This Week In Palestine – Week 16 2007

April 21, 2007 12:08 AM Ghassan Bannoura Audio report, Palestine 0

Click on Link to download or play MP3 file || 23.8MB || Time 26m 0sThis Week In Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center, www.IMEMC.org, for April 14 through 20, 2007.

The village of Bilin holds its second international conference on popular resistance, while Israeli army continues to attack Palestinian civilians. The Palestinian government attempts to lift the blockade are still ongoing. These stories and more coming up, stay tuned.

Nonviolent Resistance in West Bank

Let’s begin our weekly report with the Bilin Conference on popular resistance.

More than four hundred Palestinian, Israeli and international peace activists participated in the Bilin International Conference on Popular Resistance, from Wednesday to Friday, held in the heart of the village of Bil’in. IMEMC’s George Rishmawi has more.

The three-day conference began with a rendition of the Palestinian national anthem, followed by an address by Nasser Al-Kidweh, a senior Palestinian official representing the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. He affirmed the President’s support for a popular nonviolent resistance against the Israeli military occupation in Palestine.

Several prominent international diplomats also attended. Vice president of the European Parliament Luisa Morgantini came from Italy to join the conference. She affirmed her support and solidarity with the Palestinian people ‘for their just struggle for freedom’.

A number of Palestinian speakers gave a summary of the Palestinian conference which was held on March 22, and presented their recommendations. French Parliament member Jean-Claude Lefort spoke about the double standards in the present situation in Palestine. Eyad Burnat, member of the Bilin Popular Committee Against the Wall gave an overview about the village and the history of nonviolent resistance to the Wall.

The media role in the Palestine-Israel conflict was one of the important topics addressed in the conference. Dr. Mustafa Barghouthi, Palestinian Minister of Information cited examples of the domination of the Israeli narrative of the conflict in the western media which he says creates an inaccurate and deceptive view of the conflict. He cited coverage of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip as an example.

He said that Israel gives the world their line and people, including Palestinians believe it.

Israel, Barghouti continued, claims to have ended the occupation in Gaza. But the reality on the ground says otherwise.

The morning session of the second day started with a panel discussion about economic independence in the occupied Palestinian areas. Dr. Mohammad Shtayah, professor of economics at Birzeit University pointed out the dependency of the Palestinian economy on the Israeli economy.

Sam Bahour, a Palestinian businessman and activist at the Right to Enter campaign spoke about the need to develop an independent Palestinian economy. George S. Rishmawi, the conference coordinator and an expert in alternative tourism spoke about alternative tourism as a way to support Palestinian economy on a national level.

Meanwhile, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe advocated the one-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He said there are so many groups who have great energy to act, but they are afraid of being called Anti-Semitic. He called on the world, especially Germany to break their silence and demand that Israel ends its occupation.

Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, which helps rebuilds Palestinian houses demolished by Israel, spoke about the Apartheid system in Palestine created by the Wall and the network of Israeli-only roads Israel is building in the West Bank. He said that Israel is not a democracy but rather an ethnocracy.

The conference also addressed the issue of joint struggle between Palestinians and Israelis, and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign.

A number of workshops were held at the conference to elaborate on the topics addressed by panelists, namely, the Bilin development model, Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions, the role of the Media and need to escalate the joint struggle of Palestinians and Israelis.

The Bilin conference was sponsored by NOVA, a Spanish organization calling for social change through the Spanish Cooperation Agency in Palestine. The village of Bilin has been resisting the construction of the wall on their land for the past two years with ongoing weekly nonviolent actions.

This Friday, many members of the conference joined in the weekly demonstration at the site of the Wall in Bilin. As usual, they were met by dozens of Israeli soldiers firing tear gas and rubber-coated metal bullets at the half international, half Palestinian non-violent demonstrators. Many participants were hit directly by rubber-coated metal bullets and had to be taken away in an ambulance for treatment. Mairead Maguire, a Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland was shot in the leg and tear gassed heavily.

Another international peace activist, Alberto de Jesus, also known as Tito Kayak, performed an incredible non-violent stunt at the demonstration. Despite Israel’s tight security, he managed to scale a 100 meter Israeli communications tower and unfurl the Palestinian flag at the Bilin wall. At the time of this report, he is still sitting up there, with Israeli soldiers waiting for him down below.

Tito is a well-known activist for Puerto Rican independence. In the year 2000, in a widely publicized stunt, he climbed the statue of liberty in New York unfurled a Puerto Rican flag. For IMEMC, this is George Rishmawi at the Bilin Conference Site.

Um Salamoneh

On Friday, International and Israeli peace activists joined the villagers of Um Salamoneh south of Bethlehem city in the southern part of the West Bank, to protest against the illegal wall Israeli is constructing on land confiscated from the village. The protesters also carried signs and held a memorial service for the 32 students that were killed in Virginia Tech University in the US capital state of Washington DC. Sami Awad, the director of the Holy Land Trust NGO and one of the organizers of the protest:

The demonstration ended without any Israeli army interference shortly after the protesters planted the olive trees.

Follow the Women

A group of nearly 120 women from different parts of the world participating in the ‘Follow The Women Cycle’, organized by the Beit Sahour-based Siraj Center For Holy Land Studies, arrived in Bethlehem on Monday to show solidarity with the Palestinian people. The international cyclists are joined by some Palestinian cyclists, members of the Palestinian Cycling Club.

The group entered Palestine on Sunday coming from Jordan after cycling in Lebanon and Syria. The cyclists arrived in the town of Beit Sahour, where they were received by a crowd of the town’s residents including the Mayor and members of the municipal council. Follow the Women is an international movement comprised of approximately 300 ordinary women, from as many as 30 different countries, who support peace and an end to violence in the Middle East.

Palestinians mark Prisoner’s Day, hold nonviolent protests

Thousands of Palestinian civilians and institutions marked Palestinian Prisoner’s Day on Tuesday by holding massive peaceful protests in support of the detainees currently being held by Israel. The protests were organized by the Popular Committee for the Release of Detainees, the Palestinian Prisoner Society and several other organizations and institutions.

The protesters said that the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, should be freed under a prisoner swap agreement. The Popular Committee called on the Palestinian negotiators to push Israel to resolve the issue of the detainees, and to consider their case as a top priority in any peace talks. Saleh El- Arouri, an ex-prisoner spoke to IMEMC:

‘It’s an old Israeli policy to break spirit of the prisoners in all ways possible, They try to show the world and especially the International Red Cross Society that there are good living conditions in their prisons. However, the fact is that they used al sorts of methods like denying the prisoners family visits or phone calls to pressure them. The actual physical pressure is through torture during interrogation and in solitary confinement.”

April 17th marks the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day every year. The Palestinian community commemorates this day in honor and respect to those being held in Israeli detention camps against international law. There are at least 11,000 Palestinians being held in Israeli detention camps, among them 120 women and around 400 children. 46% of the total has not undergone trial, while 10% have not been charged with a crime.

British journalists to boycott Israeli products

The National Union of Journalists in Britain and Ireland called for the boycott of Israeli products in protest of the continued Israeli aggression towards Gaza as well as the latest Israeli war on Lebanon. A ‘yes’ vote of 66 against 54 favored the decision, which they said is ‘similar to the boycotts led by trade union congress at the time of the apartheid regime in South Africa. The NUJ also demanded that the British government and the United Nations impose sanctions on Israel until the latter halts ‘hostile actions’.

The vote has cast a combination of applause and grasp, the UK-based Guardian newspaper published. The paper said the NUJ has been instructed to back anti-apartheid Israeli organizations such as the International Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice in Palestine and the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding. Similar boycotts have been initiated over the past few years of Israeli-Palestinian violence, such as academic and sporting boycotts of Israel in protest of the Israeli aggression towards the occupied Palestinian territories.

Arab League Makes a Decision, Forms Committees

This Wednesday, the Arab League took a decision to begin actively promoting the Middle East peace initiative that it first launched in 2002. It reaffirmed the initiative in March.

An Egyptian-Jordanian committee from the League now plans to hold direct talks with Israel to see whether the initiative can be implemented. Another committee, comprised of eight Arab countries, will tour international capitals and influential organizations, hoping to get international backing.

Arab countries have offered complete normalization with the Jewish state in return for full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip at internationally recognized 1967 borders, and Israeli recognition that Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their land in historic Palestine, in accordance with UN resolution 194.

Israel had rebuffed the Arab peace offer, saying the right of return for Palestinian refugees is unworkable. The right of return has its basis in the Nakba, or ‘catastrophe,’ of 1948, when Jewish army and terrorist militias displaced 700,000 Palestinians from their land, about half the population, to make way for a new Jewish state. Since then these refugees have grown to number 4.5 million, all denied the right to live on their land.

Withdrawal to 1967 borders refers to a six day war in 1967, when Israel occupied Palestinian, Syrian, Egyptian, Jordanian and Lebanese lands. It continues to occupy lands in Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon. Since then, Israel has signed peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, but has yet to sign peace deals with other countries in the region.

Abbas Tours, Hoping to end sanctions

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began a worldwide tour this week, hoping to garner support for the Palestinian unity government. Abbas will visit 10 major capitals. In getting support for the new government, Abbas hopes to end the international sanctions that have crippled the Palestinian economy for over a year.

But the Middle East Peace Quartet, which includes the UN, the US, the EU, and Russia, maintains that it will only lift sanctions if the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel, and renounces violence. The Palestinian government has already met the Quartet’s third condition, recognition of previous signed agreements with the Israeli state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayad, is appealing for European financial support to the new government.

Abbas and Olmert Meet Again
In a meeting in West Jerusalem, President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, agreed to continue to meet on a bi-weekly basis as put forth by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Olmert also agreed to extend the hours that Karni commercial crossing into Gaza is open.

But the meeting did not address any final status issues, leading many Palestinians to call the talks ‘useless.’ Some have even asked the president to pull out unless Olmert agrees to discuss key concerns like the Right of Return, status of Jerusalem, and final borders.

Israel stalls on prisoner swap
And finally, Israel expressed ‘disappointment and reservation’ regarding a Palestinian prisoner swap offer, in which 1,300 illegally held Palestinian political prisoners would be released in exchange for the Israeli soldier who was captured in Gaza in June 2006. Israel says that the prisoners, who are being held in Israeli jails contrary to international law, are from amongst ‘those whose hands are stained with blood.’

Attacks Update

The West Bank

This week, Israeli forces conducted at least 33 military invasions of Palestinian communities in the West Bank. During these invasions, the Israeli army abducted 70 Palestinian civilians, including 14 children and a woman. Thus, the number of Palestinians abducted by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year has mounted to 963. IMEMC’s Polly Bangoriad has more:

During the week, the Israeli military attacked and searched the offices of a number of charities and civil society organizations in the West Bank. They confiscated a number of documents and computers and transformed 3 Palestinian houses near Jenin city in the northern part of the West Bank into military posts. On Tuesday afternoon, an Israeli army undercover force extra-judicially executed a member of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Fatah at the entrance of Jenin city. The force shot the man dead at the roadside after they abducted him.

The under-cover forces were driving in front of the vehicle of Ashraf Hanaisha, and suddenly sped up and made a fast U-turn at, then drove towards the vehicle Hanaisha was driving and stopped in the middle of the street. Troops forced him out of the car then took him away from the vehicle and shot him seven times. Mahir explains how the army killed his brother:

< Actuality – Arabic >

‘They forced the people with him aside, and shot Ashraf in his legs, then they dragged him to the other side of the street and shot him several times in the chest and head while he is on the ground.’

5 Palestinian civilians -2 women and 3 children- were wounded by Israeli gunfire in the West Bank this week. On Wednesday evening a Palestinian child from Tiqoua’ village near Bethlehem, was seriously injured when an illegal Israeli settler opened fire at him on Wednesday afternoon. Haitham Khalil Abu Mfarrih, 14, was shot in his back by a settler driving on the main road close to the village. The child sustained serious wounds and he is currently unconscious in an intensive care unit, Palestinian medical sources reported.

During the week the Israeli army also destroyed at least 8 houses in several parts of the West Bank. On Saturday in the northern West Bank city of Qalqilia Israeli forces destroyed the house of a of Palestinian resistance activist. The owner of the house was abducted by the army two weeks ago.

On Thursday midday the Israeli army uprooted trees and demolished houses in the villages of Qawis and Towani, near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. In Qawis, the Israeli army troops, along with several bulldozers, stormed the village and demolished six farmers’ homes and one animal shed. The Israeli army has demolished the homes once before, in last February, but with the help of international and Israeli human rights organizations the homes were rebuilt.

Meanwhile, another Israeli force with one bulldozer uprooted at least 50 trees and a water well that belong to Palestinian farmers in the village of Towani.
Soldiers not only uprooted the olive trees which are 10 years old, but also took the trees with them when they left.

The Israeli Jerusalem District Court acquitted Shmuel Yehezkel, an Israeli border policeman, from charges of manslaughter on Thursday. Yehezkel was accused of killing Samir Dari, a Palestinian resident of Al Isawiyya neighborhood in east Jerusalem in November 2005. Dari was killed when the policeman shot him in the back at close range. The Israeli police stated that Dari was shot as the police were chasing a car thief in the French Hill neighborhood in Jerusalem.

An investigator who questioned the policemen after the incident stated that there was no justification for firing at Dari since he posed no danger to the policemen. The forensic report revealed that Dari was shot in his back, apparently as he was stepping out of the car. This contradicts the police report which stated that Dari was in the car when he was shot and that he tried to ram his car into the policemen.

On Tuesday morning four Israeli settlers were injured in a shooting attack at the entrance to the illegal settlement of Naaleh near the central West Bank city of Ramallah. According to Israeli media sources, one person was moderately injured and three were lightly injured when a Palestinian gunman opened fire at a car near the illegal settlement. Al Aqsa Brigades, the armed wing of Fateh, have claimed responsibility for targeting the illegal settlers
The Gaza strip

The Israeli army continued to impose a tight siege on the Gaza Strip and attack civilians. IMEMC’s Rami Almeghari has more:

On Monday Israeli troops positioned at the border between the northern Gaza Strip and Israel fired at a mentally disabled Palestinian civilian in Beit Lahia town for no apparent reason. He was wounded by a bullet to the right knee.

The Israeli military have imposed a strict siege on the Gaza Strip. They have closed its border crossings; the army has closed Rafah International Crossing Point since 25th of June 2006 even though it does not directly control it. During the week, the crossing point was reopened on Monday and Tuesday, and hundreds of Palestinians were able to travel through it.

The Israeli forces have partially reopened commercial crossings, especially al-Mentar (Karni) crossing, but many goods and medical supplies have been lacking in the Gaza Strip. The crossing was completely closed last Friday. In addition, the army has continued to prevent Palestinian fishermen from fishing for more than 10 months.

Abu Ali Mustafa brigades, an offshoot of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) claimed Friday it fired a rocket-propelled grenade at an Israeli military jeep in the northern Gaza Strip. Israel has recently reinforced its military presence on the Gaza-Israel border line, under the pretext of preventing homemade rockets fired by Palestinian resistance groups at nearby Israeli towns.

Civil Unrest
At the beginning of the week the Palestinian unity government cabinet endorsed the Palestinian interior ministry’s security plan, intended to restore law and order to the unruly Palestinian territories. The 100-day long plan will go into effect as soon as the interior ministry concludes the necessary arrangements. In the meantime the chaos and lawlessness continues. IMEMC’s Ghassan Bannoura has more:

The Gaza Strip has recently seen a series of explosions of shops and cafes. On Sunday in Khan Younis, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip, two people were shot and killed by unknown gunmen in two separate incidents. The two were identified as Isam Al Skafy, 30, and Hisham Faraj, 32.

Palestinian Security devices managed to obtain information regarding the fate of the abducted BBC reporter, Alan Johnston, and announced that he is still alive. Johnston was abducted by an armed group in the Gaza Strip on March 12th; his fate remained unknown as his captors did not issue any video or audio material that could confirm that he is alive. Well informed sources reported on Thursday that the security devices contacted president Mahmoud Abbas, who is visiting Stockholm – Sweden, and informed him of the latest positive developments.

The recent information voids previous rumors that Johnston was executed on Sunday by his captors, who belong to a previously unknown group calling itself Al Tawheed Wal-Jihad. Since the abduction of Johnston, hundreds of Palestinian Journalists have held strikes and demanded his safe and unconditional release. Palestinian factions and civil institutions also slammed the abduction and considered it harmful to the legitimate Palestinian struggle and cause.

Five Palestinian journalists were injured by Palestinian police forces on Tuesday afternoon while they were protesting the Palestinian government’s inability to unveil truth behind the abduction of Johnston. Witnesses said that Palestinian Security Forces attacked journalists with rifle buts while the latter were protesting at the gate of Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza, where a special session was being held inside.

Palestinian security sources reported on Thursday evening that unknown gunmen shot and injured a Palestinian security officer in Qalqilia, in the northern part of the West Bank. The sources stated that Mohammad Oweissy, a lieutenant working with the Palestinian Intelligence, was shot while driving his vehicle near the eastern entrance of Qalqilia, and was moved to the UNRWA hospital in the city. Owiessy was shot in his abdomen and foot.

On Tuesday night the body of Rasheed Hasan, 64, was found on a street in Sielet Al Thaher village, near Jenin, in the northern part of the West Bank. Palestinian police and security forces initiated a probe into the incident. For IMEMC, This is Ghassan Bannoura.

Conclusion
And that’s just some of the news this week in Palestine. For constant updates, check out our website, www.IMEMC.org. Thanks for joining us. From Occupied Bethlehem, this is Jake Talhami

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Ghassan Bannoura

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