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  • December 20, 2009 -- Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday rejected municipal recommendations and cut funding for a toddler health-care center in East Jerusalem, while approving aid to a similar center in a Jewish neighborhood. The funds would have gone to opening a branch of the "Drop of Milk" (Tipat Halav) program, which provides prenatal and toddler health-care services in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Last year, authorities from the Jerusalem municipal offices recommended to the mayor to open the aid center in Silwan, which would service around 100,000 residents. Authorities also recommended opening a similar center in a Jewish neighborhood that is home to around 7,000 residents. During discussions on the 2010 budget, Barkat decided to cut the aid that would open the center in Silwan while simultaneously approving the aid to open the same center in a Jewish neighborhood - a move that outraged residents of Silwan. "I don't understand why there is a 'Drop of Milk' center in the mayor's neighborhood while there is none in ours?" asked Silwan resident Fakhri Abu Diab. "Why does he deserve one and we don't? Are my children different from his children?" "Soon, Hamas will open a 'Drop of Milk' center and we will go there," Abu Diab added. Jerusalem city councilwoman Laura Wharton condemned the decision. "This decision is caused by discrimination against the Arab population and I hope that we will succeed to reverse it," Wharton said. As opposed to most of Israel, the 'Drop of Milk' program in Jerusalem is under municipal authority. Like other health services in Jerusalem, including toddler care, there is a wide gap in services provided to residents in East and West Jerusalem. Other Jerusalem areas under public jurisdiction contain a total of 25 'Drop of Milk' centers, while East Jerusalem, with its 250,000 residents, is home to just four Drop of Milk centers. Many residents of East Jerusalem have difficulty taking their children long distances in order to receive care. This results in many children not receiving vaccinations as well as a delay in services for sick children living in East Jerusalem. In response, the Jerusalem municipality said that they are working to improve services provided to the residents of Silwan and they still intend to build a 'Drop of Milk' center in the Arab neighborhood in the future.

    Comment


    • Ian Black:



      Help end Gaza blockade, aid groups urge EU

      The Israeli offensive wrecked 17% of farmland and left a further 30% unusable

      December 22, 2009 -- The EU should commit itself to ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip and put its relations with Israel on hold pending tangible progress, 16 humanitarian and human rights organisations say today in a report marking the first anniversary of the war. Amnesty International, Oxfam International, Cafod, Christian Aid, Medical Aid for Palestinians and 11 other agencies criticise Israel for banning the import of materials urgently needed for reconstruction but also lambast world powers for not doing enough to help after last year's three-week Cast Lead offensive, in which some 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens from indiscriminate rocket attacks, the report says. But "punishing the entire civilian population of Gaza for the acts of a few is a collective punishment which is unacceptable and violates international law".

      The report calls on the EU to take "concerted action" and its new high representative for foreign policy, Britain's Lady Ashton, to pay an urgent visit to Gaza. Only one EU foreign minister, Sweden's Carl Bildt, has visited since the war, which began on 27 December last year. Tony Blair, the envoy of the Middle East Quartet, went to Gaza for the first time in March this year, two years after he was appointed. The territory has been blockaded by Israel since June 2007 when the Islamists of Hamas took over from the western-backed Palestinian Authority. Restrictions have been tightened since the war. The border with Egypt is also strictly controlled."Securing an immediate opening of the Gaza crossings for building materials to repair ruined homes and civilian infrastructure as winter sets in would be an important step towards an end to the blockade," say the NGOs.

      Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem leader, also warns not enough is being done: "Tough sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied," he writes in today's Guardian. "It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis." Preferential agreements between the EU and Israel "will be brought into question if there is no rapid progress", Clegg adds. Jeremy Hobbs, Oxfam International's executive director, said: "It is not only Israel that has failed the people of Gaza with a blockade that punishes everybody living there for the acts of a few. World powers have also failed and even betrayed Gaza's ordinary citizens. They have wrung hands and issued statements, but have taken little meaningful action to attempt to change the damaging policy that prevents reconstruction, personal recovery and economic recuperation."

      The report also urges Hamas and others to maintain their de facto cessation of violence and permanently cease all indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel. All Palestinian factions need to intensify their dialogue to pave the way for a reunified government able to provide for the needs of its civilian population. The blockade has sharply increased poverty, helping make eight out of 10 Gazans dependent on aid. Businesses and farms have been forced to close and lay off workers. An almost complete ban on exports has hit farmers hard. The Israeli offensive wrecked 17% of farmland and left a further 30% unusable. Hopes for easing the siege currently rest on a deal under which captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is expected to be swapped for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Amnesty International's UK director, Kate Allen, said: "The wretched reality endured by 1.5 million people in Gaza should appal anybody with an ounce of humanity. Sick, traumatised and impoverished people are being collectively punished by a cruel, illegal policy imposed by the Israeli authorities."

      Comment


      • Nick Clegg:


        December 22, 2009 -- On 27 December last year, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, an overwhelming exercise of military force aimed at silencing the Hamas rockets which had terrorised Israeli towns and villages. The immediate effects of the invasion are well known: 1,400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilians, with many more wounded or displaced; 10 Israeli soldiers and three civilians killed, dozens more injured; and thousands of families in southern Israel forced to flee to other parts of the country. The rocketfire from Gaza into Israel has slowed but has not entirely ceased. Hamas is still in power.

        What is less well-known is the escalating humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The legacy of Operation Cast Lead is a living nightmare for one and a half million Palestinians squeezed into one of the most overcrowded and wretched stretches of land on the planet. And as Israel and Egypt maintain a near total blockade against Gaza, the misery deepens by the day. This is not only shocking in humanitarian terms. It is not in Israel's or Egypt's interest, either. Confining people in abject poverty in a tiny slice of territory is a recipe for continued bitterness, fury and radicalism.

        And what has the British government and the international community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the international community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis. No doubt the febrile sensitivities of the Middle East have deterred governments, caught between recriminations from both sides. No doubt diplomats have warned that exerting pressure on Israel and Egypt may complicate the peace process. But surely the consequences of not lifting the blockade are far more grave? How is the peace process served by sickness, mortality rates, mental trauma and malnutrition increasing in Gaza? Is it not in Israel's enlightened self-interest to relieve the humanitarian suffering?

        The peace process is in serious trouble right now. Internal Israeli politics limits any meaningful room for manoeuvre, illegal settlement activity in the West Bank continues, and leadership of the Palestinians is divided and incoherent. A two-state solution, long the accepted bedrock of any agreement, is being openly questioned. But paralysis in the peace process cannot be an excuse for the inhumane treatment of one and a half million people, the majority of them under 18 years old. No peaceful coexistence of any kind is possible as long as this act of collective confinement continues.

        According to a recently leaked report by the UN office of the humanitarian co-ordinator, Gaza is undergoing "a process of de-development, which potentially could lead to the complete breakdown of public infrastructure". A report released today by a group of 16 humanitarian and human rights groups further spells out the effects. Family homes destroyed in the invasion lie as shattered as ever. The embargo on construction materials means they will stay that way. Local hospitals and clinics were left devastated by the invasion, and those suffering health problems wait longer than ever to get out of Gaza for treatment. Many have died waiting. Bed-wetting and nightmares are endemic among children.

        Half of those under 30 are unemployed. These young people are trapped in a broken land with little hope of economic opportunity. The blockade's restrictions on Gaza's fishermen mean they can sail only three nautical miles from the coast, impoverishing their families. Meanwhile, 80m litres of raw and partially treated sewage is pumped out into the sea every day. Most disturbingly of all, the lack of access to materials means that basic water infrastructure simply cannot be repaired or improved; 90 to 95% of Gaza's water fails to meet WHO standards. The extremely high nitrate level in the water supply is leaving thousands of newborn babies at risk of poisoning. The insistence by some that aid should come into no contact whatsoever, even indirectly, with Hamas means NGOs are prevented from repairing basic water and sanitation facilities in schools.

        There is a clear moral imperative for Israel and Egypt to end the blockade, as well as it being in their enlightened self-interest to change course. But if they do not do so of their own volition, it is up to the international community to persuade them otherwise. The EU has huge economic influence over Israel, and it believes the blockade must be lifted. At the same time as exercising leverage over Hamas, it should make clear that the web of preferential agreements which now exists between the EU and Israel – from Israeli access to EU research and development funds to recently improved access for Israeli agricultural products – will be brought into question if there is no rapid progress. Equally, the U.S., as by far the largest bilateral donor to Egypt, should press President Mubarak to allow in the humanitarian and reconstruction materials that are so desperately needed.

        What will be the state of Gaza's drinking water by next December? Of the health of its children? Of the economy? The attitude of its people towards Egypt and Israel? The risk of waiting another year is too great. Gordon Brown and the international community must urgently declare that enough is enough. The blockade must end.

        Comment



        • December 22, 2009 -- Israel and Hamas were tonight facing serious disagreements that could scupper a long-awaited prisoner exchange likely to see hundreds of Palestinians freed in exchange for a captured Israeli soldier. Palestinian sources said the German official mediating between the two sides had asked Israel to reconsider its objections to a deal, believed to hinge on where Palestinians convicted of armed attacks would be allowed to go once freed. Amid a flurry of expectations, leaks and speculation in Israel and Gaza, Israelis rallied in solidarity for Gilad Shalit, the 23-year-old sergeant who was captured by Palestinians in June 2006 and who has since become a cause celebre in Israel. The German mediator, Ernst Uhrlau, postponed a visit to see Hamas officials in Gaza until tomorrow. Uhrlau was given Israel's response after lengthy talks by senior ministers late last night. Reports from the Palestinian territory spoke of mounting excitement tempered by caution about an immediate deal, although Hamas officials said Israel's last-minute demands could torpedo the agreement. However, a Palestinian analyst said if the current talks failed another round would probably start after the new year.

          Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, insisted his government was doing its utmost to win Shalit's release but stressed it would not pay any price. "Our top priority is to bring Gilad home," Barak said. "Not at any price, but in every possible and appropriate way." Israeli media reported that an exchange would be approved if Hamas agreed to the deportation of prisoners convicted of especially bloody attacks such as the bombing of a Passover celebration that killed 30 people in 2002. Campaigners for and against a deal have made emotional appeals to the Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. Almagor, an organisation representing victims of terrorist attacks, reminded Netanyahu that his brother Yoni was killed during the operation to rescue victims of an aircraft hijack to Entebbe in 1976. This organisation has likened releasing Palestinians for Shalit to a deal with Hitler. The Jerusalem Post reported meanwhile that the former Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti, who is serving multiple life sentences for his role in three fatal attacks against Israelis, would be allowed to return to his home in the West Bank. Israel said in November it was ready to release nearly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners to secure Shalit's freedom. It said it would first release 450 chosen by Hamas, with a further 530 once Shalit was released.

          Comment


          • Neve Gordon, December 23, 2009:


            "Why," I have often been asked, "haven't the Palestinians established a peace movement like the Israeli Peace Now?" The question itself is problematic, being based on many erroneous assumptions, such as the notion that there is symmetry between the two sides and that Peace Now has been a politically effective movement. Most important, though, is the false supposition that Palestinians have indeed failed to create a pro-peace popular movement.

            In September 1967 – three months after the decisive war in which the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem were occupied – Palestinian leaders decided to launch a campaign against the introduction of new Israeli textbooks in Palestinian schools. They did not initiate terrorist attacks, as the prevailing narratives about Palestinian opposition would have one believe, but rather the Palestinian dissidents adopted Mahatma Gandhi-style methods and declared a general school strike: teachers did not show up for work, children took to the streets to protest against the occupation and many shopkeepers closed shop.

            Israel's response to that first strike was immediate and severe: it issued military orders categorising all forms of resistance as insurgency – including protests and political meetings, raising flags or other national symbols, publishing or distributing articles or pictures with political connotations, and even singing or listening to nationalist songs. Moreover, it quickly deployed security forces to suppress opposition, launching a punitive campaign in Nablus, where the strike's leaders resided. As Major General Shlomo Gazit, the co-ordinator of activities in the occupied territories at the time, points out in his book The Carrot and the Stick, the message Israel wanted to convey was clear: any act of resistance would result in a disproportionate response, which would make the population suffer to such a degree that resistance would appear pointless. After a few weeks of nightly curfews, cutting off telephone lines, detaining leaders, and increasing the level of harassment, Israel managed to break the strike.

            While much water has passed under the bridge since that first attempt to resist using "civil disobedience" tactics, over the past five decades Palestinians have continuously deployed nonviolent forms of opposition to challenge the occupation. Israel, on the other hand, has, used violent measures to undermine all such efforts. It is often forgotten that even the second intifada, which turned out to be extremely violent, began as a popular nonviolent uprising. Haaretz journalist Akiva Eldar revealed several years later that the top Israeli security echelons had decided to "fan the flames" during the uprising's first weeks. He cites Amos Malka, the military general in charge of intelligence at the time, saying that during the second intifada's first month, when it was still mostly characterised by nonviolent popular protests, the military fired 1.3 million bullets in the West Bank and Gaza. The idea was to intensify the levels of violence, thinking that this would lead to a swift and decisive military victory and the successful suppression of the rebellion. And indeed the uprising and its suppression turned out to be extremely violent.

            But over the past five years, Palestinians from scores of villages and towns such as Bil'in and Jayyous have developed new forms of pro-peace resistance that have attracted the attention of the international community. Even Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad recently called on his constituents to adopt similar strategies. Israel, in turn, decided to find a way to end the protests once and for all and has begun a well-orchestrated campaign that targets the local leaders of such resistance. One such leader is Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and the co-ordinator of Bil'in's Popular Committee Against the Wall, is one of many Palestinians who was on the military's wanted list. At 2am on 10 December (international Human Rights Day), nine military vehicles surrounded his home. Israeli soldiers broke the door down, and after allowing him to say goodbye to his wife Majida and three young children, blindfolded him and took him into custody. He is being charged with throwing stones, the possession of arms (namely gas canisters in the Bil'in museum) and inciting fellow Palestinians, which, translated, means organising demonstrations against the occupation.

            The day before Abu Ramah was arrested, the Israeli military carried out a co-ordinated operation in the Nablus region, raiding houses of targeted grassroots activists who have been fighting against human rights abuses. Wa'el al-Faqeeh Abu as-Sabe, 45, is one of the nine people arrested. He was taken from his home at 1am and, like Abu Ramah, is being charged with incitement. Mayasar Itiany, who is known for her work with the Nablus Women's Union and is a campaigner for prisoners' rights was also taken into custody as was Mussa Salama, who is active in the Labour Committee of Medical Relief for Workers. Even Jamal Juma, the director of an NGO called Stop the Wall, is now behind bars.

            Targeted night arrests of community leaders have become common practice across the West Bank, most notably in the village of Bil'in where, since June, 31 residents have been arrested for their involvement in the demonstrations against the wall. Among these is Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a prominent activist who has been held in detention for almost five months and is under threat of being imprisoned for up to 14 months. Clearly, the strategy is to arrest all of the leaders and charge them with incitement, thus setting an extremely high "price tag" for organising protests against the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The objective is to put an end to the pro-peace popular resistance in the villages and to crush, once and for all, the Palestinian peace movement. Thus, my answer to those who ask about a Palestinian "Peace Now" is that a peaceful grassroots movement has always existed. At Abdallah Abu Rahmah's trial next Tuesday one will be able to witness some of the legal methods that have consistently been deployed to destroy it.

            Comment



            • Jeudi 24 Décembre 2009 -- La députée palestinienne Samira Al-Halaïka vient d’avertir sur les dangers des projets sionistes de faire écrouler la mosquée El-Aqsa, indiquant que les travaux ont atteint leur étape finale pour la démolition du troisième lieu saint de l’islam. «La volonté d’une judaïsation totale de la ville sacrée est aujourd’hui avérée», a-t-elle dénoncé. Samira Al-Halaïka attire, ainsi, l’attention de l’opinion publique arabe, musulmane, chrétienne et internationale sur les vrais dangers des autorités sionistes qui menacent, plus que jamais, la mosquée sainte. «Les droits légitimes des Palestiniens d’El-Qods occupée, à travers la destruction de leurs maisons et de leurs quartiers, sont bafoués au vu et au su de la communauté internationale», déplore la députée palestinienne. «L’occupation exerce une extermination géopolitique, démographique et culturelle discriminatoires contre les habitants autochtones de la ville sainte d’El-Qods, en visant leur expulsion, le plus tôt possible, de leurs maisons et en confisquant leurs biens et leurs droits légitimes», a mis en garde Halaïka. Les déclarations de la députée palestinienne sont venues après l’annonce de l’association d’El-Aqsa de creusements très profonds, à des dizaines de mètres, à l’ouest de la mosquée. Ces creusements ont pour but la construction de deux tunnels et de deux ascenseurs électriques qui mènent à l’esplanade d’El-Bouraq et à l’entrée des portes des Maghrébins, ce qui va faciliter l’assaut sioniste criminel contre la mosquée. Par ailleurs, la Knesset, le Parlement israélien, a examiné au début de décembre un projet de loi visant à interdire l’appel à la prière de l’aube à la mosquée d’El-Aqsa, et ce «pour ne pas déranger les colons juifs installés aux alentours», a rapporté le journal palestinien Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

              Comment



              • Algiers, December 24, 2009 – The Palestinian Legislative Council's (PLC) delegation from Gaza met with UN Secretary General's representative Lakhdar al-Ibrahimi in the Algerian capital. MPs Ismail Al-Ashkar and Mushir Al-Masri discussed with Ibrahimi inter-Palestinian reconciliation and the siege on Gaza Strip. PLC member Ismail al-Ashkar explained to al-Ibrahimi the Hamas movement's position regarding inter-Palestinian reconciliation stressing the urgency of national unity to confront the Zionist threat, while Mushir al-Masri called for an international campaign to expose Israel's ongoing violations of legality and to lift the Mideast Quartet's conditions for talks with Hamas. Lakhdar al-Ibrahimi, for his part, agreed to the importance of a widespread campaign to end the siege on the Strip and called for direct talks between Fatah and Hamas aimed at bridging the divide.

                Comment



                • December 27, 2009 -- Israeli troops yesterday shot dead six Palestinians in two separate incidents, as evidence emerged that an increasingly fragile ceasefire between armed groups loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement and Israel appeared to be in danger of breaking down. The shootings, the most serious violence in months, came a day before today's first anniversary of the outbreak of Israel's war against Gaza in which almost 1,400 Palestinians died – and as allegations have emerged from Israeli human rights campaigners who opposed the war that they are facing concerted attempts to silence them.

                  Three of the Palestinians were killed in an airstrike just inside the Gaza border. According to Israeli officials they had been scouting the area for a possible infiltration operation, but according to Hamas officials and medics they had been searching for scrap metal to salvage. More serious in its implications, however, was the shooting dead of three members of Fatah's armed wing – the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades – in a raid on the northern West Bank city of Nablus, apparently in retaliation for the shooting of an Israeli driving near the settlement at Shavei Shomron. Relatives who witnessed the Nablus shootings said soldiers fired at two of the men without warning. An Israeli army spokesman, Major Peter Lerner, said troops fired after the three men failed to respond to calls to surrender.

                  It also follows the discovery of an improvised explosive device on a busy road leading to the huge Israeli settlement at Modi'in with a letter from an al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades unit claiming responsibility. The two incidents have followed recent warnings from both Israelis and Palestinians that frustration among a younger generation of al-Aqsa members – which signed an amnesty deal with Israel in 2007 – over the lack of progress in the almost moribund peace process was in danger of boiling over. An aide to Abbas described the killings as a "grave Israeli escalation" which showed "Israel is not interested in peace and is trying to explode the situation".

                  The shootings have come as Israeli human rights campaigners issued a stinging critique of how Israelis who opposed the war in Gaza have been treated by the state, claiming that they have been silenced, accused and vilified. In its annual report, the Association of Civil Rights in Israel states: "Instead of taking an honest look at its reflection, Israeli society and its institutions chose to smash the mirror." Although much attention has been focused on the continuing plight of Gaza's residents, still suffering under a prolonged Israeli economic siege that has prevented rebuilding of the war-damaged coastal strip, there has been less focus on the treatment of those Israelis who campaigned against the war and for the ending of the blockade.

                  "There has been a huge change in the way the government treats those who dissent," says Michael Sfard, an Israeli lawyer representing several human rights groups. This process, he adds, has accelerated in the year since the attacks in Gaza: "The gloves have come off." Sari Bashi, director of human rights group Gisha, says Israeli campaigners in this field "know that red lines were crossed in Gaza, that the Israeli military relaxed its restraints on the use of force and that terrible violations were taking place". But she accuses the Israeli government of using a "shoot-the-messenger" tactic to deal with such concerns. "Instead of addressing credible claims of human rights violations, there have been attempts to undermine the legitimacy of anyone trying to raise awareness," she says.

                  One prominent issue has been a scrutiny of the funding of human rights groups. In June 2009, Breaking the Silence, a group of veteran Israeli soldiers, released shocking testimonials from combat soldiers who served during the Gaza assault. The Israeli army dismissed these reports, while the government pointed out that the group receives funding from the EU, as well as from Britain, Spain and the Netherlands. Foreign governments were asked to stop funding Israeli groups critical of the Israeli army. The Israeli media swarmed with denouncements of Breaking the Silence, partly on the grounds that it was serving "foreign interests".

                  This year, Knesset members initiated a draft law that would require Israeli civil society organisations to state their funding sources in every document and every media interview. But Bashi points out that such financing is already transparent. "We report our sources of funding to three separate organisations and on our website," she says. Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, says the concern is over whether groups defined as non-governmental organisations should receive contributions from overseas governments. "No one has in any way inhibited their activities," he said of human rights groups in Israel. He described the complaints of de-legitimisation as "attempts to create a bogeyman". But campaigners hold that, as a consequence of attempts to discredit them, their motivations are more discussed than the actual content of their reports. Breaking the Silence says the group is still struggling to raise discussion of the details of its testimonials – and not just the fact of their release – within Israel.

                  Several commentators point out that, in an increasingly "us-and-them" society, it is not just groups reporting on Gaza that have become targets of denunciation. Campaigners for the rights of foreign workers in Israel are also decried, sometimes at ministerial level: one foreign ministry official wrote that the Israeli Hotline for Migrant Workers, "represents criminals and helps them extinguish morality from the land of Israel". Campaigners focused on Gaza's plight complain that they are still as marginal as ever. "I am a very lonely voice," says Naomi Zion, a peace campaigner who lives near Sderot. Zion finds it "almost impossible to ask critical questions about Israel's actions". "We lost the ability to see the other side; people just don't care," she says. "We lost our empathy skills – and when you lose that, you lose your humanity."

                  Comment



                  • ALGIERS, December 27, 2009 (KUNA) -- On Sunday an Algerian Islamist party called for the lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip and for the trial of Israeli war criminals. The Movement for the Society of Peace party said in a statement on the first anniversary of the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip that it was time to continue the international investigation of the crimes which occurred against the innocents, bringing those responsible for the death of many to justice. The Arab world should support the Gazans who are defying the Israeli war machine and should not side with measures that would increase the suffering of people in that important part of the Arab world, the statement concluded.

                    Comment



                    • Lundi 28 Décembre 2009 -- Deux dirigeants du Hamas palestinien, Ismaïl Al Achkar et Mouchir El Misri ont visité l’Algérie ces derniers jours, une année après l’attaque israélienne de Ghaza. La visite n’a pas été annoncée officiellement à Alger. Les dirigeants du parti islamiste sont, à première vue, venus solliciter l’appui algérien contre la décision de l’Egypte de construire un mur en acier pour empêcher les Ghazaouis d’entrer sur son territoire et de casser le blocus imposé par Israël depuis quatre ans. “La construction de ce mur est un crime de guerre”, a déclaré lundi 28 décembre Ismaïl Al Achkar au quotidien Ech-Chourouk. “Le but de la construction de ce mur est d’amener le Hamas à assouplir sa position vis-à-vis d’Israël. C’est une volonté d’affâmer le peuple palestinien”, a-t-il précisé. Selon Mouchir El Misri, Le Caire a décidé de construire le mur en application d’un accord de sécurité signé avec les Etats-Unis. Un accord paraphé les derniers jours de l’administration Bush en 2008. Le même responsable a indiqué que la reconstruction de Ghaza n’a pas eu lieu et que tous les fonds promis, y compris par l’Union européenne et la Ligue arabe, n’ont pas été reçus. La population de Ghaza manque, selon lui, de médicaments et de nourriture. Le ministère algérien des Affaires Etrangères n’a, à ce jour, fait aucune déclaration sur la construction du mur égyptien, un acte condamné par plusieurs organisations internationales. L’Algérie n’a également rien dit sur le refus du Caire de laisser passer un convoi humanitaire vers la bande de Ghaza. Pour rappel, l’opération “Plomb Durci” de l’armée israëlienne engagée le 27 décembre 2008 et arrêtée le 18 janvier 2009 a fait 1 400 victimes dont 439 enfants et 5 570 blessés.

                      Comment



                      • December 28, 2009 -- When Hamas held its annual anniversary celebrations in the centre of Gaza City it looked like a defiant and celebratory show. There was a male choir in camouflage fatigues singing on the stage, a sea of green flags in the crowd and wave after wave of self-congratulatory chanting: "Far and wide, Hamas is shaking the ground." A year after Israel's devastating three-week war in Gaza, the Palestinian Islamist movement which controls the strip is still very much in charge and unbowed. "No one imagined that after such a crucial war against our people and our resistance that anyone could plan such a proud anniversary as this," Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader and former prime minister, told the crowd.

                        His defiant rhetoric celebrated the movement's 22nd year, pledged never to recognise Israel and claimed the whole of historic Palestine for the Palestinians. "Palestine from the sea to the river, we won't surrender it," he told the crowd. But his words barely captured the reality of Gaza today. Israel launched its war a year ago, saying it was compelled to act to halt militant rocket fire from Gaza. After three weeks, 1,387 Palestinians were dead, most of them civilians, according to the Israeli rights group B'Tselem, although Israel disputes those figures. Thirteen Israelis were killed. Thousands more Palestinians were left homeless and hundreds of factories were destroyed. Israel has kept up its economic blockade, which has prevented imports of reconstruction materials. Earlier this month the UN Relief and Works Agency, the main aid agency in Gaza, presented a family with a new home. It was built from mud bricks.

                        For Hamas, the war itself has brought other changes. Despite Haniyeh's constant talk of resistance, the number of rockets fired out of Gaza has fallen dramatically this year. Hamas has announced that nearly all factions have agreed to halt the rockets and one Israeli paper reported this month that rocket fire from Gaza was down 90% compared to last year. Haniyeh himself hinted at this new stance in his anniversary speech. "The resistance is strong and hitting everywhere, but we are more wise and more managed," he said. Mustapha Sawaf, a former editor of a Hamas newspaper, said this was simply a decision made "in the national interest". Others put it differently. "When Hamas entered the Palestinian legislative elections their slogan was a mix of resistance and politics. It has completely failed," said Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at al-Azhar University in Gaza. "Hamas knows resistance is going to cost them their regime in the Gaza strip."

                        As Hamas has moderated its militancy so it has faced internal challenges from hardliners in Gaza demanding the movement take a tougher stance and institute a more rigidly Islamic code. Hamas has tried to reimpose control, often earning the rebukes of fellow Gazans. Although Hamas will not recognise Israel, it is deep into indirect negotiations over a prisoner swap that would see an Israeli soldier captured three and a half years ago freed in return for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. At the same time, while Haniyeh said Hamas would never recognise Israel he also repeated a previous call for a Palestinian state in the occupied territories alone.

                        In Israel, meanwhile, there is a sense that the war was their success, but that another round of conflict is inevitable. Yoav Galant, the general in charge of Israel's southern command, noted recently how the rocket fire has dropped off. "I can say that this has been the quietest year for the south in the past decade," he was reported as saying. "It can last for months or years, but ultimately it is going to be broken." For Israeli analysts the diplomatic fallout for Israel that followed the war, including accusations against both sides of war crimes by Judge Richard Goldstone's UN report, is manageable and has not affected Israel's most important international relationship, with the U.S. Still, many Israelis are frustrated that their military was singled out for criticism, even as civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are dying at the hands of western armies. Others worry that Israel's strategy towards Gaza is still unclear and undetermined. "What will happen is that we will muddle through as usual," said Shlomo Brom, a retired general and an analyst at the Institute for National Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv. "Eventually it is going to explode. Nobody will do anything, but when there will be a crisis we will deal with the crisis."

                        For those living in Gaza today, the strip is already in crisis as a result of Israel's siege. Hamas has allowed a tunnel smuggling economy under the Egyptian border to develop, skimming a profit off for itself and preventing outright economic collapse. But it has brought de-development: most of the strip's factories are still empty and unused, the population is increasingly aid dependent and there are barely any long-term development projects. Nearly $5 billion (£3.13 billion) was pledged by the world for the Palestinians after the Gaza war. On the ground here there is little evidence of it. "We are moving backwards. Now we depend completely on what we receive from Egypt," said Amjad Shawa, a Palestinian aid agency co-ordinator. He talks about the hidden traumatic cost of the blockade and the sense of powerlessness many Gazans now feel. At the same time he fears the growing detachment from the West Bank and the disintegration of the Palestinian national movement. "The issue for Gazans is not only humanitarian," he said. "It's not that we need food only. Gazans are looking for their freedom."

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                          • December 30, 2009 -- Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat vowed Wednesday that criticism from the United States would not have any impact on construction in the city, Israel Radio reported. Speaking during a tour of the neighborhood of Gilo, Barkat said that the demand to halt construction in Jerusalem only for Jews would not be legal anywhere in the world. The White House made clear in a statement Tuesday that it opposes new Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, which is predominantly Arab and tapped by the Palestinians to be the capital of a future state. "Neither party should engage in efforts or take actions that could unilaterally preempt, or appear to preempt, negotiations. Rather, both parties should return to negotiations without preconditions as soon as possible," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement. Gibbs was referring to the plan to build 692 housing units in the Jewish neighborhoods of Neveh Yaakov, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev in East Jerusalem. But, according to a senior official in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's bureau, "everything was carried out with transparency vis-a-vis the Americans, even if there are disagreements." Israel announced several weeks ago that it was launching a 10-month suspension of construction in the West Bank, a move that was welcomed by the international community but also criticized as it failed to include East Jerusalem.

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                            • December 31, 2009 -- Israeli police on Thursday arrested a settler teen suspected of involvement in the torching of a West Bank mosque three weeks ago, but later released him saying they did not have enough evidence. The teen, whose parents and grandfather were killed in Palestinian terror attacks, was arrested at the Tapuah Junction in the West Bank. The vandalism at the mosque in the West Bank village of Yasuf drew harsh rebuke from Israeli leaders, among them politicians and clergy. During the attack, the vandals torched copies of the Qur'an and prayer carpets, and scrawled Nazi slogans in Hebrew across the walls. Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger visited the mosque following the attack to express his condemnation. "I came here to expression my revulsion at this wretched act of burning a place holy to the Muslim people," Metzger told the residents after he was escorted into the village under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian police. "This is how the Holocaust began, the tragedy of the Jewish people of Europe." A delegation of West Bank settlers, led by renowned peacemaker Rabbi Menachem Froman, brought copies of the Qur'an to the village to replace those lost in the fire. Although they intended to enter the village as well, the delegates were held up by the Israel Defense Forces and carried out their meeting with the village elders at a nearby checkpoint. Israel had suspected that settlers had carried out the arson to demonstrate their anger over the government's enforcement of a freeze in settlement construction.

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