Bnei Yehuda during which Beitar fans chanted racist slogans, according to Ynet. Bnei Yehuda player Sari Falah, on loan from Maccabi Haifa, is a Palestinian citizen of Israel who has previously spoken about racism on the pitch.

      Beitar’s bigotry even reported by ESPN

      Beitar Jerusalem was the subject of a recent ESPN documentary you can watch online, because it is so notorious for its fans’ open hatred of Arabs.

      Last year a mob of Beitar Jerusalem fans rampaged through the Malha shopping mall in Jerusalem chanting “Death to the Arabs” and randomly attacking Arab workers.

      Israel awarded UEFA contests despite unchecked racism

      But it is not just Beitar Jerusalem. The racism in Israeli football is so rife that last year even Haaretz called for action, noting:

      Only in Israeli soccer can a club block Arabs from joining its ranks, and harsh violence is treated solely as a disciplinary infraction, to be handled by the Israel Football Association’s internal court. The anarchy and lack of police enforcement have turned Israeli soccer into a source of violence, racism and hatred, and has even started to attract dubious characters, who at times manage the teams.

      Israel gets to break the rules, again

      In other countries, teams have faced international sanctions for racist incitement by fans, and the issue of racism in football was recently brought to the fore when players from AC Milan walked off a game in Italy due to abuse of black players. Although players have criticized bodies like UEFA and FIFA for not taking racism seriously enough, the issue has gotten more attention.

      In December, for example, European football governing body UEFA boss Michel Platini criticized sanctions against Serbia for racism by fans as too lenient.

      Yet Israeli football has escaped all scrutiny, and despite the rampant racism and violence, UEFA has awarded Israel the honor of hosting this year’s Under 21 tournament.

      Recently, top world footballers condemned UEFA’s decision to award the tournament to Israel in light of Israel’s violence against Palestinian athletes and other human rights abuses.

      The unchecked racist violence in Israel’s domestic leagues is another reason why Israel doesn’t deserve to host any international tournaments. But Israel, like in so many other things, is allowed to flout all the rules that everyone else must obey.

      Israel gave birth control to Ethiopian Jews without their consent


      Israel has admitted for the first time that it has been giving Ethiopian Jewish immigrants birth-control injections, often without their knowledge or consent.

      The government had previously denied the practice but the Israeli Health Ministry’s director-general has now ordered gynaecologists to stop administering the drugs. According a report in Haaretz, suspicions were first raised by an investigative journalist, Gal Gabbay, who interviewed more than 30 women from Ethiopia in an attempt to discover why birth rates in the community had fallen dramatically.

      One of the Ethiopian women who was interviewed is quoted as saying: “They [medical staff] told us they are inoculations. We took it every three months. We said we didn’t want to.” It is alleged that some of the women were forced or coerced to take the drug while in transit camps in Ethiopia.

      The drug in question is thought to be Depo-Provera, which is injected every three months and is considered to be a highly effective, long-lasting contraceptive.

      Nearly 100,000 Ethiopian Jews have moved to Israel under the Law of Return since the 1980s, but their Jewishness has been questioned by some rabbis. Last year, the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who also holds the health portfolio, warned that illegal immigrants from Africa “threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state”.

      Haaretz published an extract from a letter sent by the Ministry of Health to units administering the drug. Doctors were told “not to renew prescriptions for Depo Provera for women of Ethiopian origin if for any reason there is concern that they might not understand the ramifications of the treatment”.

      Sharona Eliahu Chai, a lawyer for the Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), said: “Findings from investigations into the use of Depo Provera are extremely worrisome, raising concerns of harmful health policies with racist implications in violation of medical ethics. The Ministry of Health’s director-general was right to act quickly and put forth new guidelines.”

      Naftali Bennett interview: 'There won't be a Palestinian state within Israel'
      Leader of rightwing Jewish Home party, which looks set for a coalition role, wants 'more realistic approach' to insoluble conflict
      Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
      guardian.co.uk, Monday 7 January 2013 16.43 GMT


      The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is "insoluble" and most Israelis "couldn't care less about it any more", according to Naftali Bennett, the surprise star of the election campaign, whose extreme rightwing nationalist and pro-settler Jewish Home is within sight of becoming the country's second biggest party.

      In an interview with the Guardian, Bennett said he did not intend to waste the next four years "babbling about Israel and the Palestinians", and defended his plan to annex most of the West Bank in the face of international opposition, which was the "result of ignorance".

      "There is not going to be a Palestinian state within the tiny land of Israel," he said, referring to the area from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean. "It's just not going to happen. A Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years."

      Bennett acknowledged that Binyamin Netanyahu was almost certain to continue as prime minister following the election on 22 January, but added: "The big question is the question of power. If we get enough seats in the next Knesset [parliament], we'll become the biggest and most influential partner in Netanyahu's next government."

      He declined to be drawn on which cabinet post he would seek as a key coalition partner, but said his primary concern was the economy. "If there is one thing I would want to achieve over the next four years, it is to break up the monopolies here and to break the stranglehold the big unions have on the Israeli economy. I think it's a sin that most Israelis can barely [afford to] live here."

      Under Bennett's leadership, Jewish Home has experienced a spectacular rise in the polls since the start of the election campaign, causing panic and dismay within the main rightwing alliance, headed by Netanyahu, from which support has drained. A poll in the Jerusalem Post on Friday put Jewish Home at 16 seats in the 120-place parliament, while Netanyahu's Likud-Beiteinu was predicted to win 32 – down from 45 forecast at the start of the campaign. Another poll put Jewish Home equal to Labour, on 18 seats each.

      Bennett said his priorities were "to restore values to Israeli politics", to lower the cost of living and to advocate a "more realistic" approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. "If we hand over [the West Bank] to the Arabs, life here will be miserable and in constant conflict for the next 200 years," he said. "I want the world to understand that a Palestinian state means no Israeli state. That's the equation."

      Instead of a two-state solution, Bennett has proposed the unilateral annexation of Area C, the 60% of the West Bank that contains all Jewish settlements and is currently under Israeli military control. Palestinians living in Area C could either take Israeli citizenship or relocate to the Palestinian-governed 40% of the West Bank.

      Bennett conceded that the international community would strongly oppose such a plan. "I don't accept it's illegal under international law, but I agree the world would not recognise [annexation]. The world hasn't recognised Jerusalem as our capital, or the Western Wall as part of Israel, so this would just be another area that the world doesn't recognise."

      Mounting European criticism of Israeli government policies, especially settlement expansion, was of concern, but was misguided, he said. "It's a result of ignorance and lack of knowledge from our European friends. It's also the result of a confused policy from our own government, which sends mixed messages. You can agree or disagree with my views, but I'm very clear: a Palestinian state would be a disaster for the next 200 years and would ensure continuous strife. What we are facing is a determined Muslim entity that wants to destroy Israel."

      Jewish Home is all but certain to be part of the next coalition government, tilting it significantly further to the right. Among those likely to become members of parliament under Israel's electoral system – in which voters back parties, not individuals – is Orit Struck, a radical activist from the hardline settlement in the heart of the Palestinian city of Hebron.

      "Orit lives side by side with Arabs in Hebron," said Bennett, in an unusual way of describing tension surrounding thesettlers' enclave in which Palestinian residents are banned from walking or driving along the main street. "Every party has a spectrum [of candidates] and I totally defend my list."

      Bennett, 40, lives in Ra'anana, an affluent town north of Tel Aviv, with his secular wife, a former pastry chef, and their four children under the age of seven. After serving in the Israeli military's most elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, he built an anti-fraud software company, which was sold seven years ago for $145m (£90m).

      Asked what he spent his money on, he said: "Buying books – big spending sprees, mostly biographies." He served as Netanyahu's chief of staff for four years until 2008.

      Bennett generated huge controversy last month when he said he personally would refuse orders to evacuate settlements or outposts in the West Bank while on reserve army duty. "If I receive an order to evict a Jew from his house and expel him, personally, my conscience wouldn't allow it," he told Israel's Channel 2. "But I wouldn't publicly call for disobeying orders."

      He backtracked after a storm of criticism, although he told a rally on Sunday that all political parties should sign a pledge never to evict Jews from their homes.

      His duty as a coalition partner would be to stop Netanyahu veering to the left, he said.

      "The Israeli-Palestinian issue is something we can talk about for ever, but it's never going anywhere. I can waste the next four years babbling about Israel and the Palestinians, or the alternative is to say this is insoluble, so let's work out a modus vivendi with our neighbours the best we can. For too many years, Israel has been taken hostage by this conflict."

      The parties

      There are 34 parties competing for 120 seats in the Israeli parliament on 22 January. The main ones are:

      • Likud-Beiteinu: the rightwing electoral alliance between prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu's ruling Likud party and former foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu. It is expected to win the largest number of seats in the parliament, and therefore form the next coalition government. Latest poll: 32 seats.

      • Labour: the main centre-left party. Its leader, Shelly Yachimovich, has sought to focus its campaign on socio-economic issues and has veered away from discussing the Israeli-Palestinian question. Latest poll: 17.

      • Jewish Home: formerly the National Religious party, relaunched under Naftali Bennett. To the right of Likud-Beiteinu, it is pro-settler and opposed to a Palestinian state. Latest poll: 16.

      • Hatnuah: a new centrist party formed by the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who has called for negotiations with the Palestinians to resume. Latest poll: 10.

      • Shas: ultra-Orthodox religious party, fights hard for the economic and housing interests of its supporters. Latest poll: 10.

      • Yesh Atid: centrist party formed by television personality Yair Lapid. Strongly secular. Latest poll: 10.

      • Arab parties: three separate parties – Hadash, Balad and United Arab List – competing for the Israeli Arab vote. Latest poll: 11 in total.

      • Kadima: Though it is the largest party in the current parliament with 28 seats, the centre-right party formed by ex-prime minister Ariel Sharon has plummeted. Latest poll: 2.

      Israel's Jewish population passes 6 million mark
      Symbolically significant figure, equivalent to number of Jews killed in Holocaust, is 'a great joy', says historian
      Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
      guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 1 January 2013 12.56 GMT


      Israel's Jewish population has passed the symbolically significant 6 million mark for the first time – equivalent to the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

      Figures released by the central bureau of statistics this week show the total population of Israel at 7.98 million, 75.4% of whom are Jewish. Just over 20% are Arab and 4% are defined as "other".

      "It's a great joy to know there are more than 6 million Jews in Israel," said Dina Porat, chief historian of Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum and head of the Kantor centre for the study of contemporary European Jewry.

      "But worldwide we are still in the same place. Before the Holocaust there were around 18 million Jews in the world; after it, a bit more than 13 million. We are still at a bit more than 13 million. But now Israel's Jewish population is close to half the Jewish nation worldwide. It puts Israel in a very central place. We are almost the only Jewish community that is growing."

      Six million was a "significant number", said Anita Shapira, professor of Jewish history at Tel Aviv university. But, she added, "living Jews do not compensate for dead Jews. The number [6 million] symbolises a catastrophe, not a recuperation. We are still paying for the Holocaust."

      Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli parliament and author of The Holocaust is Over; We Must Rise From its Ashes, said 6 million was a "symbolic number but random".

      "Is Israel any different if it has 5.9 million Jews, or 6.1 million? The answer is no. I don't see the state of Israel as either compensation or revenge for the Holocaust. Israel is a standalone entity. Yes, we have the looming shadow of our history, and the victims of the Holocaust should be cherished and remembered, but it should not define our politics," Burg said.

      Israel, he added, "is not a state of 6 million Jews but of almost 8 million citizens". "Each and everyone of us should be equal, regardless of our creed or race."

      Separate figures released by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics predicts the number of Arabs in Israel and Palestine will equal the number of Jews by 2016, and exceed it by 2020. There are 5.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem and Israel, and 11.6 million worldwide, it said.

      The Palestinian birth rate was 4.4 in 2009, down from 6.0 in 1997, but higher than the Israeli Jewish birth rate of about 3.0.

      This demographic trend is the chief argument put forward by Israeli Jews against a single binational state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The inevitable Arab majority in such a state would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish state, they say.

      The Jewish population of Israel has increased almost tenfold since the state was declared in May 1948, when there were about 660,000 Jewish citizens, according to the Israeli CBS (pdf). At least 700,000 Palestinians – a big majority of the Arab population of Palestine – fled or were forced to leave their homes and land in the 1948 war.

      Defend government policy or resign, Israel's ambassadors are told
      Top security chief tells envoys to 'quit or go into politics' if they disagree with settlement plans


      Israeli ambassadors from around the world meeting in Jerusalem for their annual get-together have been told to support the government's domestic and foriegn policies or resign.

      Yaakov Amidror, the head of Israel's National Security Council, lashed out at the 150 diplomats, telling them they were "clerks" whose job was to represent and advise the government.

      "If this doesn't suit you, quit or run for political office," Mr Amidror told the ambassadors after they applauded a question from Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, an ex-ambassador to London and former foreign ministry director-general.

      Mr Prosor had queried the timing of a recent Israeli government decision announcing settlement construction in E1, an area of the West Bank east of Jerusalem that Palestinians say is vital for the geographical integrity of their future state. The undiplomatic bust-up, which occurred behind closed doors but was leaked to the press, reflected mounting frustration among Israeli diplomats who feel they are excluded from key areas of foreign policymaking. The two most important arenas of Israeli foreign policy – the peace process with the Palestinians and Israel-US relations – are handled directly by the Prime Minister, bypassing Israel's regular diplomatic machinery.

      Foreign ministry officials often complain in private that they have little or no input or knowledge about policy-making but are expected to defend controversial decisions once they are taken. Ambassadors said they had no advance warning of the E1 decision, which was taken in response to the UN General Assembly vote on 29 November recognising Palestine as a non-member observer state. Mr Prosor had led the doomed Israeli diplomatic effort to stymie the vote.

      Israel's ambassador in Prague wrote a scathing memo after the E1 decision, sarcastically congratulating the government on alienating the Czech government, perhaps Israel's strongest supporter in Europe.

      Israeli diplomats were shocked by the vehemence of Mr Amidror's response which they described as "unwarranted and excessive". Ran Curiel, the foreign ministry's deputy director-general, said the applause was a sign of widespread frustration. "We want to explain the government's policies but are not always given the tools," he told the Yediot Ahronoth newspaper.

      "The job of ambassadors is to defend and explain Israeli policy," said Gerald Steinberg, a political science professor at Bar-Ilan University. "They don't make policy and that's frustrating – even more when they are not consulted or informed. These are the most difficult issues to defend. Israeli ambassadors would rather deal with anything but settlements."

      Most right-wing Israelis 'accept two-state plan'

      Most right-wing Israelis would accept a demilitarised Palestinian state as part of an overall peace deal, a survey suggests.

      The Washington-based S Daniel Abraham Centre for Middle East Peace found that at least 57 per cent of Israelis who said they would vote for the Likud-Beiteinu list headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the pro-settler Jewish Home party would support two states. Among all Israelis, at least 67 per cent were in favour.

      However, the polls specified a list of conditions, including no right of return for Palestinians to Israel and land swaps that would leave large settlement blocs in the West Bank under Israeli sovereignty.

      Ikea attempts to dodge responsibility for Israel store’s discriminatory delivery practices
      Submitted by Adri Nieuwhof on Fri, 12/28/2012 - 20:27


      Ikea shows no intention of ending delivery of its products to Israel’s illegal settlement colonies in the West Bank, a 10 December letter from the furniture giant shows.

      For years, Ikea has been facilitating the delivery of products from its Israeli stores to residents of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Ikea has been informed several times that facilitation of such transport services boils down to complicity with Israel’s settlement colony enterprise.

      Ikea was asked by the London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre to respond to the fact that Ikea in Israel’s transport company, Moviley Dror, delivers to Israeli settlements but refuses to deliver products to Palestinian population centers in the occupied West Bank, as I reported on my Electronic Intifada blog last month.

      In its response (which can be downloaded fromt the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website), Ikea attempts to evade responsibility for this blatant discrimination and normalization of an illegal situation and fails to address its delivery to Israel’s West Bank settlements. The company simply states that its local franchisee is responsible for the local management, investments and business decisions related to the Ikea stores in Israel.

      Ikea repeats its claim that in 2010, the Israeli franchisee arranged for home delivery of Ikea products to people living in the areas controlled by the “Palestinian Authorities.” But as The Electronic Intifada reported last month, Moviley Dror refuses to deliver to Beit Sahour, claiming that the Bethlehem-area Palestinian village was too dangerous (but passing through Israeli checkpoints to deliver to the Beitar Illit settlement proved to be no problem).

      “If there has been occasions when the delivery service has not worked as intended it is regrettable and something we will look into,” the company states in its 10 December letter. Although Ikea regrets the discriminatory practices of its Israeli franchise it offered no remedy.

      It seems as if Ikea refuses to understand the difference between the indigenous Palestinians who live in their West Bank under Israel’s illegal occupation, and the Israeli settlers who illegally reside in that area.

      Ikea “not convincing,” says expert

      I asked Dr. Jeff Handmaker, senior lecturer in law, human rights and development at the International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam, for a comment on Ikea’s response. He wrote me in a 20 December email:

      Inter IKEA Systems B.V., in their response to Business and Human Rights, only address half of the problem, namely their differential treatment of settlers living in illegal settlements and Palestinians living under occupation.

      But even this is not convincing. Even if the IKEA franchisee were to resolve the issue of delivery to Palestinians, most are not be able to visit their stores to Israel’s control of movement into and out of the occupied territories and so they are excluded either way.

      However, IKEA Systems B.V. are not addressing the main problem, namely their franchisee’s overt complicity in a serious human rights violation, lending support to the settlement enterprise.

      Unless IKEA’s franchisee refuses to sell, let alone deliver products to settlers living in the occupied Palestinian territories, IKEA Systems B.V. is still fully complicit in violations of international law.

      US denounces Israeli settlement plans
      US secretary of state says the decision to build 3,000 settler homes in occupied territories is a set back for peace.
      Last Modified: 01 Dec 2012 05:22


      US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticised Israel's decision to build 3,000 settler homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

      "In light of today's announcement, let me reiterate that this administration - like previous administrations - has been very clear with Israel that these activities set back the cause of a negotiated peace," Clinton said on Friday.

      Clinton was speaking at a forum in Washington hosted by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, and Ehud Barak, defence minister, were in the audience when she made her remarks.

      In a wide-ranging speech also tackling the conflict in Syria and Iran's suspect nuclear programme, Clinton highlighted the troubled Middle East peace process, calling on Israelis and Palestinians to get back to negotiations.

      "The most lasting solution to the stalemate in Gaza would be a comprehensive peace between Israel and all Palestinians, led by their legitimate representative, the Palestinian Authority," Clinton said.

      Israel revealed the settlement plans in response to a historic vote in the UN General Assembly on Thursday to recognise Palestine within the 1967 borders as a non-member observer state - one which the United States opposed.

      "This week's vote should give all of us pause. All sides need to consider carefully the path ahead," Clinton said.

      "We all need to work together to find a path forward in negotiations that can deliver on the goal of a two-state solution. That remains our goal.

      "If and when the parties are ready to enter into direct negotiations to solve the conflict, President [Barack] Obama will be a full partner to them."
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