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Dear Friends,

Apart from the 1st item, which is commentary, and the reports in ‘Today in Palestine,’ none of the additional 5 items is about the latest Israeli attack on Gaza.  International papers of course reported that this round apparently is at an end, but not as major news in any of the international press.  Other events were more pressing—Syria, the American soldier massacre of 16 in Afghanistan, and so on.  The world furnishes plenty of events to fill the pages of newspapers.


Item 1 is “War in Israel’s south will not defeat Gaza terror.  As a whole, the criticism of this editorial is justified.  However, why use the word “terror” to depict the shooting of missiles.  Why not Gazan violence rather than terror?  Why not Israeli “terror.”  It was, after all, Israel that began the entire measly episode, which the Palestinians could be counted on to respond as they did.  They played right into Israel’s hands.   And so today 25 Palestinians are dead (including a 12 year old, a 7 year old, and a 17 year old).  Replace Gaza “terror” with Gaza violence.  Of course kids in Israel’s south were scared by the missiles.  Of course Israelis in the south suffer from the Gaza strikes.  Israel’s leaders and military got what they wanted: confirmation that ‘Iron Dome” works—but they got it at the expense of Israeli citizens and Palestinian lives.   If I sound bitter, I am.  All we get in this country is war and more war!  Israel’s leaders thrive on it!  You can read more about the past 4 days in Gaza in ‘Today in Palestine’ (item 6).


In item 2 Ramzy Baroud extols Palestinian women in “Silent Palestinian Warriors.”  The term ‘warriors’ does not in this case refer to military might.


Item 3, “Bridging the Gap,” is an idea that probably will never see actualization, but it is a beautiful dream.  Better yet would be no bridges, just roads which Palestinians and Jews and tourists and all could drive on, as once they could, from the West Bank or Tel Aviv or Sderot into Gaza and back.  Still, till that happens, this bridge idea is much more desirable than what Israel’s leaders are trying to do, namely, to cut Gaza off from Palestine.


Item 4 reports that Tristan Anderson’s parents are attempting to convince Israel to re-open their son’s case.  I fear that even if they succeed, they will not succeed in having an honest and transparent investigation of the incident that left Tristan blind in one eye and paralyzed on one side of his body.  I hope to be proven wrong.  But the Israeli military seldom (very very seldom) admits in any way to having committed a crime, and the judges usually take the IOF side.


Item 5, sent to me by a friend, is a bit old, and if you have already seen it, I apologize.  I’m very very behind in reading emails.  But this brief commentary is worth your time if you have not seen it.  It has Bibi’s number, and how!


Item 6 is ‘Today in Palestine.’


May both the Gazans and Israelis in the south, and all good people the world sleep in peace tonight, and every night.




1 Haaretz

March 13, 2012


War in Israel’s south will not defeat Gaza terror

Was it really necessary, after a long period of calm, to embroil Israel in a war that paralyzes the lives of a million civilians?


Haaretz Editorial

Tags: Israel terrorism Palestinians

The war in the south has introduced a new, illusive item to the conventional statistics of casualties and fatalities. The technological wonder Iron Dome has become, justly, the hero of the hour. The cause for the war has become marginal and the central index for success or failure is now the number of missiles the Israel Defense Forces intercepts.


But was it really necessary, after a long period of calm, to embroil Israel in a war that paralyzes the lives of a million civilians? Is the assassination of the Popular Resistance Committees’ secretary general worth the disruption the state is undergoing? Worth the economic damage, the halt of studies and, especially, the danger of plunging into a military ground operation in Gaza?


What are your thoughts on this issue? Follow on Facebook and share your views.


On the face of it, the chronology is in Israel’s favor. The defense minister’s version is: “This round began with killing Zuhair al-Qaissi, one of the Popular Committees’ leaders, who were apparently involved with preparing a large-scale attack. I cannot say yet whether this attack has been thwarted.”


If indeed we’re dealing with a “ticking bomb,” there’s no argument it had to be defused. But Ehud Barak is not sure this is the case, and it is not clear if the attack itself has been thwarted. In this situation, one may well ask whether all the consequences of killing al-Qaissi had been taken into account. Even more critical, wasn’t the killing an excuse for a much wider offensive – in view of the chief of staff’s statement from a few weeks back, that Israel will ultimately have to carry out a wide-scale attack in Gaza?


The people living in the south have understood, as they are always forced “to understand,” the implications of the war against terror in Gaza. Now it is the decision makers’ turn to understand that Iron Dome is not a substitute for policy making or, better yet, freedom from making policies.


The war in the south must end immediately. It will not defeat terror nor reduce the Gaza threat. The notion that a wide-scale operation, like Cast Lead, will create a long-term change is also an illusion.


The solution is elsewhere, around the negotiation table, from which the government is seeking refuge under Iron Dome.



2 Palestine Chronicle

March 13, 2012

Silent Palestinian Warriors

(Illustration: Luis Vazquez/Gulf News)



By Ramzy Baroud


On March 8, Palestinian women rallied in Gaza and Ramallah to mark International Women’s Day. Activities were held in various cities, villages and refugee camps. Women in Palestine are united by a shared struggle, untold hardship, and also a legendary ability to withstand, survive and flourish under the harshest of circumstances.


Even those women who are unable to articulate a discourse that can be validated by western academic standards in fact represent an unparalleled model of women’s empowerment. The human spirit can thrive in times of hardship, and Palestinian women have led the way of popular resistance to injustice. This is hardly a sentimental or poetic assertion, but a historic fact that goes back many decades.


Currently, Hana Shalabi is the lead symbol of the struggle and resistance of Palestinian women, if not women everywhere. Hana went on a hunger strike on February 16.


Hana’s story is troublingly typical. She has spent 25 months under what Israel calls ‘administrative detention’, a bizarre legal system that allows Israel to hold Palestinian political activists indefinitely and without charge or trial.


She was released in October 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal, only to be kidnapped by soldiers a few months later. “She was beaten, blindfolded and forcibly strip-searched and assaulted by a male Israeli soldier,” the Palestinian Council of Human Rights Organisations said, as reported by Maan news agency (March 9).


Hana’s hunger strike followed that of Khader Adnan, who recently ended the longest hunger strike ever staged by a Palestinian prisoner. Both Hana and Adnan had decided that enough was enough. Hundreds of Palestinians, including Hana’s aging parents, joined her hunger strike and quest for freedom.


Indeed, neither Hana’s case, nor that of Khader is isolated by any means. Charlotte Kates, who is active with The National Lawyers Guild, recently wrote, “Imprisonment is a fact of life for Palestinians; over 40 per cent of Palestinian men in the West Bank have spent time in Israeli detention or prisons. There are no Palestinian families that have not been touched by the scourge of mass imprisonment as a mechanism of suppression”.


Gaza’s Minister of Women’s Affairs Jamila Al Shanti reportedly told Reuters TV that all Gazan women are heroines. “I tell this woman who is a heroine and is brave, whether she is a house wife or a working mother, she is a prisoner, a wife of a martyr, a mother of a martyr.”


Hana and her mother are from the West Bank. No amount of political disunity or factional strife can separate these two entities.


However, the heroism of Palestinian women has no boundaries. Hanin Zoabi is one of the most dedicated fighters of equality and human rights. She is an MP in the Israeli Knesset, representing the Balad party. In 2010, she courageously took part in a Gaza freedom flotilla which attempted to break the Israeli siege on Gaza, along with hundreds of other Palestinian and international activists. She was arrested after Israel stormed the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, killing nine and wounding many more.


Since then, Hanin became the target of some of the most racist attacks by Israeli media, politicians and other MPs. The Knesset Ethics Committee maliciously stripped her of parliamentary privileges, as right-wing, religious and ultra-nationalist parties continue to scrutinise her every move. However, she remains steadfast and adamant that Israel must shed its ethnic-based identity and become a state of all its citizens. She demands equal rights for Palestinians, and the respect of international law by the Israeli government. This has turned her into a pariah in a state that has no room for criticism when it comes to its racial and militaristic agendas.


While political division has wreaked havoc on all aspects of Palestinian society, women, as per their historic role, continue to bridge the gap. In an interview with Reuters in Ramallah, Palestinian Liberation Organisation executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi said: “The women’s movement, as a result of hard work and the support of open minded men, has been able to change the reality and to break the barriers and borders that had been set in place.”


Unlike men, however, Palestinian women — especially those in traditional areas — tend to be silent fighters. Their role is often overlooked, and their daily struggle barely makes headlines. Nonetheless, they are the balancing core that keeps Palestinian society functioning despite occupation, infighting and an impossible number of challenges.


I recall with endless gratitude Umm Ali Al Shubaki, a woman from my old refugee camp in Gaza. Her strength of character was incomparable. During Israeli military raids of the camp, she literally ran after tanks and jeeps, ready to throw herself between the soldiers and any man or boy they were about to unlawfully apprehend. Although she was herself poor, she organised with other women in the camp to ensure that every house of a martyr or prisoner received the needed financial and social support. I last saw her 20 years ago. She was bandaged after being beaten up by Israeli soldiers.


Umm Ali, Hana and Hanin have been the targets of an intense attack on the very core of Palestinian society. Yet somehow they prevail, and they represent Palestinian society’s strongest asset. They organise beyond party affiliation, political agendas or factional divides.


They give Palestine its name, its essence and together they knit its ever promising future.


– Ramzy Baroud is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. (This article was originally published in Gulf News on March 14.)



3 Haaretz

March 13, 2012


Bridging the gap between the West Bank and Gaza with a dream

Jewish architect Marc Mimram has come up with a radical plan to link the Palestinian Authority areas. The Frenchman believes his 37 kilometer bridge could benefit everyone, including Israel.


By Noam Dvir

French Jewish architect Marc Mimram has an idea that borders on the utopian: to build a huge, multistoried bridge stretching 37 kilometers in order to physically connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the two areas under Palestinian Authority rule.


The plan, made public for the first time in the pages of Haaretz, is for a bridge that would rise to a height of 20 meters above the ground, with steel or concrete columns at 250-meter intervals. The bottom story is designated for desalinated water; the two next stories are for vehicle traffic; above them, another waterway brings salt water from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, topped by a story with two-way railroad tracks.


Mimram developed this plan independently in his Paris office, and paid for it out of his own pocket. One of his students at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the third generation in a family of architects from Bethlehem, pleaded with him to present it to his parents. Three weeks ago, Mimram came here for a short visit and talked with Palestinian VIPs.


At the cafe where we met, Mimram used a napkin and a pen to explain. “When you create new crossing infrastructure, you contribute to both the places that are connected,” he said, drawing a line from right to left. “But at the same time, you hamper the places that are left out.” Mimram gestures with his hand above the line. “I am interested in seeing how infrastructure can contribute to the environment and what other roles it can fill.


“Bridges,” he continues, “are meant to cross geographic and social borders as well as landscapes. But they can be used to serve other goals. My bridge is a structure with mixed uses.”


The southern face of the bridge would be covered with solar panels that in effect would turn it into the largest solar power plant in the world. Unlike previous plans to connect the West Bank with the Gaza Strip, Mimram’s suggests one that contributes to Israel as well. Agricultural areas making use of the desalinated water flowing through the bridge would be established along the route, and salt water from the Mediterranean would increase the level of the Dead Sea.


The bridge is planned to stretch in a straight line from Gaza to the southern West Bank, bypassing large concentrations of the Israeli population. Mimram hopes that despite security and environmental issues, the Palestinian Authority and Israel will cooperate to promote the project, which constitutes, in Mimram’s words, a “symbol of peace.”


The architect admits his idea is naive. Like all architects, he has planned many, many projects that were never built. “I know people will say that it is possible to shoot at Sderot” from the bridge, but he says there will be checkpoints at the entrances and exits, as in airports.


Mimram, 56, is a leading figure in bridge and infrastructure planning around the world. He was educated both as a civil engineer and an architect, and recently planned bridges in Morocco, China and France. One of his best known pedestrian bridges crosses the Rhine at the border between Germany and France, connecting Cologne and Strasbourg. There, too, he encountered sharp disagreements about the character, design and role of the bridge. After prolonged negotiations, the two countries decided to promote the project together.


Mimram often visits Israel. His grandparents lived here, and as a young man he volunteered at Kibbutz Ramot Menashe in the north. He speaks halting Hebrew but says he feels a strong relationship with the country. During our conversation, he often says “our” and “with us” when talking about Israel.


The issue of movement between the West Bank and Gaza was addressed in the mid-1990s (see box ). The goal of a “safe passage” was to create a physical link between the two sections of the Palestinian Authority and ease the passage of merchandise, services and people.


More and less realistic plans for a crossing have been formed over the years, each centered on a clearly political narrative. The plan differences stem mainly from how they approach various threats to security, and from the concern that Israel would be divided in half by massive infrastructure not under its control.


At this point in time, the leading ideas include a 30 to 40 kilometer tunnel which would provide good security but cost a fortune; a deeply-dug road cutting across Israel, with railroad tracks next to it; or a bridge, a relatively simple planning and building project expected to run into sharp opposition from the security apparatus and environmental organizations that will object to building across the entire north of the Negev.


Mimram wants to remain neutral. His plan is the only one until now whose infrastructure would benefit Israel. His bridge has the potential to put the brakes on desertification by giving the go-ahead to intensive agriculture, and the water transported by the bridge could also serve communities close to its path, such as Kiryat Gat. The solar panels would produce alternative energy. A land bridge this long has never been constructed, but is possible from an engineering perspective.


Mimram’s project has received support from the Palestinian side. During his visit he met with Jad Isaac, the head of the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem, a nonprofit that focuses on agriculture, infrastructure and planning in the Palestinian Authority. “Mimram’s idea is challenging and thought provoking,” Isaac told Haaretz. “We’ve wasted many years and a lot of money to understand how to connect Gaza to the West Bank, or to save the Dead Sea. What he suggests solves many problems at the same time.”


Isaac is convinced that sooner or later Israel will have to promote a solution to connect these two parts of the authority, but he objects completely to a tunnel. “A tunnel is a humiliating solution,” he says. “We are not moles and it is impossible to put the Palestinians underground for 40 kilometers. Mimram’s project has value as a symbol of cooperation and a true peace: a win-win situation for both sides. I’m dying to see the response of the Israeli government to this idea.”


Senior members of the Palestinian Authority are very interested in the bridge, including outgoing prime minister Salam Fayyad, who has asked to meet with Mimram at the first opportunity. But Mimram, who is surprised by the general lack of willingness to advance the project, has decided to slow his efforts. He prefers to refrain from approaching decision makers on both sides, and hopes the project will continue on its own.


Ron Pundak, cochairman of the Palestinian-Israeli Peace NGO Forum, seeks to put a damper on enthusiasm for the bridge. Like Isaac, he too opposes the idea of a tunnel “that reflects the ugly nature of the military and security conception” of the situation. But he believes Mimram’s bridge, with all its functions, is likely to be impossible to build.


“The need for a land passage between Gaza and the West Bank is irrefutable and there can be no permanent agreement or peace without it,” Pundak says. “It has to be a crossing with a designated goal that does not interfere with existing Israeli infrastructure, and takes Israel’s master plan into consideration as well as environmental issues.


“I am excited by the interest in this issue but I’m not falling off my chair from Mimram’s general concept,” Pundak adds. “He looks at it as a symbol. We are not seeking symbols but rather practicality. We in the new Middle East have lived in an era of symbols for too long.”



4 Haaretz


March 13, 2012


Parents of U.S. activist hurt in West Bank protest ask Israel to reopen case

Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland, California, was hit by a tear gas canister and left comatose during a violent 2009 demonstration in the village of Naalin.


By Jack Khoury

Tags: IDF West Bank Israel Supreme Court

The parents of an American activist wounded during a West Bank protest in 2009 appealed the High Court of Justice on Tuesday against the decision to close the case against Israeli security forces.


Tristan Anderson, 38, of Oakland, California, was hit by a tear gas canister and left comatose during a violent 2009 demonstration in the West Bank village of Naalin.


In 2010, the Justice Ministry declared that no indictments would be filed against police in the case of the American activist, with Ministry spokesman Ron Roman saying that the investigation determined there was no criminal intent in harming Anderson.


The investigation was opened in May and closed several weeks ago, but results were made public only Sunday.


Israel has said its forces were responding to attacks by violent demonstrators who were ignoring an order declaring the area an off-limits closed military zone. Such clashes are a weekly Friday event in several places along the Israeli separation barrier, as Palestinians and their backers gather to confront Israeli troops.


Israel says the 680-kilometer barrier is necessary to keep Palestinian attackers out. The barrier juts into the West Bank in some places, leaving about 10 percent of the territory on the Israeli side. Palestinians view it as a land grab.


On Tuesday, Anderson’s parents, Nancy and Michael, appealed the High Court against the decision to close the case, saying that the Israeli officials only investigated the conduct of Border Police soldiers while ignoring a second force that was present during the protest.


According to the family’s attorney Michael Sfard and Emily Sheffer of the Yesh Din NGO, the West Bank district of Israel Police initiated an investigation of the March 2009 incident at the time, but only investigated a Border Police squad that wasn’t positioned near Anderson and could not have caused his injury.


However, several crews operating nearby that were stationed near Anderson’s whereabouts were not investigated at all, despite the fact that two of those squads admitted to using protest-dispersal equipment that included gas-canister launchers.


In addition, the Andersons’ legal crew also claimed that the investigation team never bothered to visit the scene of the protest before deciding on closing the probe.


The Andersons added that a previous appeal submitted by them, and accepted by the state, demanding that the investigation be completed, was not followed, and that investigations officials continued to ignore what they said were clear evidence indicating another Border Police squad that was never questioned and that could have wounded the American activist.


In addition, the Andersons claim, the case was closed even following another appeal, relying on the eyewitness accounts from Palestinian and international witnesses as well as on a then newly exposed video clip purporting to show police officers firing toward a small group of civilians as they flee for cover.


The Andersons’ legal team claims that the video also proves that security officers directly aimed their protest-dispersal equipment from close range, in an apparent contradiction of the IDF’s rules of engagement.


“This is an extreme case of police negligence,” the High Court submission said, adding that it was “unacceptable that the agency in charge of investigating a shooting incident doesn’t inspect the scene of the shooting nor try to identify its origin.”


“Despite the fact that we alerted the investigators on two occasions that they were investigating the wrong people, authorities continue to insist on not interrogating the relevant suspects,” the Andersons’ lawyers said.


The Justice Ministry said in response that the submission was accepted in the State Prosecutor’s Office High Court division and that it would submit its reply to the High Court through the proper channels.



American politics

Israel, Iran and America

Auschwitz complex

Mar 6th 2012

DURING his meeting with Barack Obama on Monday, Bibi Netanyahu said Israel “must have the ability always to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”

“I believe that’s why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself,” Netanyahu said. “After all, that’s the very purpose of the Jewish state, to restore to the Jewish people control over our destiny. That’s why my supreme responsibility as prime minister of Israel is to ensure that Israel remains master of its fate.” flash: Israel is not master of its fate. It’s not terribly surprising that a country with less than 8m inhabitants is not master of its fate. Switzerland, Sweden, Serbia and Portugal are not masters of their fates. These days, many countries with populations of 100m or more can hardly be said to be masters of their fates. Britain and China aren’t masters of their fates, and even the world’s overwhelmingly largest economy, the United States, isn’t really master of its fate.


But Israel has even less control over its own destiny than Portugal or Britain do. The main reason is that, unlike those countries, Israel refuses to give up its empire. Israel is unable to sustain its imperial ambitions in the West Bank, or even to articulate them coherently. Having allowed its founding ideology to carry it relentlessly and unthinkingly into what Gershom Gorenburg calls an “Accidental Empire” of radical religious-nationalist settlements that openly defy its own courts, Israel is politically incapable of extricating itself. The partisan battles engendered by its occupation of Palestinian territory render it less and less able to pull itself free. It is immobilised, pinned down, in a conflict that is gradually killing it. Countries facing imperial twilight, like Britain in the late 1940s, are often seized by a sense of desperate paralysis. For over a decade, the tone of Israeli politics has been a mix of panic, despair, hysteria and resignation.


No one bears greater responsibility for the trap Israel finds itself in today than Mr Netanyahu. As prime minister in the late 1990s, he did more than any other Israeli leader to destroy the peace process. Illegal land grabs by settlers were tolerated and quietly encouraged in the confused expectation that they would aid territorial negotiations. Violent clashes and provocations erupted whenever the peace process seemed on the verge of concrete steps forward; the most charitable spin would be that the Israelis failed to exercise the restraint they might have shown in retaliating against Palestinian terrorism, had they been truly interested in progress towards a two-state solution. Mr Netanyahu believed that the Oslo peace agreements were a mirage, and his government’s actions in the late 1990s helped make it true.


Having trapped themselves in a death struggle with Palestinians that they cannot acknowledge or untangle, Israelis have psychologically displaced the source of their anxiety onto a more distant target: Iran. An Iranian nuclear bomb would not be a happy development for Israel. Neither was Pakistan’s, nor indeed North Korea’s. The notion that it represents a new Holocaust is overstated, and the belief that the source of Israel’s existential woes can be eliminated with an airstrike is mistaken. But Iran makes an appealing enemy for Israelis because, unlike the Palestinians, it can be fitted into a familiar ideological trope from the Jewish national playbook: the eliminationist anti-Semite. With brain-cudgeling predictability, Mr Netanyahu marked his meeting with Mr Obama by presenting him with a copy of the Book of Esther. That book concerns a plot by Haman, vizier of King Ahasuerus of Persia, to massacre his country’s Jews, and the efforts of the beautiful Esther, Ahasuerus’s secretly Jewish wife, to persuade the king to stop them. It is a version of the same narrative of repression, threatened extermination and resistance that Jews commemorate at Passover in the prayer “Ve-hi she-amdah”: “Because in every generation they rise up to destroy us, but the Holy One, Blessed be He, delivers us from their hands.”


Mr Netanyahu is less attractive than Esther, but he seems to be wooing Mr Obama and the American public just as effectively. The American-Israeli relationship now resembles the sort of crazy co-dependency one sometimes finds in doomed marriages, where the more stubborn and unstable partner drags the other into increasingly delusional and dangerous projects whose disastrous results seem only to legitimate their paranoid outlook. If Mr Netanyahu manages to convince America to back an attack on Iran, it is to be hoped that the catastrophic consequences will not be used to justify the attack that led to them.

Mr Netanyahu thinks the Zionist mission was to give the Jewish people control over their destiny. No people has control over its destiny when it is at war with its neighbours. But in any case, that is only one way of thinking of the Zionist mission. Another mission frequently cited by early Zionists was to help Jews grow out of the “Ghetto mentality”. Mr Netanyahu’s gift to Mr Obama shows he’s still in it.

(Photo credit: AFP)

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6 Today in Palestine

March 13, 2012


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