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This Week in Palestine, a service of the International Middle East Media Center IMEMC.ORG in Palestine for the week of Friday November 25th, to Thursday December 1st, 2005.
Fatah holds its first ever primary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Bil’in weekly protest against the Separation Wall commemorates the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine. Rafah Crossing Point, the only way for people in Gaza to travel internationally, opens to receive passengers. And, Palestinians demand the immediate release of four international peace activists kidnapped in Iraq. These stories and more, coming up. Stay tuned.
Four CPT Members kidnapped in Iraq
Palestinian factions issued a joint statement on Tuesday, calling for the release of four international peace activists who were kidnapped in Iraq last Saturday, by a group calling themselves the Swords of Righteousness Brigade.
The four who were kidnapped are members of the Christian Peacemaker Team, or CPT, a Christian non-missionary group working for peace. CPT has been active in many conflict zones including Palestine, Colombia, Mexico, and Iraq. CPT has been present in the West Bank city of Hebron since 1995, where they escort children to and from school to deter settler attacks.
In the joint statement Palestinian factions said that, (quote), “The CPTers have a very strong role in facing the Israeli crimes and violations and in protecting the life and the belongings of the Palestinians. They put themselves in many situations in front of the Israeli tanks. They confronted the Israeli bulldozers and the Israeli home demolition and escorted our children to and from their schools to protect them from settlers. Because of all their activities, the members of the team were followed, arrested and beaten by Israeli soldiers and settlers in many occasions.” (endquote) The statement was signed by eight Palestinian factions, including the Islamic and National Forces in Hebron, Fatah, and Hamas.
Bil’in Weekly Wall Protest Commemorates 1947 UN Partition Plan
This week, the regular Friday protest in the West Bank village of Bil’in commemorated the 1947 UN Partition Plan, which divided Palestine into two countries, one Palestinian, one Jewish. The borders were later redrawn by Israeli militias during the 1948 war.
Protestors in Bil’in carried a large piece of cloth which had four maps of Palestine printed on it. They then obstructed Israeli bulldozers that were demolishing Palestinian farmland. The protestors stood their ground for several hours, preventing the bulldozers from working, while Israeli soldiers fired tear gas and rubber coated bullets at them.
Adeeb Abu Rahma, a Bil’in resident, was injured when soldiers attacked him with clubs. One Israeli peace activist was arrested, and dozens of protestors received medical treatment after inhaling gas fired by the army.
Fatah Primary Elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
The first ever primary elections for the Fatah party kicked off in the West Bank this week. Young political figures swung a victory over the party’s so-called Old Guard. The popular imprisoned Fatah leader, Marwan Barghouti, pulled in an overwhelming 96% of the vote in Ramallah.
But elections were suspended in the Gaza Strip by allegations of voting irregularities, and violence at the polling stations.
Fuad Kokali of Fatah said that despite the temporary hold up, elections would proceed as planned.
(Kokaly’s clip)
"There is no intention to postpone elections in the West Bank. On the contrary, President Abu Mazen, has said he will respect the results of the elections that have already taken place, such as in Bethlehem. Elections in the Gaza Strip have been suspended only for security reasons which will be addressed soon."
Peres Quits Labor, Declares Support for Sharon, Joins New Party Kadima
Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres has left the Labor Party to join Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s new party, Kadima. Kadima is a Hebrew word meaning “Forward.”
Perez, a long time Labor member, succeeded former Prime Minster Yitzhak Rabin after Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by Yigal Amir, an Israeli settler. Peres quit Labor after losing to Amir Peretz in the primaries last week.
A recent poll conducted by the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz predicts that the Kadima party will win 37 seats in the Knesset. According to the poll’s predictions, an additional 10 seats will go to Likud, and Labor will retain its 26 seats.
Rafah Crossing Point Opens
Hundreds of Palestinian residents gathered at Rafah Crossing Point on Saturday, as the terminal opened for its first ever business day under Palestinian control. This is the first time Palestinians have had control over a border. However, monitors from the European Union will have the final call over who is allowed to pass through.
A formal ceremony was held to celebrate the opening. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas led the ceremony, which was attended by Palestinian high officials, leaders of resistance factions, and diplomatic representatives from around the world.
Dozens packed the first bus to Egypt. Hundreds more waited to go. The terminal was only open for a few hours, causing some to express disappointment. However, European and local officials agreed that it would take time to build the infrastructure to keep the Rafah Crossing Point open around the clock. They said opening the terminal quickly, even with reduced hours, was top priority.
One condition of the agreement to open Rafah Crossing Point was that surveillance cameras would be installed. The cameras will be monitored by Israeli intelligence, and will film every person who goes through the terminal. Khamees Al-Dimyati, a Palestinian waiting to pass through, said the security cameras limit the freedom of passengers through the terminal.
(Al Dimyati’s clip)
"Actually, any free person would be annoyed to know that they are being watched by cameras, this limits our personal freedom, which should be granted for everyone. However, we got used to be watched by the Israelis, but we hope that it will not stay as it is, and the cameras will not be there anymore and maybe then, we will feel a real change."
No outpost will be evacuated
The Israeli High Court has declared that “political considerations” bar the evacuation of illegal settlement outposts in the West Bank. The decision comes in response to a petition filed by Israeli Peace Now calling to evacuate the outposts.
The court’s decision said the question of outposts was a political and legal issue outside the court’s jurisdiction. The court also said that the impending Israeli elections made the evacuation of the outposts impossible.
In other settlement news, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has offered to give settlers new homes in new illegal outposts if they voluntarily evacuate the Amona outpost. The Amona outpost was recently earmarked for evacuation in a decision taken by the Israeli High Court.
And that’s some of the news this week in Occupied Palestine. From the International Middle East Media Center in Beit Sahour, I’m Dina Awwad & Trina Aguilar.