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Palestinian Authority budget 28% for security forces – funded by US

New actors in Middle East peace charade

by Ramzy Baroud, source

Despite much saber-rattling by Israel and the US administration and hyped-up expectations by the Palestinian leadership, the recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state last November is fast becoming yet another footnote in the protracted conflict.

Only hours after the announcement of Palestinian’s “state” status, Israel had its own to make: the building of a new illegal settlement on Palestinian land (according to international law, all of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal).

The area is called the E-1 zone by Israel. A couple of European countries responded with greater exasperation than usual, but soon moved on to other seemingly more pressing issues. The US called Israel’s move “counterproductive”, but soon neglected the matter. Palestinian activists who tried to counter Israel’s illegal activities by pitching tents in areas marked by Israel for construction were violently removed.

Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) is at a standstill in the same pitiful possession. It continues to serve as a buffer between occupied, ethnically cleansed and rightfully angry Palestinians. Its existence would not have been possible without Israel’s consent.

Fiery speeches, press releases and conferences aside, the PA has effectively sub-contracted part of the Israeli occupation – as in maintaining Israel’s security for example – in exchange for perks for those affiliated with the PA.

Examples of these privileges include easier access to business contracts or jobs. It is this symbiosis that constantly averts any serious confrontation between Israel and the PA. Both parties would lose if the status quo were seriously hampered.

For Israel to reclaim its responsibilities as an occupying power under international law would be a huge financial and political burden that could impede its settlement constructions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. In fact, Israel is able to maintain all the benefits of military occupation without much cost. For Abbas, shutting down the PA conglomerate would mean financial and political suicide for the branch of Fatah politicians affiliated with him.

Thus some clever manifestation of the “peace process” show must be found that would help both parties save face – Israel to finish its settlement plans and the PA to sustain its enterprise.

In fact, Israel’s decision on January 30 to release US$100 million of taxes and tariffs collected on behalf of the PA (which it has withheld, some say robbed to punish the PA for its UN bid) was possibly a prelude to the resumption of the same ongoing peace charade.

According to an Israeli official cited by Agence France Presse, the transfer was a “measure to ease the financial crisis faced by the Palestinians,” ironically manufactured by Israel. That gesture of “good will” is likely to be harnessed into some “confidence building measures” in hopes of resetting the entire “peace process”.

An explosion of mass rallies and protests in the West Bank – where most people have not received a full pay check for months – will neither serve Israeli nor PA interests. Scenes of desperate Palestinian men and women marching throughout the territories would be a threat to both Abbas’ already drained political apparatus and Israel’s horribly disfigured image.

But there is evidence that there is more to the plan than averting a crisis. According to a statement made by Muhammad Sbeih, secretary-general for Palestinian affairs in the Arab League, an Arab League delegation will soon to head to the US to “move forward the Middle East peace process”. “The proposal includes specific Arab ideas about Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territory, the establishment of a Palestinian state, “guaranteed security for both sides”.

Moreover, on February 1, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi reported that the UK hosted a conference for Palestinian and Israeli officials to discuss ways of resuming the so-called peace process.

According to the paper, which quoted Palestinian sources, the Israeli delegation was headed by Yossi Belin – known for his role in laying the foundation for the Oslo accords. The head of the Palestinian delegation, prominent Fatah member Muhammad Ishtayya, denied that any negotiations took place. Instead, he told Ma’an the conference – held at the Wilton Park Resort in southern England – “only discussed the Middle East crisis”.

Meanwhile, attempts at wooing Hamas continue. Several Arabic newspapers, including Asharq Al-Awsat reported that the head of Hamas’ Politburo, Khaled Meshaal, had indicated in a recent meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan that Hamas is prepared to the accept the so-called “two-state solution”. Meshaal allegedly asked the Jordanian King to relay the message to US President Barack Obama. However, a Hamas statement denied the reports as baseless.

Israeli politics regarding the occupation and illegal settlement constructions are unlikely to change after its January elections. Despite media enthusiasm over the rise of Israel’s left and center, there are no indications that the new configuration is likely to sway Israel away from its war-driven policies.

However, Israel looks at political events unfolding in Washington with concern. The US administration is assembling its team for Barack Obama’s second term in office and of course, Israeli interests are high on the agenda. Two nominations in particular were of much interest to Israel, that of John Kerry, as secretary of state and Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense.

A Voice of America website commentary poised a mundane question in relations to Kerry’s new post on February 1: “Can Secretary of State John Kerry Bring Peace to Israel and the Palestinians?”

Israeli media however, is far more candid in these matters. “Is John Kerry good for Israel?” asked Yedioth Ahronot on its English website. “He may be a friend of Israel but is not considered the standard bearer for Israel at the Senate,” the Israeli paper quoted a state official as saying.

If Kerry is not good enough, one can only imagine the seething anger of neoconservatives, pro-Israeli pundits and other officials at the nomination of Hagel. Hagel’s past statements on Israel and Iran are neither those of “standard bearers for Israel” or anything that resembles a commitment of any sort.

In an all-day confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill, Republican lawmakers pounced on the former Nebraska Republican senator regarding everything he said or failed to say (or sign) over issues of vital interest to Israel. It was frankly difficult to decipher whether Senator John McCain and Senator Ted Cruz were more concerned about genuine US security issues or Israel’s “security” masquerading as vital US national interests.

Hagel is chastised for criticizing the immense power wielded by the pro-Israel lobby in Washington – as if his allegations were mere fantasies and despite the fact that the major campaign unleashed against his nomination was launched by the very forces he criticized.

Few expect a major departure from old policies once the new Washington team is fully assembled, although others underscore a slow but steady shift in US priorities in the Middle East. Even if one adheres to a more optimistic reading of the supposed “shift” underway in Washington, one cannot expect a major change to Israel’s behavior in the occupied territories.

Without a real mechanism to force an Israeli change – which must be accompanied by taming the disproportionately powerful lobby – little on the ground is likely to change.

While American politicians were busy defending their pro-Israeli credentials in Senate hearings, other hearings of great importance, yet, thus far of little consequences, were being concluded elsewhere.

An inquiry set up by the Human Rights Council last March and brazenly boycotted by Israel, had finally concluded that Israeli settlements are a violation of international law while calling on Israel to “immediately” withdraw all of its settlers from East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The UN investigators concluded that Israel’s continued violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions could amount to war crimes “that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” Al-Jazeera reported. “Israel must … cease all settlement activities without preconditions [and] must immediately initiate a process of withdrawal of all settlers”, the report, released, January 31, read in part.

The findings by the well-respected international organization once more accentuate the real parameters of any genuine peace. Bit this kind of peace doesn’t suit Israeli, hence US interests.

Until Palestinians find an alternative to this sorry trio of Israel-US-PA peacemakers, all they can expect is more of the same – a secret conference here, another settlement there and an occasional Israeli handout, oddly enough, taken from Palestinians’ own tax money.

Palestine’s new status: History rerun or new strategy

(File photo)

(File photo)

by Ramzy Baroud, source

Palestine has become a “non-member state” at the United Nations as of Thursday November 29, 2012. The draft of the UN resolution beckoning what many perceive as a historic moment passed with an overwhelming majority of General Assembly members: 138 votes in favor, nine against and 41 abstentions.

It was accompanied by a passionate speech delivered by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. But decades earlier, a more impressive and animated Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat sought international solidarity as well. The occasion then was also termed ‘historic’.

Empowered by Arab support at the Rabat Arab League summit in October 1974, which bestowed on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the ever-opaque title “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”, Arafat was invited to speak at the UN General Assembly. Despite the fervor that accompanied the newly found global solidarity, Arafat’s language singled a departure from what was perceived by Western powers as radical and unrealistic political and territorial ambitions.

In his speech on November 13, Arafat spoke of the growing PLO’s legitimacy that compelled his actions: “The PLO has earned its legitimacy because of the sacrifice inherent in its pioneering role and also because of its dedicated leadership of the struggle. It has also been granted this legitimacy by the Palestinian masses… The PLO has also gained its legitimacy by representing every faction, union or group as well as every Palestinian talent, either in the National Council or in people’s institutions…” The list went on, and, despite some reservations, each had a reasonable degree of merit.

The same however can hardly be said of Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA), which exists as a result of an ambiguous ‘peace process’ nearly 20-years ago. It has all but completely destroyed the PLO’s once functioning institutions, redefined the Palestinian national project of liberation around a more ‘pragmatic’ – read self-serving – discourse that is largely tailored around self-preservation, absence of financial accountability and a system of political tribalism.

Abbas is no Yasser Arafat. But equally important, the Arafat of 1974 was a slightly different version of an earlier Arafat who was the leader of the revolutionary Fatah party. In 1974, Arafat made a statehood proposal that itself represented a departure from Fatah’s own previous commitment to a ‘democratic state on all Palestine’. Arafat’s revised demands contained the willingness to settle for “establishing an independent national state on all liberated Palestinian territory”.

While the difference between both visions may be attributed to a reinterpretation of the Palestinian liberation strategy, history showed that it was much more. Since that date and despite much saber-rattling by the US and Israel against Arafat’s ‘terrorism’ and such, the PLO under Arafat’s Fatah leadership underwent a decade-long scrutiny process, where the US placed austere demands in exchange for an American ‘engagement’ of the Palestinian leadership. This itself was the precondition that yielded Oslo and its abysmal consequences.

Arafat was careful to always sugarcoat any of his concessions with a parallel decision that was promoted to Palestinians as a national triumph of some sort. Back then there was no Hamas to stage a major challenge to the PLO’s policies, and Leftist groups within the PLO structure were either politically marginalized by Fatah or had no substantial presences among the Palestinian masses. The field was virtually empty of any real opposition, and Arafat’s credibility was rarely questioned. Even some of his opponents found him sincere, despite their protests against his style and distressing concessions.

The rise of the PLO’s acceptability in international arenas was demonstrated in its admission to the United Nations as a “non-state entity” with an observer status on Nov 22, 1974. The Israeli war and subsequent invasion of Lebanon in 1982 had the declared goal of destroying the PLO and was in fact aimed at stifling the growing legitimacy of the PLO regionally and internationally. Without an actual power base, in this case, Lebanon, Israeli leaders calculated that the PLO would either fully collapse or politically capitulate.

Weakened, but not obliterated, the post-Lebanon war PLO was a different entity than the one which existed prior to 1982. Armed resistance was no longer on the table, at least not in any practical terms. Such change suited some Arab countries just fine. A few years later, Arafat and Fatah were assessing the new reality from headquarters in Tunisia.

The political landscape in Palestine was vastly changing. A popular uprising (Intifada) erupted in 1987 and quite spontaneously a local leadership was being formed throughout the occupied territories. New names of Palestinian intellectuals were emerging. They were community leaders and freedom fighters that mostly organized around a new discourse that was created out of local universities, Israeli prisons and Palestinian streets.

It was then that the legend of the Intifada was born with characters such as children with slingshots, mothers battling soldiers, and a massive reservoir of a new type of Palestinian fighter along with fresh language and discourse. Equally important, new movements were appearing from outside the traditional PLO confines. One such movement is Hamas, which has grown in numbers and political relevance in ways once thought impossible.

That reality proved alarming to the US, Israel and of course, the traditional PLO leadership. There were enough vested interests to reach a ‘compromise’. This naturally meant more concessions by the Palestinian leadership in exchange for some symbolic recompense by the Americans. The latter happily floated Israel’s trial balloons so that the Israeli leadership didn’t appear weak or compromising. Two major events defined that stage of politics in 1988: On Nov 15, the PLO’s National Council (PNC) proclaimed a Palestinian state in exile from Algiers and merely two weeks later, US Ambassador to Tunisia Robert H. Pelletreau Jr., was designated as the sole American liaison whose mission was to establish contacts with the PLO.

Despite the US’ declared objection of Arafat’s move, the US was in fact pleased to see that the symbolic declaration was accompanied by major political concessions. The PNC stipulated the establishment of an independent state on Palestinian ‘national soil’ and called for the institution of “arrangements for security and peace of all states in the region” through a negotiated settlements at an international peace conference on the basis of UN resolution 242 and 338 and Palestinian national rights.

Although Arafat was repeatedly confronted by even more American demands – that truly never ceased until his alleged murder by poison in Ramallah in 2004 – the deceleration was the real preamble of the Oslo accords some few years later. Since then, Palestinians have gained little aside from symbolic victories starting in 1988 when the UNGA “acknowledged” the Algiers proclamation. It then voted to replace the reference to the “Palestine Liberation Organization” with that of “Palestine”. And since then, it has been one symbolic victory after another, exemplified in an officially acknowledged Palestinian flag, postage stamps, a national anthem and the like.

On the ground, the reality was starkly and disturbingly different: fledgling illegal settlements became fortified cities and a relatively small settler population now morphed to number over half a million settlers; Jerusalem is completely besieged by settlements, and cut off from the rest of the occupied territories; the Palestinian Authority, established in 1994 to guide Palestinians towards independence, became a permanent status of a Palestinian leadership that existed as far as Israel would permit it to exist; polarization caused by the corruption of the PA and its security coordination with Israel lead to civil strife that divided the Palestinian national project between factional and self-serving agendas.

The support that ‘Palestine’ has received at the United Nations must be heartening, to say the least, for most Palestinians. The overwhelming support, especially by Palestine’s traditional supporters (most of humanity with few exceptions) indicates that the US hegemony, arm twisting and Israeli-US propaganda was of little use after all. However, that should not be misidentified as a real change of course in the behavior of the Palestinian Authority which still lacks legal, political and especially moral legitimacy among Palestinians who are seeking tangible drive towards freedom, not mere symbolic victories.

If Abbas thinks that obtaining a new wording for Palestine status at the UN would provide a needed political theater to justify another 20 years of utter failures, then time is surely to prove him wrong. If the new status, however, is used as a platform for a radically different strategy that would revitalize a haggard political discourse with the sole aim of unifying the ranks of all Palestinians around a new proud national project, then, there is something worth discussing. Indeed, it is not the new status that truly matters, but rather how it is interpreted and employed. While history is not exactly promising, the future will have the last word.

Repressive PA police trained, equipped by Western donors

PA forces (File photo)

The Electronic Intifada

DUBAI (IRIN) – “I have never seen such brutality in my life, except from the Israeli forces,” said Aliya still shocked a day after her protest march through the West Bank city of Ramallah was violently attacked by security officers working for the Palestinian Authority. “They just kept on beating us.”

Aliya (not her real name) was one of a few hundred young people who had marched on Sunday, 1 July to protest against police brutality which had broken up an earlier demonstration.

As the protestors started to call for the resignation of Abdul Latif al-Qadumi, the head of the Ramallah police force, the reaction of the police grew more violent. “No to Dayton’s police! Stop the coordination!” was one of the protesters’ cries.

Keith Dayton, the former US Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority (USSC), ended his term overseeing US assistance in restructuring Palestinian security forces in 2010. But the lieutenant-general’s legacy — newly trained and equipped Palestinian police and intelligence forces — remains.

Others have also helped reform the Palestinian police. The European Union runs a “mission” known as EUPOL COPPS (EU Police Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support), for example.

In 2005 — as part of the “Roadmap to Peace” agreement — donors agreed to provide assistance to the Palestinian Authority to re-establish functioning security forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Since Hamas took over the internal administration of Gaza in 2007, the assistance of the USSC and the EUPOL COPPS mission has been limited to the West Bank. The mandate of these missions is to reform the six different, often competing, PA security services and train and equip them so that they can keep order.

Most of the PA’s security forces were only officially established during the years of the Oslo II agreement of 1995 together with the new PA. As the second intifada — beginning in 2000 — grew violent and many of the freshly equipped recruits took part in battles against Israeli forces, the latter made sure that both infrastructure and operational capacities were destroyed.

PA: policing for ‘Israel’

Today the situation in most of Area A — the 17.5 percent of land nominally controlled by PA forces in the West Bank — is different. PA security forces patrol the streets while militiamen with guns are only seen on posters celebrating martyrs killed by Israel.

A 2010 UN Development Program survey in the area showed that 52 percent of respondents felt the security services ensured a safe environment (“Investing in human security for a future state” [PDF]). But this new security comes with a twist: the police and intelligence services are also protecting the security of Israel.

Coordination with Israeli security services is a pillar of the reforms. Forces are trained and equipped to react to the demand of Israeli agencies in quelling armed groups. During the month of Ramadan, when many Palestinians try to cross the checkpoints into East Jerusalem for religious reasons, it is now the PA police which screens people, checking to see if they fit set Israeli criteria for a crossing permit.

Many Palestinians and external experts say the developments inside the PA and its security services are worrying. “For sure,” said one international security expert based in Ramallah and who preferred anonymity, “what we have here is nothing compared to the situation in Egypt or Syria, but there are strong authoritarian tendencies within both the PA and the security services.”

Crushing of dissent

This view is reflected in a recent poll among 1,200 Palestinians (“Palestinian public opinion poll no. 44,” Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, 25 June 2012). Only 29 percent of respondents in the West Bank felt they could criticize their government without fear.

For now, most of the repression has been directed against political opponents and their armed militias: Hamas and Islamic Jihad and even al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades. The latter armed group connected to Fatah, which is led by Mahmoud Abbas, the PA’s president.

The recent demonstration in Ramallah, however, is an indication that things could be changing. The protestors were young Palestinians, many of them sons and daughters of Ramallah’s elite. It is no secret that both equipment and training for anti-riot operations comes from COPPS and bilateral donors.

Europe’s complicity

“EUPOL COPPS supports the Palestinian Special Police Forces (SPF) in matters of specialized equipment and training. The SPF has several duties among the Palestinian Civil Police and crowd control management is one of these … The SPF has covered hundreds of public order events without any problems and that happened in full respect of human rights and police ethics standards,” a spokesperson for COPPS said.

According to Aliya, the specialized police forces only arrived late on the scene of the demonstration; it was plainclothes security officers and uniformed members of the Palestinian Civil Police who attacked the protesters.

A spokesperson for COPPS stated that the mission is investing heavily in programs designed to secure greater accountability from the police and to make human rights a central concern of all its work.

Shirin Abu-Fannouna, who works for the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, said there was a trend among security forces to target political dissenters protesting against the PA.

Providing advice to the security sector under such circumstances is difficult. While COPPS has been upgraded with a rule of law component in recent years, most donors have a hard time monitoring that their equipment and training are not used to oppress legitimate protest.

Officially the six PA security services employ a total of 29,500 people in the West Bank. But the PA also continues to pay the salaries of 36,500 security personnel who have been inactive since the Hamas takeover of Gaza’s administration in 2007. In such a context security sector reform, rather than just being technical assistance, becomes a highly “political exercise” as the International Crisis Group noted in a 2010 report (“Squaring the circle: Palestinian security reform under occupation).

This is especially the case as legal oversight over the different services is weak. The Palestinian Legislative Council has been inactive since 2007 and Abbas rules by decree.

Strange mixture

The security services provide one of the few job opportunities for Palestinian men without higher education, and political leverage can be obtained by determining who gets such a job in the bleak economic situation in the West Bank. Political affiliations still play a major role, and most of the security services are staffed with members of Abbas’s Fatah movement.

But “identities are shifting,” said the security expert. “It is no longer just a Fatah militia that acts against political opponents. They are willing to act against other Fatah members as well, if needed. We have a strange mixture now, where the security services have become much more professional and technocratic, but where self-interest plays a much larger role.”

The rationale for the PA leadership’s reform of the security services was twofold: first to regain control over the different feuding militias, and second, to take any security argument away from the Israeli government that could have been used to postpone so-called peace negotiations.

However, as the PA leadership comes to realize that the international community is not able to deliver on the peace negotiations, keeping the current situation stable seems to be the PA’s strategy.

“The big question is, what impact can security sector reform have under such circumstances? How sustainable can it be?” asked the security expert.

Palestinian Authority silent as “Israel” consolidates fuel monopoly

by Charlotte Silver, The Electronic Intifada

“There’s no money in this job — everything I earn goes to pay for gasoline,” a Ramallah cab driver laments, while hurtling down a street on the outskirts of the occupied West Bank city.

Cab drivers are not the only ones who have felt the pinch of rising gasoline prices in the West Bank. The price of basic foodstuffs — maize, vegetable oil and bread — is higher than ever, after rising steadily since 2011.

The West Bank is feeling the effects of a global hike in the price of oil — and consequently, most everything else. Meanwhile, the Gaza Strip has spiraled into an acute phase since smuggled Egyptian gasoline has slowed to a trickle and the Hamas-led government in Gaza has been forced to resume obtaining expensive fuel from Israel.

Israel exercises exclusive rights over the supply of fuel to the Palestinian population, despite the fact that the West Bank and Gaza Strip should be able to import cheaper petrol from oil-rich neighbors and alleged allies, or tap into gas reserves off the coast of Gaza.

The expensive — and in the case of Gaza, sparse — gasoline is a consequence of Israel’s control that has yet to be challenged by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority. According to the Oslo agreements, the PA is obliged not to sell its gasoline for less than 15 percent of Israel’s market price.

According to Charles Shamas, a founder of the Mattin Group, a Ramallah-based research and advocacy organization, Israel’s monopoly on supplying fuel to the West Bank is used as part of a conscious strategy aimed at maintaining Palestinians’ structural dependence on Israel and its political decision-makers.

“Such supply monopolies are a form of power. They provide easy ways to exert political pressure on the Palestinian Authority and ordinary Palestinians and to enforce their compliance with Israel’s interests,” said Shamas.

Gaza subjected to chronic power shortages

Gaza has felt the powerful flexing of Israel’s strategic muscle, being subjected to arbitrary electricity cuts and a constant power shortage as a result of Israel’s insufficient rationing of fuel permitted to enter the coastal strip at levels far insufficient to meet the needs of its 1.6 million inhabitants.

It is through this lens that Shamas sees the failure to develop Gaza’s offshore gas fields, discovered 13 years ago.

“The gas field issue was initially welcomed in the hope that it would give [the West Bank and Gaza Strip] a greater measure of independence,” Shamas explained.

Discovered in the 1990s by the British Gas Group, Gaza’s gas fields are estimated to be 1-1.4 trillion cubic feet in volume. While this amount appears small compared to the energy reserves of Gulf neighbors, it is substantial enough to meet Palestinian domestic needs for the next 15 years.

Since British Gas conducted initial studies and concluded the fields were financially viable, there has been an agreement between British Gas, the Palestine Investment Fund and a firm called Consolidated Contractors Company to develop and commercialize the fields.

No extraction

Yet 13 years after plans to develop the fields were drawn up, not a single gallon has been extracted.

“Developing Gaza’s gas fields would break one important Israeli supply monopoly. They don’t want the Palestinians to develop energy self-reliance,” Shamas said.

Victor Kattan, author and program director of the research group al-Shabaka, recently revealed that despite rumors circulating as recently as 2011 that Israel was still in negotiation with the PA over the terms of their drilling off Gaza’s shore, all talks stopped in earnest in 2007 (“The Gas Fields off Gaza: A Gift or a Curse?”).

During Kattan’s own investigation, he discovered through a source at Consolidated Contractors Company that plans hit an insurmountable obstacle after Israel would not allow Palestinians access to their own gas fields before they promised to sell it to Israel at a significant markdown from global prices.

Israel is expected to have a source of fuel from the Tamar gas field — about 80 kilometers off of the coast of Haifa — in 2012, so this intransigent stance appears to be rooted in a political desire to maintain control, rather than a need to secure cheap gas.

“For some time Israel has effectively said to [the Palestinian] business community, ‘We want you to do business, but not without us.’ Monopolizing access to business opportunities is another means of control that costs Israel nothing,” Shamas said.

Secrecy

Omar Shaban, an economist based in Gaza, calls the subject of Gaza’s gas fields a “black book” due to the lack of transparency of the Palestine Investment Fund — and how little information is known about it. The PIF is a venture capital firm established in 2003, purportedly to help stimulate economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

As long as Israel has a monopoly on the supply of fuel, it can restrict the amount delivered. The Israeli petroleum company Dor Alon currently owns exclusive rights for delivering fuel to Gaza. Acting under direct orders from Israeli authorities, Dor Alon delivers only what the Israeli government permits to Gaza, which is far below what the population needs.

This enforced and often crippling dependence imposes daily power cuts on the Gaza Strip and foists Palestinians in Gaza into situations of genuine peril. While the dangers are less immediately apparent in the West Bank, the functioning capacity of the economy is significantly undermined by the high price of Israeli fuel.

Need to diversify

Shamas believes it is important to diversify fuel supply sources in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to begin a process that would enable Palestinians to reduce, and eventually escape, Israel’s control over such a basic necessity in everyday life.

Until February 2011, the Hamas government had successfully demonstrated the benefits of breaking the Israeli monopoly. Shamas explains that Hamas was able to operate Gaza’s only power plant entirely on smuggled fuel from the Sinai and satisfy nearly all needs for fuel at a considerable price reduction.

With smuggled fuel in Gaza, drivers were paying 1.5 shekels (40 cents) per liter as opposed to 7 shekels ($1.84) in Israel and the West Bank.

During that time, nearly 600,000 liters of fuel were smuggled every day, meeting 80-90 percent of the population’s needs, Shamas has estimated.

“This was much more bearable than when we depended on the Israelis,” he said.

But all that ended when Egypt clamped down on smuggling activities in the Sinai more than a year ago.

Now Gaza has been forced back to obediently receiving its daily quota of fuel from Israel. Recent reconciliation talks between Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president, have led to an agreement that the PA would resume paying Israel to deliver fuel to Gaza.

While it is clear that the Palestinian population would benefit from procuring its fuel from a third party, the PA until now seems unwilling to pursue such possible options. Moreover, why the PA so quickly and quietly folded while holding the rights to an independent source of fuel is equally — if not more — perplexing.

However, Shamas is hopeful for a sea change in the near future. “There’s increasing readiness and capacity to admit and confront the political reality,” he said.

PA Political Terminology 101: When Talks Are Not Talks

A voice from Palestine

In the last couple of weeks, we have been extra blessed with the faces of various PA officials appearing almost every day to comment, give interviews or talks, in which they declare, confirm and strongly stress that what is happening in Amman are not negotiations. No, these are not negotiations.

These are talks.
These are discussions.
These are exploratory meetings (whatever that might mean).
These are breakfasts in Amman.
These are negotiation-less nights in Amman.
These are “how to sell out your country in 20 years” upgrade courses.
But they are not negotiations.

And they should know better, right? In fact, the negotiations-till-death-do-us-part team stressed several times that there will be no return to negotiations until the Zionist entity agrees to stop its illegal settlement activities in the future PA “state”. What is happening in Amman are talks, not negotiations, talks to secure a settlement freeze before the talks on settlements and other stuff, aka the negotiations, resume. See? There is a big difference between talks and talks, and before you judge the PA, you should have read their negotiations handbook: “Birth is Negotiations, Death is Negotiations and all that is in between is Negotiations”, and you would have understood that what is happening in Amman are not negotiations. No, they are talks.

The audacity with which the PA continues to act as if these are not negotiations and continues to stress that negotiations won’t be resumed until Israel agrees to freeze its settlement activities, knows no limits. And despite all forms of protest against these useless negotiations, against the whole negotiations charade, not only do PA officials continue to negotiate, but they also claim that they are negotiating away our land and our rights in our very own name, claiming to be our representatives. And as if not enough, they appear on TV stations, give interviews, talk in local conferences and meetings and declare, in a very strict tone, that there will be no return to negotiations until Israel stops its illegal settlement activities. They swear never to return to negotiations, even if it means resigning, even if it means the collapse of the PA, and countless are the times when we heard the PA-head and the negotiations-head threatening with resignation. But still they continue to return to negotiations, under various names, and continue to threaten and swear never to return to negotiations, while there is not a glimmer of a sign of any resignation.

It is not the first time that PA officials have done this. Wasn’t it only recently that they, for the Xth time, swore never to return to negotiations unless Israel stops all its settlement activity? And when they, as usual, did return to the negotiations (for the sums they get for negotiating away our rights and our Palestine are more important than you, me, every single one of us, they are more important than Palestine itself), they stressed that it wasn’t a return to “direct” negotiations, but a return to “indirect” negotiations! As in: during “direct” negotiations, PA and Israeli officials meet, negotiate, aka Israelis dictate and PA officials nod and sign on napkins, attend a negotiations banquet together, and everyone gets a “direct-“negotiations-trip album as souvenir. During “indirect” negotiations, PA and Israeli officials meet, negotiate, aka Israelis dictate and PA officials nod and sign on napkins, attend a negotiations banquet together, and everyone gets an “indirect”-negotiations-trip album as souvenir. And today, PA officials again treat us, the Palestinian people, as if we were the little children who are easily fooled and tell us: “listen kids, we are not negotiating, we are talking! Wallahi, we swear not to go back to negotiations, so be quiet!”

And while PA officials “talk” in Amman, Palestinian politicians from various PLO factions return from the world beyond, bless us with their faces and voices after long silences and extended absence, and announce their denouncement of these talks, that they are not in the interest of the Palestinian people or the Palestinian cause, and then return back to their daily work of sitting in offices and claiming to represent people and parties and cashing salaries at the end of the month. God bless the PLO!  They all claim to represent us, those who are members in the PLO, and those who aren’t or soon will be. And knowing that the majority of Palestinians is against these talks, discussions, negotiations, whatever they are called, they flip a coin and send someone to denounce the whole process, and that’s it: “We did what we do best: we condemned, we denounced”. Yes, all that matters these days is not Palestine, but the salary at the end of the month. God bless the PLO!

And since, according to the PA, talks are not negotiations, except when they are meant to mean so, I suggest preparing a dictionary of PA political terminology. It will help avoid misunderstandings and will help us, ordinary Palestinians, understand what PA negotiators are talking about since their language is beyond our comprehension and help us understand when talks are talks and when talks are not talks. A reference will be made to what every term actually means to the majority of the Palestinians. There are many such political terms out there that need clarifications, but I suggest starting with the following:

Al-Quds
1. Describes, according to the PA, the Areas Abu Dees and Izariyyeh, and depending on whether Israeli will “give back” Beit Hanina and Shu’fat to the Palestinians, which is most probably not, Sawahreh might be added to the area designated as Al-Quds. 2. The name Al-Quds is used to disguise the fact that when the PA talks about Al-Quds, it is not talking about the eastern part of Jerusalem, and thus won’t cause the anger or the distress of the PA’s partners-in-peace by demanding the liberation of Al-Quds. 3. PA plans to liberate Al-Quds include 15+ years of useless negotiations on everything except the main issues, building a hanging bridge to Al-Aqsa mosque, giving up the Old city of Jerusalem and other areas in exchange for more control in areas B and C so the PA can continue to play king and kingdom. 4. To many Palestinians, Al-Quds remains one, with its eastern and western parts, the only and irreplaceable capital of Palestine.

PA State
1. Describes the area Israel allows the PA president and officials to move within, using Israeli permits to leave and enter, usually areas A and B of the West Bank with possible loss of these areas depending on the mood of the Israeli soldier at the checkpoint or the mood of the Israeli official issuing the permit. 2. Also used to describe Swiss cheese, Bantustans, Ghettos, a prison within a prison. 3. To PA officials, the PA Palestinian state is any piece of Palestine the Israelis have no use of. The Motto of this PA state is: Life is Negotiations. The flag of this state is: My political party is above all. The national Anthem is: Hader ya Sidi! (yes, sir!). 4. To many Palestinians, the only Palestinian state is one with all of Palestine from the River to the Sea.

State-building
1. Describes the Jericho Casino, the Rawabi elite “city”, the Muqata’a imperial palace, and the Wadi in-Nar death-trap aka road. 2. This is accompanied with the introduction of night-clubs and bars in Ramallah, the political and economic capital of the PA, as signs of the approaching independence, 5 star hotels and cafes for PA officials, new-age revolutionaries and foreign aid workers. 3. Further signs of state-building include the destruction of local economy, the alarmingly growing dependence on foreign donors who enslave us in return for salaries at the end of the month, the various industrial zones for the enslavement of Palestinian workers, the wide-spread corruption and the building of massive palaces on the hilltops of Ramallah and Nablus whose shadow cools the hot air over the nearby refugee camps. 4. To many Palestinians, the PA state-building is nothing but a form of consolidating and securing the Israeli occupation.

Negotiations
1. Describes “Life” from the view point of PA top-negotiators; every minute of a PA-official’s life is negotiations, it is to the PA as natural as breathing, as drinking, as eating. Without negotiations, the PA will die, will cease to exit since the only reason for its creation is to negotiate away Palestinian land and rights “in the name of Palestinians”. 2. Has other names such as talks, discussions, exploratory meetings and any other term PA negotiators might think of. 3. Also refers to the condition where the oppressor dictates the rights of the oppressed and how much “freedom” and “space” the oppressed is allowed to have and not have. 4. To many Palestinians, negotiations describe the process of selling out one’s homeland, village by village, town by town, house by house, field by field, tree by tree, water drop by water drop, in exchange for an imaginary kingdom, imaginary titles, imaginary ministries, villas in Ramallah and the south of France, various accounts in Swiss banks and Israeli VIP-permits.

Peace process
1. Describes a never-ending process, where one party kills, steals and destroys the other party’s people and land. The word peace is deceptive since this particular peace process has nothing to do with peace. 2. To the PA, the term peace process means an industry, a big business and loads of money regardless of the suffering caused to the Palestinian people because of this process. 3. Also refer to a delusion, a mirage, a charade, a big fat lie. 4. To many Palestinians, the peace process is an instrument of the occupation to continue the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the theft of Palestinian land.

Resignation
1. Describes a charade by PA officials. PA officials who resign or are made to resign over corruption cases, moral issues, etc., keep away from the spotlights, don’t give any interviews for a few weeks, or depending on the offence committed, for a few months, and then return to their posts, or other posts within the PA apparatus, and act as if nothing happened. 2. Another form of resignation is the recurring threats of the PA-head of resigning that are never actually implemented, e.g. threatening to resign if the Palestinian people tell him to do so (Note: they do this in every form possible, , not to mention that his “mandate” expired long ago), threatening to resign if negotiations prove futile (after 16 years still waiting for them to prove futile). 3. A term that is alien within the PA and PLO systems. 4. Also means: I am staying here till the last breath. 5. To many Palestinians, resignation is a card used by the PA to silence criticism and opposition.

Right of Return
1. Describes the Right of Return as redefined by the PA within the framework of the “peace process”:1. A return of some thousands or hundreds or whatever number of refugees Israel agrees to. 2. A return to Ramallah or Bethlehem or whatever part of the Bantustan aka the Palestinian state the Zionist entity agrees to. 2. To the PA, the Right of Return is negotiable, like all other Palestinian rights and its price depends on the highest bidder. 3. To many Palestinians, the Right of Return describes what is an inalienable and non-negotiable right for over 5 million Palestinian refugees who will never accept less than a full return to their original homes and villages.

Elections
1. Describes a process with international observers and all, after which, depending on the results, the choice of the voters will either be celebrated or ignored and boycotted. Following elections in the PA “liberated” areas, if the winners are opponents of the negotiations process, they get kidnapped by the Israeli occupation forces and the losers, if they believe that “Negotiations are the Solution”, they get to build cabinets with the claim that it’s all for the interest of the people. 2. One example of elections under PA is Local Elections, which are postponed from one year to the next, and most probably will never take place because they know they won’t win. 3. To many Palestinians, elections are a theoretical right bestowed on the Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but practically denied all Palestinians in occupied Palestine and the Diaspora.

And yes, there is a special list of terminology for “activism for Palestine”, where Palestine, resistance, activism and other Palestinian constants are reshaped and redefined to fit what pleases and appeals to others. But that is another blog post.

PA Security arrest 7 Hamas supporters & a document reveals Abbas discussed the overthrow of Arafat with Preres

PA Security arrest 7 Hamas supporters

RAMALLAH, (PIC)– PA security forces arrested 7 Hamas supporters in Nablus and al-Khalil, five of them after being freed from Junaid jail in Nablus.

In Nablus district, the PA Preventive Security arrested freed captive Zahi Kusa after raiding his home last night. He already spent a number of long spells in jail.

In a step to circumvent a court ruling that stipulates the release of a number of political prisoners, the preventive security re-arrested on Saturday Darwish Saqer, Rami Isa and Ahmad Mar’i immediately after releasing them from Junaid prison in Nablus.

The same security agency had re-arrested Morsi Ziada and Samer Odeh immediately after their release from Junaid prison on Friday evening. The five detainees are students and graduates of the Najah University in Nablus and have been detained on several occasions by the PA security.

The preventive security also arrested Wael Abu Khazma and Adi Bari from their homes in Nablus on Thursday, just one day after being released from Junaid prison.

The preventive security presented the cases of nine political detainees, including the seven who have been re-arrested recently, at a Nablus court.

The PA security is still detaining Muthanna Eshteyya from the village of Tel and barring his mother from visiting him or even send him some clothes.

In al-Khalil district, the PA preventive security handed Mikdad and Mujahid, the sons of MP Muhammad Abu Juhaisha summonses to attend on Monday at their headquarters in Tarqumia.

The PA General Intelligence also arrested Amjad Qazzaz from the Dura on Friday, he is a former captive in occupation jails and he was detained by preventive security for eight months.

Qazzaz was summoned by the PA general intelligence three times during the past two weeks, before he was arrested on Friday.

In Tulkarem, district, a number of people were summoned by PA security on the backdrop of attending celebrations for the freed captives. Amongst those summoned were Abdullah Awad, Muhammad al-Hamshari and Amer Bashir.

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Secret document reveals .. Abbas discussed the overthrow of Arafat with Preres

Amman, (PIC)– Hebrew media revealed on Sunday a secret document in the shape of minutes of a secret meeting between the then Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, who was the PA Prime Minister at the time.

Yediot Ahranot, which published part of the document, said that such documents will embarrass Abbas. The document, which will be published soon along with other documents in a book about former Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is about a secret meeting between Abbas and Peres and during which they discussed the overthrow of Arafat.

According to the writer of the report, Abbas and Peres used to make secret contacts behind the back of Yaser Arafat.

The document also reveals that Abbas told Peres that by having these secret contacts he was putting his life on the line. “If this meeting was to become known, count me as dead,” Abbas told Peres.

He further told Peres: “Israel should stop praising me so that my election chances are not impaired”.

According to the document, Abbas describes Arafat as a non-realistic man and asked the Israelis to convince the US to finance the PA when he gets elected.

“Sharon, biography of a leader” is a book written by Sharon’s son, Gilad Sharon, in which he draws on documents, letters and meeting minutes in his father’s personal archive.

Abbas bid for Bantustan exposes Israeli hypocrisy

by Iqbal Jassat – Pretoria, source

Why do you say that there is ‘some merit’ in Abbas’ bid while you vehemently oppose and discredit it?

It’s a question many people, including journalists have challenged me with in the last few days as a global audience readied itself to watch the drama unfolding at the United Nations centered on the Palestinian Authority seeking approval for an independent state.

In attempting to unpack what clearly appears to be a contradiction in terms, the reality is that while battle lines are being drawn in an arena that for more than six decades can arguably be held responsible for turning its back on the plight of Palestine; the same venue will place the spotlight on Israeli intransigence!

The “merit” therefore in the bid attempt is that a confirmed collaborator plunges headlong into an abyss of disaster. But along with him too are the leaders of America and Israel.

Thus, while it is clear from the repeated threats of veto by the U.S. that Mahmoud Abbas was not likely to succeed in gaining unanimous approval in the Security Council, his “insubordination” risked exposing Obama’s double standards and blatant hypocrisy beyond repair.

Analysts, including some who had previously held that Obama would still surprise the world by “fixing” the conflict, are now convinced that America would rather stand accused as an unfair mediator than to be challenging Israel. However to make the choice between these immoral positions in full glare of the world’s media is not comfortable for any U.S. president, let alone Obama!

Abbas in the course of his bid effort caused enormous embarrassment and humiliation to a man who sought very hard to cast himself as different from his predecessors, particularly the extreme neo-con administration headed by George W Bush.

Obama’s speech at the UN was so far-removed from his Cairo PR stunt resulting in harsh rebukes and scorn from erstwhile allies in the columns of many American newspapers.

In similar fashion, the apartheid regime’s leader Bibi Netanyahu was so severely wounded by the bid attempt, that he resorted to some of the worst forms of Islamophobia, racism and unmitigated hate.

Hurling insults at Islam and Muslims through slander and derogatory terms such as “crocodiles” and positioning “militant Islam” as the world’s enemy No 1, was a shameful display of conceit brought upon by the fact that the “master” was provoked by the “slave’s” insistence to unmask him.

In addition to leaving Obama and Netanyahu defrocked as hypocrites, the bid has unmasked a number of people and institutions. Seeing Tony Blair and Hilary Clinton squirming and ducking for cover from the heat unleashed by Abbas’ “jihad” is quite enjoyable. The Quartet, made up of an old boy’s club from Russia, America, the UN and the European Union, is now clearly understood to be firmly in the Israeli camp.

On the other hand and perhaps on a more serious note, the bid exercise and its entire project associated with gaining UN backing for an independent state is fraught with huge risks for Palestinians as a whole.

Any so-called “Palestinian state” compromises and weakens the ability of refugees to return to their original homes. Indeed such a state – prototype of South Africa’s disgraced Bantustans – would be entirely dependent and economically controlled by the Occupying regime.

In the ensuing debates that go on to enrich people’s understanding of different opinions, what has become crystal clear is that Palestinians will not surrender their rights.

Nor are they willing to go on living without civil rights under a repressive occupier for another six decades.

The message is clear: if a faithful and obedient client authority was able to expose Israel in all its nakedness, there cannot be any hope for the settler-state to sustain its illegal status.

– Iqbal Jassat is the chairperson of Media Review Network, Pretoria – South Africa.

A free Palestine: Free from the River to the Sea

by Reham Alhelsi

A “King’s chair” is touring the world to demand a crippled state for the Palestinian people; a “state” on 20% of our historic homeland, a “state” minus Jerusalem, a “state” drowned in illegal Zionist colonies, a ghetto within ghettos, a Bantustan that is to be called “the state of the PA”. To those who worship the chair and to those who worship the “King” of the chair and those who kneel at the foot of the chair, I say:

I grew up a villager, a daughter of villagers, a daughter of the land, a lover of the olive tree, of the almond and the carob and the fig trees, a runner along the fields, a dancer under the autumn rain, a dreamer among the wheat fields under the autumn sun. I grew up with the sunshine over the hills and meadows of Palestine, I grew up with the birds singing among the trees, the butterflies decorating the fields, the bees buzzing around the grapevines, the sheep and the goats running up and down the hills and the horses racing the wind. I grew up to climb olive trees during the harvest, to carry huge baskets filled with ripe fruits, to listen to villagers tell tales in the evening around a fire while the smell of roasted wheat fills the air. I grew up watching men and women working the land with love and diligence from sunrise to sunset. I grew up watching them plant their fields and water the olive trees with their sweat and blood. I grew up watching them planting the love of the land in their children’s hearts. I grew up and learned from them to love the land, to talk to the olive tree, to hold sacred every stone, every flower and every dust particle in this land. I grew up watching our land being stolen, dunum after dunum, by strangers who don’t belong to the land, who don’t know what it means to love the land or to respect the land. I grew up watching our land being butchered, dunum after dunum, by strangers who claim that the land is theirs but who don’t know that when the land cries, we cry, when the land suffers, we suffer, when the land is massacred, we are massacred, when the land bleeds, we bleed with the land because she is our mother, our Palestine. I grew up watching the villagers being expelled from their land, saw our olive fields burnt into ashes, our wells dried up, the birds silenced and the flowers withering. I grew up searching for a little freedom in the hills of Jerusalem, in the meadows of Sawahreh, before the mountains and the meadows themselves became captives to an army of illegals who kill the birds, the bees and the butterflies.

I grew up a refugee, a daughter of a refugee, my heart longing to a village I never saw, my mind filled with images of a paradise I never touched, but every drop of blood in my body knows I am from there, and every cell in my body directs me towards that place. I grew up separated, expelled from that part of me, but as I grew up that missing part grew up with me, was planted within my heart and within my soul, its name implanted itself in my memory and became as familiar and as known to me as my own name, its houses, fields and trees mingled with my blood. I grew up thinking of Jrash as part of me, a part that seems far away, but is so near to me, a part of me that makes me who I am, a part that refuses to be forgotten or buried, a part that lives with every beat of my heart, a part that will never die. I grew up on tales about Jrash, a beautiful home, a warm home that continues to be warm and beautiful in the hearts of all Jerashis. I grew up hearing of the harvest, the grinding of the crops, the pressing of the olives, of the weddings that lasted 7 days and nights. I grew up hearing about the dark-stoned houses, the front yards green with the flowers, the Khawaby, the Rozanah and the Taboun. I grew up hearing about Nyata, Khirbet Il-Asad, Khirbet Is-S’iri, Khirbet Il-M’allaq, Khirbet Im Il-‘Imdan, Khirbet Al-Baten, Khirbet Id-Dilbah. I grew up hearing about Wadi It-Teen, Wadi Il-Kharoub, Il-Khalleh, Il-Harayek, Ij-Soura and Thahir Jrash. I grew up hearing about the never-ending fields of fig trees, apricots, almonds, apples, carobs and olive trees stretching into the horizon. I grew up hearing about the ancient ruins scattered all over the hills, about the much-visited Im-Ittwameen grotto, about the many water springs and many Masateeh. I grew up with the names Deir Aban, Zakariya, Al-Majdal, Ein Karim, Staf, Beit Jibrin, Beit Nattif, Ajjour, Beit I’tab, Allar, Il-Sifla, Tal Il-Safi, Mighlis, Kasla, Khirbit Il-Louz, Khilda, Il-Joura, Il-Falouja, Beit Mahseer, Il-Qabou, Al-Walaja, Ras Abu Ammar, Tal Al-Turmous, Iraq Al-Manshiyyeh, Deir Ad-Dubban. I grew up drawing houses with carob and apple trees in their yard, drawing laughing faces harvesting the wheat, the olives and the figs in the western hills of Jerusalem. I grew up hearing their songs, long after they had been brutally expelled from their homes and villages, ringing along the narrow streets of the refugee camp, promising the land to return and promising their ancestors to return.

I grew up a full Jerusalemite, my mother from a village in the western part of Jerusalem, my father from a village in the eastern part of Jerusalem. I was born in the heart of Jerusalem, since childhood know its alleys one by one, know its streets one by one, know its features, its houses, its markets and its people. I grew up buying Mickey Mouse magazines from the kiosk at the central bus station, from the grandfather who always welcomed me with a smile and a prayer, before heading to school for another long day between books. I grew up collecting political newspapers and magazines from the kiosk at the corner, from the grandfather who always welcomed me with a smile, a political statement and an advice, before distributing them in schools, refugee camps and villages. I grew up with the smell of falafel filling the old city, with the smell of fresh Ka’ik in Al-Musrarah, with the smell of Jasmin along the wall of the old city. I grew up with the lively buzz of the markets, with the songs coming from almost every shop, with the dance of colours decorating the roof tops of the old city, with the minarets hugging the church towers. I grew up with the sun kissing Al-Aqsa, the Holy Sepulchre and the homes of the old city good morning every day. I grew up with the sun kissing Al-Aqsa, the Holy Sepulchre and the homes of the old city good night every day. I grew up sneaking looks at the beautiful fairy tale books at the windows of Sharbain, the International Library and the Economic Library but unable to afford buying any of them. I grew up knowing every tiny shop in Salah Iddin street, and wandering with my classmates along the street after classes every now and then. I grew up looking forward to the Monday walk to the British Council to borrow books about ancient civilizations, kingdoms, mummies and villagers. I grew up in Jerusalem and Jerusalem was and will forever be part me, my home. I was born in Jerusalem on a spring day. I went there to school, my first job was in Jerusalem. Today I am not allowed into Jerusalem anymore. I see my birthplace from my window, but I can’t touch it anymore. I see the Dome of the Rock every night standing as a lighthouse, lighting the darkness, lighting the road for us, waiting for us to start marching, waiting for us to return. I have only one comfort: that when I die, I will be buried in the family grave in Jerusalem, that even if they don’t allow me in while I am alive, I will go there when I am dead. I will be reunited with my birthplace, with Jerusalem.

I grew up a Palestinian and all of Palestine my home. I grew up in the alleys of the old city of Jerusalem, in the prairies of Sawahreh, in the over-crowded Dheisheh refugee camp. I grew up with the map of Palestine drawn in my heart, the names of every Palestinian villages, towns and cities carved into my veins. I grew up hearing tales of heroism, tales of steadfastness, tales about a land that refuses to be deleted, about a people that refuses to be defeated. I grew up hearing tales about a land that yearns to be free and about a people that yearns to destroy the chains of oppression and captivity. I grew up calling Jerusalem my home, calling Haifa my home, calling Nablus my home, calling Beisan my home, calling Bethlehem my home, calling Safad my home, calling Gaza my home, calling An-Naqab my home. I grew up calling Palestine from the river to the sea my home, my homeland. I grew up drawing Palestine from the river to the sea, I grew up drawing a map connected and one from the water to the water, from the border of Lebanon to the border of Egypt., naming Haifa, Yafa, Akka and Gaza as our coastal cities, singing about Marj Ibin A’mer, Nablus, Beisan, Jericho, Beer As-Sabi’ and the hills of Hebron. I grew up and my heart beating for Palestine, all Palestine, my mind memorizing every hilltop and every meadow, every creek and every water spring. I grew up memorizing names the occupier wants us to forget. I grew up drawing a map the world sold to create a terrorist entity that ethnically cleansed Palestine to create a Zionist colony, a cancer within the heart of Palestine that turned our paradise into a desert.

I grew up reading books about the heroes who fought the first Zionist waves that have come to occupy our land and claim it theirs, about the heroes who stood up in the face of Zionism and its ally the British mandate. I grew up reading about the general strikes, the Great Revolt, about the prison of ‘Akka, Al-Qassam and Al-Qastal, the battle of Deir Aban, the battle of Al-Mukkabbir, the battle of Ash-Shajara, the battle of Al-Lyd and Ar-Ramleh, the battle of Jenin, the battle of Beit Jibrin. I grew up hearing about Deir Yasin, about Khisas, Qazaza, Beit Daras, Dawaymah, Sharafat, Qibya, Kufr Qasim, As-Sammou’, Sabra and Shatila and many more massacres and Zionist crimes. I grew up to the testimonies of the survivors, those who witnessed Zionist crimes against humanity, those who witnessed how the Zionist entity, the child of the “European humanity” was built on the bones of Palestinian children, on rivers of spilt Palestinian blood, on the bodies of pregnant women who were bayoneted and their unborn children butchered in their wombs, on the screams of the mothers whose children were maimed and beheaded in front of them, on the cries of children who were left to wander thirsty and hungry after their parents were massacred. I grew up singing about Mish’al and Jafra, about the martineh and the olive tree and a little home in a village that refuses to be erased, that refuses to be forgotten. I grew up singing about Lina, Dalal, Taghreed and Leila and thinking of all the Palestinian women who stood up and still stand up in the face of Zionist terrorism, who fought and still fight side by side with their brothers, fathers and comrades, who refuse to be silent, who refuse to bow down. I grew up singing about Mohammad Jamjoum, Fouad Hjazi and Ata Az-Zeer, about Ghassan Kanafani, Dalal Al-Mughrabi, Shadia Abu Ghazaleh and many more heroes. I grew up reading about the heroes who shook the foundation of the Zionist entity, who showed the world that Palestine will never be forgotten, who told the Israeli occupiers: the old continue to live in us and the young will never forget. I grew up reading about, hearing and watching the great men and women who stand as one in the face of oppression and occupation, who fight for their legitimate rights, who refuse any concessions, who will always be the guardians of Palestine, the guardians of the revolution

I grew up reading the stories of Ghassan Kanfani, reading about those who were expelled from their homes in the middle of the night, those who were forced out of their lands under the rush of bullets. I grew up reading about the land of the sad oranges, the apricots of April, about men and their sacred rifles, about the steadfast under the sun. I wandered with him in Yafa, in Akka, in Damascus, in Beirut, in Kuwait and in the refugee camps of the Diaspora. Um Sa’d taught me that not all tents are the same, and Safiyah and Sa’id taught me that every human is a cause and Fatima taught me that you can’t fight Zionist terrorism with flowers or smiles or conferences and Ibrahim taught me that true heroes die without anyone hearing their names. I cried with the children of the refugee camps, the children of Palestine, I laughed with them, I shared their dreams and their hopes. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that I have something in this world… so I will stand up and remain steadfast in my land. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that we write in blood for you Palestine, that we will die standing and that there is always enough place in this sacred soil for another martyr. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that I must never stop until I plant my heaven on earth or die trying. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that treason is in itself a nasty death. Ghassan Kanafani taught me that the only way to understand what a revolution is about is when you carry your gun on your shoulder and march. I grew up reading Ghassan Kanafani and repeating his message: that if we were failing, unsuccessful defenders of our cause, then we better change the defenders and not the cause….. that we are planted in this land, that we will stay steadfast here, and when we die, we will die standing.

I grew up looking forward to the caricatures of Naji Al-Ali. I grew up searching for Handala in the newspapers, in the magazines, on the walls of the refugee camp, among the scribbling of a comrade. I grew up listening to Handala, talking to me, for he is my grandfather in Jerusalem, he is my brother in Safad, he is my sister in Ein Il-Hilweh, he is my nephew in Al-Yarmouk, he is my niece in Bethlehem, he is my cousin in Deir Al-Balah , he is my uncle in Balata, he is my aunt in Shnillar, he is my comrade in Beita, he is my family: my Palestinian family, he is my conscience and the conscience of the Palestinian people. Naji Al-Ali taught me that the poor people are the ones who suffer, the ones who are imprisoned and the ones who die without shedding a tear. Naji Al-Ali taught me that we draw, write and sing only for Palestine and that you should never give up on your principles even if they kill you. Naji Al-Ali taught me that the liberation of Palestine is not the liberation of the West Bank or Gaza, but the liberation of Palestine from the ocean to the gulf. Naji Al-Ali taught me that Palestine is not far away or near, it is of the distance of the revolution and that there is one way towards Palestine and that is the gun. Naji Al-Ali taught me to say to those who want us to close the file on the Palestinian cause and to solve it as our enemies want us to: if you are tired, leave us. I grew up reading Naji Al-Ali and repeating his message: That there is only one red line and no one has the right to recognize and surrender to the Zionists. That no one has the right to give up what is the right of every Palestinians, the right of our children and grandchildren, that no matter how much they talk about negotiations and conferences and a Palestinian state, no one, NO ONE, has the right to give up or sell out Palestine.

I grew up visiting uncles in Israeli jails, waking up in the middle of the night at the sounds of Israeli occupation soldiers banging at the door, asking for my brother, for my uncle, for my cousin. I grew up to be beaten and dragged by Israeli occupation soldiers, I grew up to watch my grandmother get beaten by Israeli occupation soldiers, to watch my uncles, my aunts being beaten by the soldiers and dragged away in the middle of the night. I grew up to visit my injured uncles, to watch them suffer in silence from their injuries, to watch the traces of torture carved forever in their eyes. I grew up to watch Naser play football in the dusty street before he was shot dead by an Israeli bullet that sliced his young heart and silenced his laughter. I grew up to listen to Mohammad talk about his dreams, his wish to live in a free Palestine, before an Israeli bullet exploded in his young lively body and caused him a slow and painful death. I grew up to watch Ayat running in the narrow alleys of the refugee camp before her young body was blown up into a million pieces by the brutal Israeli occupation. I grew up to watch our neighbor’s home being demolished, to watch sick grandmothers being kicked at military checkpoints, to watch grey-haired teachers being shouted at by teenager Israeli soldiers. I grew up to see my childhood paradise being confiscated and turned into settlements in the name of the “peace process”. I grew up to witness Zionist colonizers attack us in the middle of the night, shoot at us while singing and laughing, as if they were on a hunting trip. I grew up to donate blood for injured comrades, to say goodbye to those whose lives were cut short by the Israeli bullet, to visit graves decorated with a map of Palestine from the river to the sea, a Palestinian flag and promise: we will never surrender!

I grew up among suffering, I grew up with hope, I grew up in fear, I grew up with determination, I grew up with courage, I grew up with the love of Palestine. I grew up to meet Palestinian men and women whose hearts only beat for Palestine, whose eyes only see the road to liberate Palestine, whose throats only ring with one song: free Palestine from the water to the water. I grew up to meet Palestinian men and women whose will the walls of Zionist jails couldn’t break, whose determination the pain of injury and torture couldn’t lessen, whose courage the loss of family members and comrades couldn’t weaken, whose insistence to liberate Palestine the dagger of betrayal and concessions couldn’t extinguish. I grew up a Palestinian, one among the millions living in occupied Palestine, one among the millions living in the forced exile. I grew up to hold in my heart sacred rights, constants that are unchangeable no matter how long the struggle lasts and how hard the road to liberation becomes. I grew up drawing a map, a key and the Dome of the Rock: I grew up swearing that I will never accept less than a Palestine from the water to the water, that I will never accept less than the return of every single Palestinian refugee, that I will never accept less than a Jerusalem united again with its indigenous people, with its villages and olive tress. I grew up like millions, dreaming of a free Palestine, of the freedom to live in my homeland, to walk in my land, to plant my field, to build my home, to run under the rain, to sit under the sun, to have breakfast in Jerusalem, lunch in Haifa and dinner in Gaza. I dream of real freedom, not a charade called the “peace process”, I dream of real justice, not a charade called “a crippled state with land swap”. I dream of a Palestine from the river to the sea, with Jerusalem as its heart, with Yafa and Beisan, with Safad and Um-Al-Rishrash, not a charade called “Palestinian state with land swap”, where the first part of Palestine to be “swapped” is Jerusalem, the heart and the soul of Palestine.

And I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, refuse to accept a fake state on less than 20% of my homeland.
And I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, refuse to share my homeland with Zionist colonizers.
I denounce those who are selling 80% of our homeland in the name of “peace” and I denounce those who are selling 50% of our homeland in the name of “co-existence with colonizers”.

I denounce those who, while having American and European passports and living comfortably in the Diaspora, in the name of ‘finding a solution’, want us, the ones living under occupation, the ones being oppressed day and night by the Zionist colonizers, want us to ‘co-exist’ with the murderers of our land, the killers of our families and comrades. I tell you: if you are tired, leave us!!!

I denounce those, who under the claim of legitimizing our cause, our struggle, want to legitimize the Zionist colonization of Palestine, want to give the Zionist colonizers a right to our land, to our homes and to our ethnically cleansed villages and towns and cities.

I denounce those, who have accepted to be something other than Palestinian, unless it brings them benefit, and call themselves everything but Palestinians, unless it brings them benefit, then and when it brings them benefit they claim to speak in our name, they claim to speak in the name of those steadfast in occupied Palestine, they claim to speak in the name of the millions who were expelled to the refugee camps of the Diaspora, they claim to speak in the name of every Palestinian dreaming of returning, they claim to speak in our name, they claim to represent us when they legitimize the Zionist presence in Palestine, be it on 80% or on 50% of Palestine.

I denounce those who are selling Palestine, village after village, hilltop after hilltop, tree after tree, stone after stone in the name of ‘peace’ that is anything but peace and in the name of ‘courage’ that is nothing but cowardice to face up to your occupier and nothing but an audacity to sell your own land and your own people.

Over 63 years of struggle to fight the Zionist colonization, over hundreds of thousands of Palestinians martyrs who sacrificed their lives for Palestine, and some come and call for the legitimization of the Zionist colonization of Palestine by calling for ‘co-existence with the colonizers and the land thieves’.
I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, say to you;
Our struggle is not even 100 years old, other nations have fought for hundreds of years to get their freedom, so if you are tired, while leading a luxurious life, leave us, for we will never tire until Palestine, all of Palestine is free!
I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, say to you;
Ahmad Jamjoum, Fouad Hijazi and Ata Az-Zer are still alive,
Ghassan Kanafai is still alive,
Naji Al-Ali is still alive,

Dalal, Lina, Taghreed, Nidal, Ibtisam and Mohammad are still alive,
Ahmad, Daniel, Naser, Ayat, Mohammad, Ruwaida, Nabil, Anton, Yahia, Nabil, Hanadi, Omar and Firyal are still alive.
Every single Palestinian who sacrificed their lives for Palestine is still alive, every single Palestinian who was murdered by the enemies of Palestine is still alive. They are all still alive in the majority that refuses to sell, that refuses to recognize the entity built on our homes and our bones, that refuses to surrender, or submit or sell out, the majority that refuses to concede or relinquish our sacred rights, that refuses to co-exist with the fully-armed terrorist colonizers, that refuses to legitimize the Zionist colonization of our home, that refuses to give legitimacy to our murderers, that refuses to give them the right to our land. Every single drop of Palestinian blood spilt cries to us, every soul massacred cries to us, reminds us that peace without justice is no peace, that rights are taken not begged for.

I, a Palestinian from occupied Palestine, say to you;
Every part of Palestine is my home
Every Palestinian is my brother, my sister, my comrade,
Every tree in Palestine, every stone, every flower is sacred,
I am only a Palestinian within Palestine, I am only whole within a whole Palestine, I refuse to be divided, I refuse to give up my heart and my lungs.
I will not remain silent while you slice me and cut my veins with every new initiative, with every new charade,
I will not remain silent while you negotiate in the open and in secret, while you sell Jerusalem, while you divide Palestine, while you condemn us to live as slaves for ever, while you sell our rights, while you swap our lands for bank accounts and permits to Tel Aviv,
I will not be silent while you fight over imaginary posts and chairs and act helpless when the occupier oppresses us,
I will not be silent while you oppress us, train forces to suppress us, and act helpless when the settlers attack us,
I will not be silent while you steal our land, build ‘cities’ for the elite and act helpless when the occupiers destroy our homes,
I will not be silent while you sell 80% of Palestine in the name of a ‘state’ and ‘red carpet’ and ‘government’.
I will not be silent while you sell 50% of Palestine in the name of ‘co-existence with murderous colonizers’,
I will not be silent because the Zionist entity is built on our ancestors, on our homes, on our history, on our map, on our existence,

I will not be silent because this land is ours, every iota of soil is ours, the villages await to be rebuilt, await to awake from underneath the Zionist parks and from underneath the Zionist colonies, the towns await to shed off their fake Zionist names, the lands await to be planted again by the hands that have been planting them for thousands of years,
I will not be silent because the Zionist colonizers who claim a right to our homeland have their roots somewhere else, have homes somewhere else, and while they give even Martians a right to our homeland, they deny us our birthright, steal our lands and homes.

I will not be silent because this land is our home, our only home!

Tour with your chair the world, for it is all that you will ever get: a chair, a useless chair in an imaginary state for an imaginary cabinet and an imaginary king. You know that with you chair you are only playing a charade, but with your charade you don’t intend to fool the Zionists, for you coordinate with them day and night, they beckon and you obey. With your charade you don’t intend to fool the Americans, nor the Europeans, nor the Arab dictators, for they demand and you answer: your wish is my command. No, with your charade you want to fool only one, and you want the interest of only one; you want to fool the Palestinian people you claim you represent, and you want the interest of the Zionists who gave you a chair, a fake state and a fake government and told you: go play while we oppress your people and continue the ethnic cleansing of your land. But you are mistaken, for you only fool yourselves. The Israelis felt our wrath over and over, every time the Palestinian people rose up to face their oppressors, the oppressors felt our thirst for freedom, our hunger for our legitimate rights, and they fear this thirst for freedom, they fear this hunger for rights, they fear the next uprising of the Palestinians and know it is coming, and so should you! Assuring the Israeli occupiers that you won’t allow any uprising, whether armed or popular, won’t prevent the coming uprising, others before you gave assurances to the Zionists and were unable to stop the uprising when it came.

And we, those who refuse to accept a crippled state, a fake state, a Bantustan, we will tour the world with our map. This map, imprinted in our hearts and minds and decorates our homes, is our message to the whole world which claims to be just and conscientious, when it only acts blind, deaf and mute to the crimes of the Zionist entity. This map is our message to the long-dead PLO that still claims to represent us, when it only represents the interests of the chosen elite. This map is our message to the unelected PA that claims to represent us, when only it represents the interest of the occupation. This map is our message to those Palestinians who want to legitimize the Zionist colonization of Palestine, to those Palestinians who want to sell Palestine, in any form, under any fancy name.

Our message to these and to those who worship the chair and the king of the chair is:
Palestine was and forever will be one from the river to the sea.
We are only whole within a Palestine from the river to the sea.
We are only free with a free Palestine from the river to sea.
There will never be a state called Palestine only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, because the West Bank and the Gaza

Strip are part of Palestine, and the part will never compensate for the whole.

There will never be a state called Palestine without Jerusalem, because Jerusalem is the throbbing heart of Palestine, and without a heart there is no life.

There is only one Palestine: and it was, is and will forever be one from the river to the sea, and Palestine will not be free until it is free from the river to the sea.

PS: “sending” schools kids and employees to the streets to “show support” does not mean their endorsement.

The PA doesn’t represent me; why should I trust its statehood bid?

by Sameeha Elwan, The Electronic Intifada

Here comes September. The long-awaited month has finally arrived and brought with it controversy over the ramifications of the Palestinian Authority’s proposal for statehood at the United Nations.

The following is just a simple attempt from an average Palestinian to reason the justifications behind the PA’s unreasonable step.

To claim that an average Palestinian would take the time to think through the political and legal implications of such a move would be misleading. An average Palestinian might in fact be the least interested in whether a state would be declared in September. Yet he or she will be the one will be the one whose life will be most profoundly impacted by any hasty act of folly by the PA. This has been demonstrated by a long history of disappointing actions by the PA.

This is not to dismiss Palestinian public political awareness. Palestinians are the ones who live with the consequences of any step or measure suggested or implemented by the PA. Therefore, they would definitely have more pressing priorities than to think of the consequences. They would instead be preoccupied with the struggle to survive the consequences of yet another foolish action by their wise government.

I will not claim to be objective. I oppose the PA’s statehood initiative. But despite the debate over the UN bid and despite the PA’s embarrassing record, it dawned on me that maybe this time I was being unjust to the PA, and maybe there’s a shadow of a chance that the PA would do something in the interest of the Palestinians. After all, how unjust and foolish could they be?

I am a refugee. Who will represent me?

Among the debates among the public about whether this bid would endanger the Palestinians was the discussion over representation. Who would represent the Palestinians? And who exactly would this state represent?

Less than half the Palestinian population live in the occupied Gaza Strip and the West Bank, the territories to be declared as the Palestinian state. What will happen to the other millions who live outside this terrotiory?

If the Palestine Liberation Organization, the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians both in historic Palestine and in the diaspora, would be replaced with the Palestinian state contained within the borders of 1967, then what is the destiny of millions of Palestinian refugees living outside those borders? Would they be also part of the State of Palestine? Would this declaration affect their inalienable right of return?

The PLO has been representing the Palestinian people, internationally and within the United Nations since 1965, acting in the name of all Palestinians, whether in Palestine or displaced. The PLO is already recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people at the UN. Why is there a need to replace the PLO with another authority which is not representative of more than half the Palestinian population?

Half of Palestinians “disenfranchised”

According to a recent analysis by Guy Goodwin-Gill, professor of law at Oxford University, the Palestinian refugees “constitute more than half of the people of Palestine and if they are ‘disenfranchised’ and lose their representation in the UN, it will not only prejudice their entitlement to equal representation, contrary to the will of the General Assembly, but also their ability to vocalize their views, to participate in matters of national governance, including the formation and political identity of the state, and to exercise the right of return.”

Let’s assume that the statehood bid would not lead to such a deadlock as Francis Boyle, a former legal advisor to the PLO, predicted in his response to Goodwin’s memorandum.

What would be the destiny of the refugees of 1948 living within the borders of the coming Palestinian state, particularly in the more than twenty refugee camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank?

Going back home would not be a legitimate option considering that what lies beyond the 1967 boundary line would be recognized as a sovereign Jewish state upon which they have no claims of land or ownership. A return to their homes within the Jewish state would be impossible. Their right of return would consequently be dropped.

For those refugees, would the September state offer any compensation? Would it grant them full citizenship? The result of the quest for a new state could be that their “temporary” camps turn into neighborhoods of a new state. They would also have to endure worsening poverty after the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) reduces or even cuts off the aid upon which thousands of refugee families survive.

Who will represent me? I did not vote for the PA

For almost two decades, the PA has been assuming that it represents the Palestinian people based on the Oslo accords.

The PA, however, falls short on the questions of genuine democratic representation.

The last democratic elections for the PA took place more than five years ago. The refusal by the US and Europe to respect the results of that election has led to the severe fragmentation of both Gaza and the West Bank, leaving Palestinians with two governments, neither of which is representative of the total interests and will of the Palestinian people. It is no wonder that young Palestinians, unable to practice their fundamental democratic right to vote, and all too aware of the follies of the PA, are shouting very fiercely against the PA or even calling for its dissolution.

This of course delegitimizes any further step the PA takes on behalf of the Palestinian people, for it is not the real representative of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and the West Bank, let alone the already disenfranchised population of Palestinians outside those territories.

The prospective consequences of the statehood bid are not promising but instead rather risky. Palestinians, of course, are not to blame for distrusting their fragmented leadership after a series of shocking revelations about how the Palestinian cause is being dealt with in negotiation rooms and how much this leadership is ready to offer or concede.

The fact that the new state is offering no reform of the Palestinian leadership tells how unpromising such a move is. One cannot but imagine the forthcoming state as offering nothing more to the Palestinians than further fragmentation. A state that offers no relief from the current situation on the ground, that is led by the same leadership, that fails to uphold the rights of the Palestinians, sounds like the very definition of insanity.

Sameeha Elwan is a 23-year-old Palestinian blogger and an English literature graduate from the Islamic University of Gaza.

Why was the PA hosting American Kabbalah tourists in Nablus?

by Steve Bell

by Michelle Gyeney, The Electronic Intifada

The message cut through the narrow passageways and abundant staircases of Nablus with remarkable speed on 11 August: a huge group of tourists was on their way to the city, and the governate was in desperate need of local, English-speaking tour guides to lead these invitees throughout Nablus. In exchange for 100 shekels (about $30), each guide was expected to lead his or her group through the Ottoman-era Old City as well as to religious sites such as Joseph’s Tomb and Bier Yacob church — and, most importantly, to refrain from political discussion of any kind throughout the day.

Official guests of the Palestinian Authority, the 1,200 students of the Kabbalah International Center in Los Angeles — wearing matching white t-shirts bearing Arabic, English, or Hebrew messages of peace — streamed into Nablus throughout the day and ended their visit in the downtown area where the visitors took part in the inaugural launch of “Peace and Freedom Day.” As part of this new Nablusi celebration, governor Jibril al-Bakri, his deputy Anan al-Ateera, and a number of other community officials spoke about the need for peace and statehood and then led the crowd in singing peace-related songs. While the Nablus governate was the official coordinator of the day, several of the roughly 100 Palestinian participants, including tour guides, organizers and volunteers, were quick to suggest that the invitation for the Jewish mysticism group came at the behest of PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

The themes of peace and freedom were discussed without reference to their political context and were simply described as abstract concepts that Palestinians should have the right to enjoy. Ironically, the organizers’ emphasis that guides not discuss political issues with their groups was, in and of itself, an affront to Palestinian freedom. Further complicating the matter was the logistical impossibility of leading people through the Old City, which was a bastion of the resistance movement and bore a heavy civilian burden during both intifadas, without referencing politics.

Indeed, the physical appearance of Nablus’ Old City remains visibly altered as the result of years of Israeli invasions. Even today, the 1,000-year-old buildings of the Old City still bear the signs of invasions and the military’s devastation. In all likelihood, this blanket ban on discussing what really happens in Nablus under Israeli occupation sought to disguise the politics of the visiting Kabbalists themselves.

Thinly-veiled “gestures of peace and unity”

Browsing the event page for the Kabbalah International Center’s current trip is particularly telling. Labeled “Israel 2011 with Rav and Karen Berg,” their itinerary not only designates the West Bank cities of Hebron and Nablus as “Israeli,” but also refers to Nablus as “Shechem,” the Canaanite and biblical name most often appropriated by the Zionist movement to indicate that the city is part of the ancient territory of Samaria rather than modern Palestine. The group heralded its time in Nablus as “a day hosted by the Palestinian Authority in Shechem in a gesture of peace and unity,” and these themes were made the focus of the day, but one cannot help but wonder: if politics were made taboo and the group itself makes use of Zionist language, then whose idea of peace and unity was on the table?

A recent Ma’an News Agency article on the event, as well as governate representatives, referred to the participants as “international activists” attending a “peace rally,” but upon further inquiry, both claims appear highly suspect (“Hundreds of international activists at Nablus peace rally,” 12 August 2011).

While the official message of the visit may well have been “peace and freedom,” the cooperation between the PA and Israeli forces to ensure a sufficient security detail for the conspicuous caravan of 25 luxury buses — as well as the PA’s blatant disregard for the Kabbalist group’s own politics — emphasizes the PA’s continued normalization with Israel rather than any display of international unity with Palestinians. As so few Palestinians were actually present, aside from bemused onlookers, it is difficult to see with whom these internationals had hoped to express their solidarity.

The PA’s continued cooperation with Israel

More than anything, the “Peace and Freedom Day” visit raises many questions. Why would a group of 1,200 “activists” with a pre-scheduled visit to the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron, both of which are hotbeds of political activism against Israeli occupation and settler-colonialism, gain unfettered access to the occupied West Bank while international human rights activists, academics, professionals and even casual tourists are often forced to conceal any trips to the other side of Israel’s wall for fear of detention or deportation?

Most recently, the Israeli government denied entry to hundreds of “flytilla” activists at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv simply because they declared their true destination was the occupied West Bank. In contrast, these student-guests of the PA in “Shechem” were not only welcomed with open arms by Israeli and Palestinian officials alike, they were provided with a full security escort by Palestinian security forces during their visit to Palestinian Authority-administered areas of the West Bank. Even though the group visited Hebron and Nablus, it viewed both as part of Israel, which appears to have made all the difference for navigating the Israeli government’s often arbitrary entrance requirements.

The Israeli government and its forces have actively helped, rather than impeded, the group’s visit, casting further doubt on the motivations of Nablus’ Kabbalist guests. This is in sharp contrast to its typical treatment of Palestinian, international and Israeli activists, who are more likely to face checkpoints, detention, tear gas or worse. It stands to reason that despite the declarations of the PA, these students were not activists at all — especially not in the eyes of the Israeli government.

Furthermore, at a time when the PA is facing an intense financial crisis, shouldering the costs of such a seemingly absurd event raises further questions about the PA’s governance decisions. A little more than a month before its impending United Nations statehood declaration, the PA has proven once again that it does not have the interests of the average Palestinian at heart. In fact, the PA has shown that it values continued cooperation with Israel and the international community more than it does peace or freedom for the Palestinian people.

Michelle Gyeney is researching the policy incoherence of development practice in Palestine and writes from the West Bank.

Donors help keep Palestinians in cages

by Charlotte Silver, The Electronic Intifada

“Israel besieges us, puts us in cantons — in cages — and the international community is feeding us in these cages. It’s anything but developmental and it’s helping Israel’s colonization, ethnic cleansing and dispossession,” Dr. Samia Botmeh said, as she sat in her office in the Center for Development Studies (CDS) at Birzeit University near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Despite the massive amounts of development aid that have been poured into the West Bank, the productive capacity of the Palestinian economy — measured by examining the agricultural and manufacturing sectors — is half that of 1994, and accounts for no more than 12 percent of employment. While the World Bank and Palestinian Authority boast an 8 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP), real per capita income is still 8.4 percent lower than what it was in 1999, signifying that the GDP growth is not reflective of income growth for the average Palestinian.

Egypt provides an elucidative comparison. Two decades of serious neo-liberal reforms produced a GDP growth in Egypt that was similarly applauded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF): between 2006 and 2008, GDP grew 7 percent and there was a 4.6 percent spike in 2009 alone. However, as was made stunningly clear at the end of January, the country’s GDP growth had not trickled down to the majority of the people: unemployment had actually increased and 40 percent of the population lived on less than two dollars per day.

With former IMF representative Salam Fayyad at the helm since 2007, the PA has adopted the strategy of neo-liberal “good governance” as its framework for the state-building project. As post-colonial states have done in the past, the PA has sought to create an environment conducive for efficient and free-flowing markets by privatizing public services, emphasizing private property rights and reducing corruption. This agenda — state-building through neo-liberal policies — is most patently set forth in a PA program titled “Ending the Occupation, Establishing a State.”

As Mustaq H. Khan, an economics professor at London’s School of Oriental and Afrian Studies, pointed out in a lecture in Ramallah last winter, the injection of development aid into Palestine has deceptively flattered the PA’s good governance program, leading onlookers and promoters such as the IMF and World Bank to attribute the boost in GDP to a successful market economy (“Post-Oslo State-Building Strategies and their Limitation,” 1 December 2010 [PDF]).

There is still a stark contrast between the perceived improvement in the Palestinian economy and the actual standard of living for the majority of Palestinians. Development aid — which comprises roughly 40 percent of Palestine’s GDP — has been complicit in obscuring economic reality and in some cases truncating Palestine’s struggle for national liberation.

In June 2011, Birzeit University held a conference at which activists and academics spoke with donors and a representative from the PA on the failures of development, as well as the troubling role development aid plays in Palestine’s national movement.

“The framework of development is extremely unrealistic and problematic,” Dr. Samia Botmeh told The Electronic Intifada. The framework under scrutiny at Birzeit was the United Nations Development Programme’s Conflict-Related Development Analysis (CDA), which seeks to maximize the impact of development aid in conflict zones.

Botmeh added that the current international framework for assessing development aid in the West Bank treats the Israeli-occupied region either as a conflict zone or a post-colonial zone. “This is completely unrealistic because we are not in a conflict, we are in a colonization process,” she said.

The conference took place after the university’s Center for Development Studies concluded a project commissioned by the UNDP that examined how development funds could be better allocated in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip amid Israel’s continued occupation.

Because the CDA framework attempts to implement “development” projects while avoiding any political position, the study found that it implicitly assumes both parties have a reason to compromise. This fundamentally flawed approach refuses to acknowledge — and therefore address — the stark power imbalance that allows Israel to remain intransigent.

Realizing that reallocating funds would not address the fundamental hindrances to achieving economic self-determination through development in Palestine, the center articulated what development should look like in the context of an active colonization process. “Development should be about more than helping people survive; it should be about ending colonization,” Botmeh explained.

The Center for Development Studies’ critique shows how development fails to achieve much of anything tangible for Palestinians, and — even more ominously — serves to fortify Israel’s occupation and further annexation of land.

Development confined to “state-building”

After the implementation of policies dictated by the Oslo Accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s, international aid to Palestine took a turn toward development. Previously, aid to Palestine was earmarked for “humanitarian” purposes such as UN operations and charity. With the establishment of the Palestinian Authority as a transitional government, development aid was ostensibly intended to promote an independent economy that would facilitate a smooth transition to a Palestinian state.

After 18 years of an ostensible peace process — of which the agency of the Palestinian national liberation struggle has been confined to a “state-building” project by the PA and Israel — Palestinians’ standards of living have decreased, while inequality has increased.

Botmeh believes that the underlying assumption of this development aid is that it is being funnelled into a post-colonial state and that Israel has an intention to withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These assumptions, blatantly oblivious to any political reality, have allowed development aid to reinforce Israel’s colonization through the continued degradation of Palestine’s territorial contiguity and the ongoing depopulation of Area C — more than 60 percent of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that is under full Israeli military control.

Under the Oslo accords, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip were carved up into areas A, B and C, the last of which is administered and controlled by the Israeli government and its military. Israel has declared three-quarters of the land as “closed military zones” or nature reserves, and therefore “off-limits” to Palestinians. Approximately 40,000 Palestinians live in Area C.

The 1999 deadline for the termination of the West Bank’s geographic stratification into Areas A, B and C has long passed. Far from assisting in the formation of a viable state, development aid has served to entrench the partitioning of the land.

Peter Lundberg, a representative of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, confirms these faults in the current development paradigm in Palestine. Speaking from the perspective of an international donor, Lundberg excoriated the complicity of development aid in fragmenting Palestinians by only working in Area A due to Israeli restrictions in Area C.

“Donors and the PA have been too focused on state-building, which is important, but they are going to lose critical parts of the land,” Lundberg said. “Development should help Palestinians stay on their land; too many have left [their land in] Area C.”

Because implementing projects in Israeli-controlled Area C are logistically burdensome and in many cases impossible, donors are inclined to contribute to projects in Area A.

According to Lundberg’s statistics, there has been an exodus of Palestinians from Area C mostly due to the impossible living conditions Israel has created and the predatory nature of surrounding settlements. Israel does not allow communities to be connected to sources of water or electricity and refuses nearly every request for a building permit, thus leading to the destruction of water-collecting devices, schools and homes. In contrast, settlements sitting next to these Palestinian villages are afforded free-running water, electricity, roads and expanding infrastructure.

In 1967 there were approximately 200,000 Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley, which is designated Area C, except for the Palestinian city of Jericho. Today, there are only 56,000, 40,000 of whom live in Jericho (in Area A), according to statistics from the international aid agency Save the Children.

The devastating picture that these statistics reveal is that donors have been complicit in aiding Israel’s process of cantonizing the West Bank into the 18 percent that comprises Area A. By doing so they have helped to surrender the majority of the West Bank’s land and agriculture — which could form the basis of a genuine self-sustainable Palestinian economy and state — to Israel’s control.

Neo-liberalism undermining Palestinian rights for self-determination

Raja Khalidi, a senior economist with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), has written that the development enterprise — representing $1.5 billion a year — is taking place inside territories that have been tagged by the World Bank, European Union, IMF and United States as a site for expanding a neo-liberal project (see “Neoliberalism as Liberation: The Statehood Program and the Remaking of the Palestinian National Movement,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol 40, no. 2, Winter 2011).

In the PA’s neo-liberal paradigm — as enshrined in the “Palestinian Reform and Development Plan” of 2008-10 and “Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State” — economic growth is promised as a consolation for occupation rather than a strategy to resist it.

Speaking at the conference, Khalidi remarked on the absurdity of such an agenda in the context of an occupation that ultimately determines Palestine’s economy. “For the last three years, the PA has been routing out internal obstacles to state-building, while the PA has no structure to tackle external obstacles,” he said.

Moreover, without sovereignty, genuine economic growth is out of reach. Khalidi explained that the PA is not only unable to counteract Israel’s aggressive policies of colonization but it also does not have the ability to exercise control over Palestine’s macro-economic policies — such as its own currency and control over interest or exchange rates.

Development aid has long been faulted for its inadvertent assistance in sustaining the occupation by reducing its humanitarian impact and thus making it more palatable. However, Omar Barghouti, a leading figure of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, revealed the disingenuous nature of international development aid.

“Development exudes complicity in colonialism; it’s intentional and it’s complicit — ignorance is not an excuse,” he said at the conference.

Barghouti proffered several examples of countries throwing some money at the cause of development in Palestine while concurrently supporting projects or companies that actively undermine Palestinian sovereignty.

Veolia, a French transportation corporation that according to Barghouti is mostly owned by the state, is currently building Jerusalem’s new light rail system. The Jerusalem light rail connects West Jerusalem to illegal settlement blocs in occupied East Jerusalem. Despite targeted pressure on Veolia to withdraw from the light rail project — part of a global BDS campaign that has cost the company up to $10 billion, according to Barghouti — the company and by extension France have held onto their contract with Israel.

Restoring class struggle to the national liberation struggle

Adam Hanieh, a lecturer in development studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, situates development aid in the longer arc of Israel’s colonization of the land through systematic fragmentation of the Palestinian people and nation. In his lecture at Birzeit, Hanieh restored the importance of class struggle to the goal of national liberation and exposed development aid as working against Palestinian unity undivided by wealth or class, against the occupation.

“Sixty-three years of colonization have seen the division, fragmentation and fracturing of the Palestinian people. Development must confront this fragmentation, not aid it,” Hanieh explained to the audience.

Illustrating how neo-liberalism has encouraged the notion that the solutions to problems are individual in nature rather than collective, Hanieh stressed that much of the “development” one sees arising in the West Bank benefits Israeli business. For example, consumption in Ramallah’s flourishing restaurant and café culture is mostly funded by this development aid — and in turn sustains the importation of Israeli products. Poignantly, this new consumer class — enabled by development aid — creates one more isolated stratum of Palestinian society.

All this continues against the backdrop of the regional popular uprisings against, among other things, neo-liberal policies. These uprisings showcase an exemplary shaking off of dictators and the present world order and the inspiring potential of class struggle.

If development aid programmes set freedom — rather than the introduction of a neo-liberal state — as their principal objective for Palestinians, then they may begin to counter the 63-year process of confiscation and colonization. Otherwise, they will be offering that process a helping hand.

Charlotte Silver is a journalist based in the West Bank.

Confused strategy: How the PA sold out Palestinian unity

by Steve Bell

by Ramzy Baroud, source

If you happen to be a Palestinian government employee, chances are you will receive only half your usual salary this month. The other half will only be available when international donors find it in their hearts to make up for the huge shortage of funds currently facing the Palestinian Authority (PA).

With a deficit standing at around $640 million, the PA government of Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad is experiencing one of its worst ever financial crises. However, the Palestinian economy is not a real economy by universally recognized standards. It survives largely on handouts by donor countries. These funds have spared Israel much of its financial responsibility as an occupying power under the stipulations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. They have also propped up a Palestinian leadership that tries to secure its own survival by serving the interests of major donors.

The funds, however, are now drying up. This could be due to a political attempt to dissuade PA President Mahmoud Abbas from seeking recognition of a Palestinian state at the UN next September. PA officials have been greatly angered by the shift, blaming donor countries – including Arab countries – for failing to honor their financial commitments.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, Secretary-General of the PLO, spoke of an ‘unprecedented’ crisis to Voice of Palestine Radio. “The situation has become very complicated for the Palestinian Authority because of the failure of the Arab countries to fulfill their financial promises.”

Fayyad suggested it was an ‘irony’ that the current crisis comes at a time when the PA had reduced its reliance on foreign aid by almost half – from $1.8 billion in 2008 to $970m – according to the Jerusalem Post. Now, even this half is being slashed, as only $331m of the pledged $970m has been received.

Top PA officials are yet to openly connect the dots between the withholding of funds and the political reality in Palestine. Fayyad insisted that “the crisis does not cast doubt on our preparedness for the establishment of the state,” while Abed Rabbo asserted that the crisis would not halt PA efforts to seek an independent statehood along pre-1967 lines.

The PA undoubtedly understands the financial cost of any political adventure that is deemed unfavorable to Israel – especially since they are constantly reminded of the ‘historic ties’ and ‘shared values’ that unite Israel and the United States.

One such reminder was the huge margin at the US House of Representatives in July 2007. It was an “overwhelming 406-6 vote,” reported AFP, where US lawmakers “warned the Palestinians that they risk cuts in US aid if they pursue UN recognition of a future state not defined in direct talks with Israel.” The message echoed another vote on a similar resolution in the US Senate.

Such unquestioning support for Israel by the US serves to make life much easier for Israeli diplomats. They now need to focus less on the US than on European countries that have promised to back the PA statehood initiative.

The PA is of course very vulnerable to threats, despite their insistence to the contrary. Once the US and others start to wave the withholding-of-funds card, any solid PA political program usually falters into perplexing and even self-defeating political babble. The lack of certainty in the PA’s political language could be attributed to fear that a single decision to withhold funds coupled with an Israeli decision to hold taxes collected on behalf of the PA, the government would not last for more than mere weeks.

One ought to remember that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are Occupied Territories. Deprived from even a semblance of territorial sovereignty and presiding over a donation-based national economy, the PA has no political independence outside the permissible margins allowed by the US and Israel, countries that are hell-bent on defeating the Palestinian national project.

The PA has been grappling with this strange situation since its inception in 1994. Being a guardian of Palestinian national interests and simultaneously satisfying Israel’s political interests and US expectations is an impossible feat. That enigma has almost always been settled at the expense of the Palestinians themselves. The latest casualty has been the unity deal signed between Hamas and the PA’s ruling party, Fatah, in Egypt on April 27.

The unity was essential for a cohesive political program to be formed towards Palestinian rights and possible statehood. When the agreement was officially signed early May, it was assumed that various committees would be able to quickly finalize the process aimed at setting a date for future elections and bringing to a complete end the four-year feud between the two factions.

However, a counter Israeli strategy was immediately forged. On May 4, as Palestinians celebrated their unity, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu led the counter campaign from London. “What happened today in Cairo is a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism,” he told reporters (as reported by Reuters). The US echoed Netanyahu’s foreboding words, EU countries responded ‘cautiously’, and the arm-twisting began.

Once again, Abbas and the PA were faced with a dilemma around priorities. National unity in Palestine was to suffer yet another blow. “The Palestinian president does not want to wage two diplomatic battles for recognition of an alliance with the Islamic militants and for a U.N. nod to statehood at the same time,” said a PLO official (as quoted by the Associated Press and Ha’aretz).

The UN vote “would be a largely symbolic step that the Palestinians hope will nonetheless improve their leverage against Israel,” according to the AP report. ‘Symbolic’ maybe, but is a priority that Abbas feels comes ahead of urgently needed national unity and a unified political program.

Meanwhile, PA forces – trained and armed by the US and in constant coordination with the Israeli army – reportedly arrested 68 Hamas members in recent weeks, according to a report by Maan News Agency, citing a Hamas statement.

While Abbas is now leading a diplomatic mission to drum up support for his UN initiative, Fayyad is trying to collect funds to prop up the PA economy for a few more months. Meanwhile, Palestinian national unity – without which Palestinians will remain hopelessly fragmented and vulnerable to external pressures and foreign priorities – remains merely ink on paper.

– Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London).

New book shows how aid to PA ended up in “Israel’s” pockets

by David Cronin, The Electronic Intifada

About a decade ago, a record was broken in Palestine. Responding to the outbreak of a new intifada, outside governments dramatically increased their financial contributions to the West Bank and Gaza. By 2002, the occupied Palestinian territories had become the largest recipients of development and humanitarian aid on a sustained per capita basis since the Second World War.

Are Palestinians grateful at being given as much as $1 billion annually in recent times? From conversations I had in Jerusalem and Ramallah earlier this year, the answer would appear to be no. “We don’t want your money; we want your solidarity,” one woman told me. Others spoke of how foreign aid was “bandaging” the occupation, easing some of its symptoms but leaving the core problems to fester.

In The Political Economy of Aid in Palestine, Sahar Taghdisi-Rad illustrates how aid earmarked for the oppressed often ends up in the oppressor’s pockets. “When aid is given in the context of conflict and violence, it becomes part of that context; hence its effect on conflict does not remain neutral, despite what most donors would like to claim,” she writes (87).

Using a phrase coined by the Israeli journalist Meron Benvenisti, Taghdisi-Rad argues that Israel imposes a “deluxe occupation,” whereby it exerts total military domination over the Palestinians under its yoke without taking any responsibility for meeting their basic needs (158).

Rather than holding Israel to account for its most egregious abuses of human rights and international law, donors have generally been willing to accommodate those abuses. By paying for repairs to Palestinian infrastructure damaged by Israel, donors have not only helped prolong this “deluxe occupation,” they have reduced any sense of urgency for a political resolution of the conflict, she argues (17).

“Israel” benefits from international aid to Palestinians

Taghdisi-Rad examines how far from behaving in an impartial manner, donors are tailoring their aid programs to benefit Israel. She devotes particular attention to analyzing the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan Trust Fund (PRDP – TF), set up by the World Bank (187-192). Promised $7.8 billion mainly by Western governments for the 2008-10 period, it represented a “major political shift” from previous aid blueprints for the Palestinian Authority.

Whereas donors had until then nominally accepted that Israel was an occupying power and that Palestinians should be encouraged to seek independence from it, this plan advocated deeper “cooperation” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, as well as sharp reductions in public expenditure. By stipulating that the PA cut back on its assistance to ordinary Palestinians who had trouble paying their energy bills, the authority was pressurized into buying power in bulk from the Israel Electricity Company in order to avoid service disruptions.

This fits a wider pattern, under which aid supposed to stimulate Palestinian development instead finds its way to Israeli enterprises. The United Nations has calculated that 45 percent of international aid to Palestine ultimately supports the Israeli economy.

An economist by training, Taghdisi-Rad worked for the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) until a few months ago. Her former employers do not escape criticism. UNCTAD used to take a bold stance in the 1990s, when it argued that the main requirement for economic progress in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was an end to the Israeli occupation. Now, however, it “seems also to follow other donors’ less ambitious approaches to Palestinian development,” she writes (129).

For the most part, those approaches are characterized by an ideological blindness that can defy common sense. Donors have been so gung-ho in promoting trade liberalization and the private sector that they have ignored obvious obstacles. The “quick impact projects” championed by former British prime minister and current Quartet envoy Tony Blair are particularly ridiculed.

Unveiled in 2007, one such project undertook to provide marketing advice to Palestinian exporters. Predictably, such advice proved useless, given that Blair was not prepared to use his platform as an international “peace” envoy (as he is habitually described in British newspapers) to demand that Israel lift the restrictions which prevented Palestinian firms from exporting goods in the first place (170).

US aid to “Israel”

International aid to Palestine is usually categorized as “development” or “humanitarian” in nature. It is eclipsed in volume by US financial assistance to Israel of about $3 billion per year; such aid is released even though Israel is internationally recognized as a developed economy.

Taghdisi-Rad complains that the US’s funds “allow Israel to carry out its illegal settlement and military activities” and is not conditional on respect for Palestinian rights. By contrast, the US and the EU told a Palestinian administration incorporating Hamas in 2006 that it could only receive foreign aid if Hamas “recognized” Israel. Taghdisi-Rad suggests that the West’s position was tantamount to instructing Hamas to accept Israel’s system of apartheid.

“Unlike any other country in the world, Israel, based on Zionist ideology, does not define itself as a state of its residents, or even a state of its citizens, rather, as a state for Jews only,” she writes. “Recognizing a state which treats all non-Jews as second-class citizens is not even legal under international law” (173).

This is not an easy book to digest. Although its conclusions are cogent, most of the writing suffers from a clunky style. The high number of acronyms clogging its pages sometimes left me feeling like I was drowning in an alphabet soup. Read patiently, however, it offers a hugely informative guide to topics that are of central importance to the future of Palestine but usually neglected in mainstream media coverage.

The book was completed before the assessment published by the World Bank in April that the PA was “well-positioned for the establishment of a state at any time in the near future” (“Building the Palestinian State: Sustaining Growth, Institutions, and Service Delivery“ [PDF]).

Nonetheless, it demolishes the fantasy that Palestine will soon be magically transformed into a viable nation. “It is interesting to note that from its establishment to this day, being one of the most financially-supported governments in this world, the PA has yet to contribute its own resources to public investment and the provision of public services,” Taghdisi-Rad writes (181).

That observation — and many others — makes this work both perceptive and pertinent.

David Cronin’s book Europe’s Alliance With Israel: Aiding the Occupation is published by Pluto Press.

Palestine: Farmers fired on in Gaza, PA collaboration, & warning against Israeli activities in OJ

IOF troops open fire at Palestinian farmers

KHAN YOUNIS, (PIC)– Israeli occupation forces (IOF) opened machinegun fire at Palestinian farmers and their fields east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip, on Sunday morning.

Palestinian sources said that the soldiers, stationed on the eastern borders of Khan Younis opened heavy machinegun fire as warplanes hovered overhead.

They said that the farmers fled their fields due to the intensive shooting, adding that no casualties were reported.

The IOF troops consistently raid or fire at border areas in the Strip.

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Settler killed, three injured in Nablus shooting

NABLUS, (PIC)– A Jewish settler was killed, and three others were wounded in a shooting near Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus city in the northern West Bank, Reuters reported early Sunday morning.

The shooting took place when a group of “Jewish worshipers” passed near the Yousuf’sTomb area, Reuters said, adding that the settlers sustained moderate to serious injuries.

Sources in the Israeli army said the shooters fired at several cars of settlers while they were at the site.

The sources said the settlers were present to perform religious rituals but had not coordinated with the Israeli army beforehand.

Witnesses told the Palestinian Information Center that military patrols stormed Nablus city from the eastern region and were stationed at the place of incident. They have closed the area to comb it.

Our correspondent in Nablus reports that several Palestinians residing near Yousuf’sTomb near Nablus, including an elderly man and a child, have been injured after massive Israeli forces stormed the area and violently clashed with locals.

Our correspondent adds that the invading force has been firing live ammunition and tear gas canisters at Palestinian youth and at houses in the area. They have also tightened procedures at military checkpoints surrounding the city, closing some of them and declaring the area around the scene of incident a closed military zone.

The Israeli occupation force (IOF) has set up a military checkpoint at area 17 north of Nablus and has banned civilian entry to the city through it. Operations in schools near the site have also been suspended.

Governor of Nablus province Jibrin al-Bakri has condemned the shooting and said security services have opened investigations during a radio interview. He added that details would be announced “clearly”.

Bakri said: “No one is entitled to strain the security environment in the city of Nablus.”

According to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahranot, Israel has assigned blame to elements from the Palestinian security services for the shooting after a verbal altercation with settlers that intruded the tomb area.

Palestinian Authority security agency officials have confirmed the formation of an Israeli-Palestinian investigation committee supervised by the US into the circumstances of the incident.

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Islamic-Christian commission warns against Judaization activities in J’lem

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– The Islamic-Christian commission for the support of Jerusalem and holy sites warned of the escalating Judaization and settlement activities in occupied Jerusalem.

Secretary-general of the commission Hasan Khater appealed to the Arab and Islamic worlds to stand by Jerusalem people and help them to confront the Israeli occupation’s scheme aimed to expel them from their holy city.

In a press release on Saturday, Khater noted that there is no strategy for strengthening the Jerusalem people’s steadfastness at the Palestinian official level, but the opposite is happening, where they are forced to work and live outside their city.

For his part, preacher of the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem Sheikh Jum’ah called on the Arab and Muslim nations and the world’s free people not to forget Jerusalem which is exposed to daily Israeli massacres targeting its identity, history and indigenous people.

Sheikh Jum’ah noted that the Israeli occupation authority (IOA) imposes heavy taxes on the merchants of Jerusalem and hefty fees on the natives who want to get building permits, while it builds thousands of settlement units for Jewish settlers in order to bring about a demographic change.

He added that the IOA is now besieging Jerusalem with settlements and outposts in order to Judaize it and separate it from its Palestinian surrounding.

The IOA has demolished hundreds of Palestinian homes, especially in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Shuafat, Issawiya districts resulting in the displacement of thousands of Jerusalemites, withdrew thousands of IDs from them, prevented religious and national figures from entering the holy city or the Aqsa Mosque, initiated a systematic campaign to obliterate Arab and Islamic landmarks and sites in Jerusalem, the preacher affirmed.

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Thousands of Palestinians attend 9th Aqsa child festival

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)– More than 15,000 Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem and the 1948 occupied lands attended on Saturday the ninth festival of the Aqsa child and the third drawing contest for kids in the Aqsa Mosque’s courtyards.

Deputy head of the Islamic Movement in the 1948 occupied lands Sheikh Kamal Al-Khatib expressed his extreme delight to see such crowds attending this event to show their attachment to their holy sites.

For his part, head of the higher Islamic commission Sheikh Ikrima Sabri urged in his speech the participating parents and teachers to break the barrier of fear inside the hearts of their children and students and familiarize them with the Islamic values of courage and honesty.

The festival included songs, poetry and awards for the winning boys and girls in the drawing contest.