Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in West Bank

Israeli soldiers in the occupied West Bank. (Mamoun Wazwaz/MaanImages)

The weekly UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports really ought to be obligatory reading for anyone wishing to grasp the comprehensive brutality of the Israeli occupation. According to its latest report, the dispossession of Palestinian land and resources, house demolitions, arbitrary IDF raids and detentions, and settler violence are sharply on the rise. “During April four Palestinians, including two boys, were killed by [the Israeli army] and another 145 were injured by Israeli soldiers and settlers. The number of Palestinians injured rose by 40 percent compared with the 2008 monthly average,” the report says. A further 391 children (including 6 girls) have been incarcerated by the occupation forces, a 20 percent increase between December 2008 and February 2009.

Commenting on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the report states that “April saw the lowest number of truckloads entering per month into Gaza (2,656) since the beginning of 2009. This number represents an 18% decrease compared to the monthly average during the first quarter of the year (3,228) and only one-quarter the amount of truckloads that entered Gaza in May 2007 (10,921), one month before the Hamas take-over and the beginning of the blockade.”

Here’s Mel Frykberg‘s (IPS) summary of the findings:

RAMALLAH, May 28 (IPS) – “I heard voices, I turned around to look, and saw a group of Israeli settlers assaulting my brother Hammad,” says Abdallah Wahadin, 82, a Palestinian farmer from Beit Ummar near the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

“Three of them surrounded me, while a fourth threw a rock at the back of my head. Lots of blood ran down onto my clothes. Other settlers then joined them,” Wahadin told the Israeli rights group B’Tselem.

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Jim Lobe on Antiwar Radio

jim_lobeJim Lobe interviewed by Scott Horton on Antiwar Radio. His analysis in this particular interview is rather unimpressive. While Lobe’s reporting over the years has been indispensable, he is too optimistic in his analysis. Since at least the autumn of 2003 he has been announcing the demise of the neocons. Here as well his reading of the Obama-Netanyahu summit is overly positive. For a reality check see this interview with Jeff Blankfort.

Jim Lobe on Antiwar Radio (26:11): MP3

Jim Lobe, Washington Bureau Chief for Inter Press Service, discusses Hillary Clinton’s emphatic rejection of any kind of Israeli settlement growth, the Obama administration’s (first in a generation) hard-line on Israel, the low probability of a Palestine/Israel 2-state solution even with a settlement freeze and allegations that Netanyahu sees Iran as Amalek – eternal biblical persecutor of Jews.

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France: ‘Defying Rules on Arms Sales to Israel’

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Sarkozy and Olmert

IPS’ David Cronin reports on French arms sales to Israel, which are “in total contradiction” to European Union rules on the defence industry according to a new study.

Between 2003 and 2007 France issued licences worth more than 446 million euros (623 million dollars) for arms exports to Israel. This made France by far the largest supplier of weapons to Israel in the EU.

Patrice Bouveret from the French Centre for Research on Peace and Conflicts (CRDPC) in Lyon says that these sales are at variance with the Union’s decade-old code of conduct on weapons exports. Formally declared legally binding by EU governments last year, the code forbids weapons sales in cases where they may exacerbate regional tensions or where there is a strong likelihood they will be used in violation of human rights.

Speaking at the launch Thursday of his new report on Israel’s involvement in the arms trade, titled ‘Who Arms Israel and Hamas?’, Bouveret dismissed repeated assurances from the French government that the exports in question are generally only components of military goods rather than complete weapons systems. “Even if they are only components, they are used directly by the Israeli army,” he added.

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Destroying Gaza’s farmlands

A farmer holds crops destroyed by Israeli troops.

Editors Note: In the light of Bartlett’s recent activities and reporting, we believe there is reason to be sceptical of her commitment to truth so we cannot vouch for any of her past claims. 

Eva Bartlett continues her excellent series of reports documenting Israeli crimes. Her latest report describes the deliberate destruction of Gaza’s farmlands by the IDF.

On the morning of 4 May 2009, Israeli troops set fire to Palestinian crops along Gaza’s eastern border with Israel. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that 200,000 square meters of crops were destroyed, including wheat and barley ready for harvest, as well as vegetables, olive and pomegranate trees.

Local farmers report that the blaze carried over a four-kilometer stretch on the Palestinian side of the eastern border land. Ibrahim Hassan Safadi, 49, from one of the farming families whose crops were destroyed by the blaze, said that the fires were smoldering until early evening, despite efforts by the fire brigades to extinguish them.

Safadi says he was present when Israeli soldiers fired small bombs into his field, which soon after caught ablaze. He explained that “The Israeli soldiers fired from their jeeps, causing a fire to break out on the land. They burned the wheat, burned the pomegranate trees … The fire spread across the valley. We called the fire brigades. They came to the area and put out the fire. But in some places the fire started again.” According to Safadi, he lost 30,000 square meters to the blaze, including 300 pomegranate trees, 150 olive trees, and wheat.

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“Tel Aviv Beach” in Vienna

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'Tel Aviv Beach' in Vienna

Facing an increasingly critical public opinion across Europe following the brutal attack on Gaza earlier this year, Israel’s lavishly funded spin-machines are seriously stepping up their efforts to show the apartheid state’s “other face” in preparation for the summer season. Following the Tourism Ministry’s “Experience Israel” ad campaign in the London Underground, which conveniently show the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip – as well as Syria’s Golan Heights – as integral parts of Israel, in Vienna, a massive “Tel Aviv Beach” has been installed on the banks of the Danube. Organised by the Israeli Embassy in cooperation with the City Council of the Austrian capital, the project promises to its vistors a “beach feeling with high chill-out factor, a new cultural institution on the pulse of time…complete with its own entertainment zone – stage, video screen and free WLAN included – spread out over an area of around 1,000 square meters of sand, on which up to 400 people can drop into original Tel Aviv beach chairs.”

Unfortunately, the organisers have largely failed to offer visitors the full-package of life in this popular tourist destination, who will have to miss out on traditional activities such as routine police beatings meted out on Arab Israelis and, most recently, feminist peace activists.

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Blair’s Million Dollar Israeli Peace Prize

Former British Prime Minister and Mideast mediator Tony Blair, right, Israel's President Shimon Peres, center, and Dan David, attend the $1 million Dan David Prizes in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, May 17, 2009.
Former British Prime Minister and Mideast mediator Tony Blair, right, Israel's President Shimon Peres, center, and Dan David, attend the $1 million Dan David Prizes in Tel Aviv, Israel, Sunday, May 17, 2009.

Last Sunday Tony Blair was presented with a cheque for $1 million, the Dan David prize, at a ceremony at Tel Aviv university.  The prize was awarded for his “foresight”, “exceptional intelligence” and “steadfast determination” to end conflicts.  It gets better as the BBC report explains his entry to the competition hails him as “one of the most outstanding statesmen of our era” praising his “morally courageous leadership” over Kosovo.

Iraq is conspicuous by its absence, after all it was the beginning of a Neoconservative Likudnik plan to reshape the Middle East in Israel’s interest, killing around 1.5 million Iraqis in an illegal war of aggression.  For this act alone, Blair should be recognised as a warmonger ineligable for any kind of peace prize, however, in Israel, the more Arabs you kill, the greater a statesman peacemaker you’re considered. This is the immorality they are celebrating and they only respect Blair’s support in “ending” conflicts through the defeat and total destruction of Israel’s adversaries, such as Iraq.

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EU obligated to prosecute war crime suspects

An excellent article by Daniel Machover and Adri Nieuwhof on the failure of most EU member states to invoke the principle of universal jurisdication when suspected Israeli (and other) war criminals enter their territory, as called for by the 4th Geneva Convention. For more background info on EU-Israel and attempts by Israel to push for an ‘upgrade’ of existing relations, see this article by Pepijn van Houwelingen.

Over the past year, the European Union and Israel have deepened their relationship. The enhanced partnership that provides for closer political and mutually beneficial trade and investment relations as well as economic, social, financial, civil scientific, technological and cultural cooperation. The EU will pump 14 million euros ($18 million) of taxpayer money into the cooperation over the next seven years. However, talks to upgrade the current association agreement were suspended in January 2009 because of Israel’s 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip. On 23 April, EU commissioner for external relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner said in a statement that “the EU deeply deplores the loss of life during this conflict, particularly the civilian casualties, and would follow closely investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law.” Ferrero-Waldner chastised Israel’s refusal to endorse a Palestinian state. Israel quickly responded, warning the EU to tone down its criticism.

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US policy in Pakistan

US policy makes things worse in Pakistan (Part One)

Aijaz Ahmad: US policy will lead to thousands of new recruits for al- Qaeda.

US Pakistan policy is floundering (Part Two)

US must work with regional states and pull out of Afghanistan to find Pakistan solution.

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Afghan Parliament Wants Law to Curb Foreign Troops

The following is by Sayed Salahuddin in Reuters.

An Afghan girl injured during an air strike in Garni village in western Farah province, recovers in hospital, on May 9, 2009. The United Nations said Monday that whoever was behind "significant" civilian deaths in heavy fighting and US air strikes in Afghanistan last week must be held accountable. (AFP/Reza Shirmohammadi)
An Afghan girl injured during an air strike in Garni village in western Farah province, recovers in hospital, on May 9, 2009. The United Nations said Monday that whoever was behind "significant" civilian deaths in heavy fighting and US air strikes in Afghanistan last week must be held accountable. (AFP/Reza Shirmohammadi)

KABUL – Afghan lawmakers on Monday demanded legal restrictions on foreign forces fighting in their country, to prevent further civilian deaths, then closed for half a day to protest the latest casualties from U.S. air strikes.

The attacks on homes packed with civilians, during a protracted battle last week, have damaged ties with Washington and stoked popular anger about the presence of western troops, over rising non-combatant deaths.Debate about innocent casualties dominated the morning’s session and the delegates said they had given the government one week to come up with a way of regulating foreign fighters.

“To prevent the bombardment and killing of our people, the Wolesi Jirga (lower house) has decided the government must come up with a plan, within one week, to regulate the foreign forces,” said Wolesi Jirga secretary Abdul Sattar Khawaasi.

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