Boycott israHell!

Boycott israHell!
Бойкот на израел и печелещите от окупацията! Boycott israHell and those who profit from occupation!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Two years later, reconstruction to start in Nahr al-Bared

Report, Electronic Lebanon, 18 August 2009

Despite the removal of 90 percent of the rubble from the destruction of Nahr al-Bared, two years on from the conflict, reconstruction in the official camp has yet to begin. (Hugh Macleod/IRIN)

NAHR AL-BARED (IRIN) - Two years on from the devastating battle which destroyed their homes and livelihoods, Palestinian refugees from Nahr al-Bared are set to see reconstruction work begin inside the camp's official boundaries.

Despite a resilient recovery under way among Palestinians living in the new camp -- the area around the edge of the official Nahr al-Bared refugee camp -- legal hurdles, political wrangling and the recent discovery of archaeological ruins under the site of the old camp have delayed reconstruction work there.

Nahr al-Bared old camp was completely destroyed and the new camp badly damaged in a 15-week battle in 2007 between the army and Islamist militant group Fatah Islam, which killed more than 400 people and displaced up to 30,000 Palestinians.

With over 90 percent of the rubble now removed, reconstruction in the first one-eighth sector of the old camp was due to begin six months ago, following the laying of the foundation stone on 9 March.

However, UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, had to rethink construction plans to avoid digging deep foundations after the discovery of what Lebanon's Directorate General of Antiquities believes could be the remains of a Roman village under the destroyed camp.

After carrying out a survey, the Directorate has now agreed that reconstruction can take place, despite the misgivings of some Lebanese politicians.

The archaeological discovery followed lengthy negotiations in Lebanon's notoriously divided cabinet over granting the final green light for reconstruction, and after a complex but successful scheme to purchase land in and around Nahr al-Bared from its original Lebanese titleholders.

Donation boost

Reconstruction has been given momentum recently by two much-needed funding pledges to UNRWA, which had been struggling to raise money to meet even its basic recovery needs, let alone begin rebuilding the old camp.

In July, the US embassy in Lebanon announced an additional $25 million for the reconstruction of the old camp, now estimated by UNRWA to cost $328 million, and a further $5 million towards food, health care, shelter, access to basic education and improved water and sanitation services while the camp is being reconstructed.

In February, a second health care center on the edge of the camp opened, funded by the US, to serve families living in poorly equipped temporary shelters there, known as "the barracks."

The grant raised donations by the US to Nahr al-Bared to $71.8 million, making it the single largest donor.

In early May, Saudi Arabia became the first Arab country to donate to the reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared, contributing $25 million to rebuild the second section of the camp. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have pledged to fund half the total reconstruction costs.

Overall, UNRWA has now received $92 million, plus $10.4 million from the Multi-Donor Trust Fund administered by the World Bank, which it says is enough for nearly one third of the official camp's reconstruction.

UNRWA's current early recovery appeal for $42.7 million to cover the last quarter of the year was just over half funded by the middle of July. The single largest relief cost is rent subsidies to 3,050 families, which cost around $500,000 a month.

There are now 3,100 families living in the new camp, with 2,000 families (10,000 people) still displaced and living mainly in neighboring Beddawi camp.

Signs of optimism

Wafika al-Hassan, a nurse at an UNRWA clinic, is one of those who have returned to their homes in the new camp. In the immediate aftermath of the conflict in 2007, IRIN visited the mother of three as she inspected the damage and looting of her home.

Today, with fresh paint on the walls, cement bags piled high on the streets outside and her children smiling around her, al-Hassan is optimistic about the future, despite working overtime to pay back the $15,000 she spent rebuilding her home.

"Social conditions are improving. People are trying to improve themselves and depression has decreased," she said. "The children used to talk about the war a lot, but now they are concentrating on school again and trying to forget what happened."


Eighteen-year-old Omar Baraka was a farmer from the old camp, until the battle destroyed his home and killed most of his cows. He now runs a bakery amid the cleared rubble and ruined buildings of the new camp and says business is fair, but that army restrictions on Lebanese entering the camp -- just 2,000 permits for Lebanese to enter have been issued -- mean little hope of a return to Nahr al-Bared's once flourishing marketplace.

"The checkpoints let through as much flour as we want, but there are no outsiders coming into the camp, so businesses can't expand," said Baraka. "Money is rotating between Palestinians only."

Charlie Higgins, UNRWA's project manager for the reconstruction of Nahr al-Bared, said there needed to be a new approach to the system of army-controlled checkpoints set up around both the new and old camps.

"Lebanese used to do their shopping in the adjacent area and in Nahr al-Bared camp, but they don't do it anymore as the market place that was highly integrated with the surrounding Lebanese local communities has not been restored."

This item comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. All IRIN material may be reposted or reprinted free-of-charge; refer to the copyright page for conditions of use. IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Israel begins sell-off of refugees' land

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 17 August 2009

Abu Arab, 74, a refugee from the destroyed village of Saffuriya, stands in the village's surviving cemetery surrounded by the homes of a new Jewish community called Tzipori. The houses visible outside the cemetery are built on Abu Arab's parents' land. (Jonathan Cook)

Amin Muhammad Ali, a 74-year-old refugee from a destroyed Palestinian village in northern Israel, says he only feels truly at peace when he stands among his ancestors' graves.

The cemetery, surrounded on all sides by Jewish homes and farms, is a small time capsule, transporting Muhammad Ali -- known to everyone as Abu Arab -- back to the days when this place was known by an Arabic name, Saffuriya, rather than its current Hebrew name, Tzipori.

Unlike most of the Palestinian refugees forced outside Israel's borders by the 1948 war that led to the creation of the Jewish state, Abu Arab and his family fled nearby, to a neighborhood of Nazareth.

Refused the right to return to his childhood home, which was razed along with the rest of Saffuriya, he watched as the fields once owned by his parents were slowly taken over by Jewish immigrants, mostly from eastern Europe. Today only Saffuriya's cemetery remains untouched.

Despite the loss of their village, the 4,500 refugees from Saffuriya and their descendants have clung to one hope: that the Jewish newcomers could not buy their land, only lease it temporarily from the state.

According to international law, Israel holds the property of more than four million Palestinian refugees in custodianship, until a final peace deal determines whether some or all of them will be allowed back to their 400-plus destroyed Palestinian villages or are compensated for their loss.

But last week, in a violation of international law and the refugees' property rights that went unnoticed both inside Israel and abroad, Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, forced through a revolutionary land reform.

The new law begins a process of creeping privatization of much of Israel's developed land, including refugee property, said Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva.

Netanyahu and the bill's supporters argue that the law will cut out a whole level of state bureaucracy, make land transactions simpler and more efficient and cut house prices.

In practice, it will mean that the 200 Jewish families of Tzipori will be able to buy their homes, including a new cluster of bungalows that is being completed on land next to the cemetery that belonged to Abu Arab's parents.

The privatization of Tzipori's refugee land will remove it from the control of an official known as the Custodian of Absentee Property, who is supposed to safeguard it for the refugees.

"Now the refugees will no longer have a single address -- Israel -- for our claims," said Abu Arab. "We will have to make our case individually against many hundreds of thousands of private homeowners."

He added: "Israel is like a thief who wants to hide his loot. Instead of putting the stolen goods in one box, he moves it to 700 different boxes so it cannot be found."

Netanyahu was given a rough ride by Israeli legislators over the reform, though concern about the refugees' rights was not among the reasons for their protests.

Last month, he had to pull the bill at the last minute as its defeat threatened to bring down the government. He forced it through on a second attempt last week but only after he had warned his coalition partners that they would be dismissed if they voted against it.

A broad coalition of opposition had formed to what was seen as a reversal of a central tenet of Zionism: that the territory Israel acquired in 1948 exists for the benefit not of Israelis but of Jews around the world.

In that spirit, Israel's founders nationalized not only the refugees' property but also vast swathes of land they confiscated from the remaining Palestinian minority who gained citizenship and now comprise a fifth of the population. By the 1970s, 93 percent of Israel's territory was in the hands of the state.

The disquiet provoked by Netanyahu's privatization came from a variety of sources: the religious right believes the law contravenes a Biblical injunction not to sell land promised by God; environmentalists are concerned that developers will tear apart the Israeli countryside; and Zionists publicly fear that oil-rich sheikhs from the Gulf will buy up the country.

Arguments from the Palestinian minority's leaders against the reform, meanwhile, were ignored -- until Hizballah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, added his voice at the weekend. In a statement, he warned that the law "validates and perpetuates the crime of land and property theft from the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 Nakba."

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer from the Adalah legal center for Israel's Palestinian minority, said the law had been carefully drafted to ensure that foreigners, including wealthy sheikhs, cannot buy land inside Israel.

"Only Israeli citizens and anyone who can come to Israel under the Law of Return -- that is, any Jew -- can buy the lands on offer, so no 'foreigner' will be eligible."

Another provision in the law means that even internal refugees like Abu Arab, who has Israeli citizenship, will be prevented from buying back land that rightfully belongs to them, Bishara said.

"As is the case now in terms of leasing land," she explained, "admissibility to buy land in rural communities like Tzipori will be determined by a selection committee whose job it will be to frustrate applications from Arab citizens."

Supporters of the law have still had to allay the Jewish opposition's concerns. Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed that only a tiny proportion of Israeli territory -- about four percent -- is up for privatization.

But, according to Yiftachel, who lobbied against the reform, that means about half of Israel's developed land will be available for purchase over the next few years. And he suspects privatization will not stop there.

"Once this red line has been crossed, there is nothing to stop the government passing another law next year approving the privatization of the rest of the developed areas," he said.

Bishara said among the first refugee properties that would be put on the market were those in Israel's cities, such as Jaffa, Acre, Tiberias, Haifa and Lod, followed by homes in many of the destroyed villages like Saffuriya.

She said Adalah was already preparing an appeal to the high court on behalf of the refugees, and if unsuccessful would then take the matter to international courts.

Adalah has received inquiries from hundreds of Palestinian refugees from around the world asking what they can do to stop Israel selling their properties.

"Many of them expressed an interest in suing Israel," she said.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Irish construction giant digs deeper in occupation

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 18 August 2009

Nesher cement being used in the construction if Israel's illegal light rail in occupied East Jerusalem. (Project Clean Hands)

A recent acquisition by the Israeli subsidiary of brick and mortar giant Irish CRH has placed the European conglomerate under increased pressure from Palestine solidarity activists. Irish CRH, formerly known as Cement Roadstone Holding, owns 25 percent of the Mashav Group, an Israeli construction firm. Mashav recently announced that it will acquire Hanson Israel, a subsidiary of Germany's HeidelbergCement. With the acquisition of Hanson Israel, CRH is further entrenched in violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).

Last month, The Electronic Intifada reported that German HeidelbergCement, one of the world's largest construction companies, became the target of legal action in Israel because its subsidiary, Hanson Israel, was involved in illegal mining activities in the occupied West Bank.

Hanson Israel is the second-largest building materials company in Israel. It manufactures ready-made cement, aggregates and asphalt for Israel's construction industry. In addition, the company operates a quarry in the occupied West Bank. In March, the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din filed a petition with the Israeli high court demanding a halt to illegal mining activity in West Bank quarries, including Hanson Israel's Nahal Raba quarry. The attorneys representing Yesh Din called upon the court to put an end to this "clearly illegal activity" and the court decided to freeze the expansion of quarries for six months. Hanson Israel also owns two concrete plants in the settlements of Modiin Illit and Atarot, and an asphalt plant south of the Elqana settlement, all illegally built on occupied Palestinian land.

According to a 29 July 2009 report in the Israeli business magazine Globes, HeidelbergCement tried to distance itself from the actions of its subsidiary by selling it to the Mashav Group. The website of Who Profits from the Occupation?, an Israeli group that monitors corporations' involvement in Israel's occupation, states that 85 percent of all cement in Israel is sold by Nesher Cement, a Mashav subsidiary. As a result, Irish CRH is currently complicit in the violation of international law through illegal mining activities in the OPT as well as the construction of Israel's wall in the West Bank, checkpoints and settlements.

Over the past six years, CRH has been a target of international calls for divestment from companies facilitating and benefiting from Israel's policies and actions. Most recently, in June 2009, volunteers with "Project Clean Hands," an ad hoc coalition of Irish non-governmental organizations pressuring CRH, investigated the use of Nesher Cement products in Israel's building of settlements and the wall in the OPT. Project Clean Hands documented Nesher products being used in the construction of housing, schools, synagogues and infrastructure in the occupied West Bank, including the light rail project illegally being built and operated in East Jerusalem.

These findings build on previous reports by Amnesty International and the US-based United Methodist Church. In 2003, Amnesty International Ireland publicly stated that "CRH, through its subsidiaries Mashav and Nesher Cement, is likely to be providing the raw material" for Israel's wall being built on occupied West Bank land.

The United Methodist Church called for the divestment from companies that are significantly supporting the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 2005. Two years later, at its New England Annual Conference, the body specifically urged its members, churches and investment managers to divest from CRH.

Increasingly, companies are coming under pressure to comply with norms of corporate responsibility, including respect for human rights. Palestine solidarity activists are calling on corporations to cease their involvement in Israel's violations of international humanitarian law. Indeed, fear of bad publicity may be the reason behind HeidelbergCement selling off Hanson Israel to the Mashav Group. The deal is still awaiting the approval of the Israel AntiTrust Authority, the Israeli government's enforcement agency.

Should Mashav's acquisition of Hanson Israel be approved, CHR will come under greater scrutiny and pressure to live up to its stated principles of corporate responsibility. Through Mashav's activities, activists contend, CHR is not only violating these principles but is profiting from the Israeli occupation.

The pressure on CRH to divest from Mashav has increased over the past few years. In 2005, activists in Ireland called on Irish pension funds to divest from CRH, until the company provides an absolute guarantee to cease involvement in the supply of materials used in illegal Israeli construction projects in the West Bank. The same year, the biennial Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference passed a resolution that called for boycott and divestment from Israel and companies such as CRH that are building Israel's wall in the occupied West Bank. Recently, the Irish Free Palestine Campaign, the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Irish Anti-War Movement and the political party Sinn Fein demanded the company end all of its activities that facilitate the Israeli occupation. They loudly voiced their concerns for hours in front of CRH's head office in Dublin on 7 August 2009.

Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.

Israel brings Gaza entry restrictions to West Bank

Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 18 August 2009

A French passport stamped with a "Palestinian Authority only" visa. (Toufic Haddad)

In an echo of restrictions already firmly in place in Gaza, Israel has begun barring movement between Israel and the West Bank for those holding a foreign passport, including humanitarian aid workers and thousands of Palestinian residents.

The new policy is designed to force foreign citizens, mainly from North America and Europe, to choose between visiting Israel -- including East Jerusalem, which Israel has annexed illegally -- and the West Bank.

The new regulation is in breach of Israel's commitments under the Oslo accords to Western governments that their citizens would be given continued access to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel has not suggested there are any security justifications for the new restriction.

Palestinian activists point out that the rule is being enforced selectively by Israel, which is barring foreign citizens of Palestinian origin from access to Israel and East Jerusalem while actively encouraging European and American Jews to settle in the West Bank.

US diplomats, who are aware of the policy, have raised no objections.

Additionally, human rights groups complain that the rule change will further separate East Jerusalem, the planned capital of a Palestinian state, from the West Bank. It is also expected to increase the pressures on families where one member holds a foreign passport to leave the region and to disrupt the assistance aid organizations are able to give Palestinians.

According to observers, the regulation was introduced quietly three months ago at the Allenby Bridge terminal on the border with Jordan, the only international crossing point for Palestinians in the West Bank. Israeli officials, who control the border, now issue foreign visitors with a visa for the "Palestinian Authority only," preventing them from entering Israel and East Jerusalem.

Interior ministry officials say a similar policy is being adopted at Ben Gurion, Israel's international airport near Tel Aviv, to bar holders of foreign passports who arrive via this route from reaching the West Bank. Foreign citizens, especially those with Palestinian ancestry, are being turned away and told to seek entry via the Allenby Bridge.

Gaza has long been off-limits to any Palestinian who is not resident there and has been effectively closed to Israelis and most foreigners since early 2006, when Israel began its blockade.

"This is a deepening and refinement of the policy of separation that began with Israel establishing checkpoints in the West Bank and building the wall," said Sam Bahour, a Palestinian-American living in Ramallah who heads a Right to Enter campaign highlighting Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement.

"Foreign governments like the US ought to be up in arms because this rule violates their own citizens' rights under diplomatic agreements. So far they have remained silent."

The US consulate in Jerusalem is aware of the increasing restrictions on foreign passport-holders, according to its website, but claims to be powerless to help.

The Right to Enter campaign notes that 60 percent of all people turned back at the borders by Israeli officials are American citizens.

The consulate website notes both the denial of entry for many Palestinian-Americans at Ben Gurion airport, forcing them instead to use the Allenby Bridge crossing into the West Bank, and the issuing at the crossing of the "Palestinian Authority only" stamp, which excludes them from East Jerusalem and Israel.

"The Consulate can do nothing to assist in getting this visa status changed; only Israeli liaison offices in the West Bank can assist -- but they rarely will," points out the website. "Travelers should be alert, and pay attention to which stamp they receive upon entry."

Bahour, 44, said the immediate victims of the new policy would be thousands of Palestinians from abroad who, like himself, returned to the West Bank during the more optimistic Oslo period.

Well-educated and often with established careers, they have been vital both to the regeneration of the local Palestinian economy by investing in and setting up businesses and to the nurturing of a fledgling civil society by running welfare organizations and teaching at universities.

Although many have married local spouses and raised their children in the West Bank, Israel has usually denied them residency permits, forcing them to renew tourist visas every three months by temporarily leaving the region, often for years on end.

Bahour said the latest rule change should be understood as one measure in a web of restrictions strangling normal Palestinian life that have been imposed by Israel, which controls the population registers for both Israelis and Palestinians.

In addition to the wall and checkpoints, he said, Israel regularly deported "foreigners," both humanitarian workers and those of Palestinian origin, arriving in the region; it denied family unification to prevent Palestinian couples living together; it often revoked the residency of Palestinians who study abroad for extended periods; and it confiscated Jerusalem IDs from Palestinians to push them into the West Bank.

He added that the US consulate appeared to have accepted Israel's right to treat American citizens differently based solely on their ethnic origin.

"While Palestinian-Americans are being denied entry to the region or excluded from Israel and East Jerusalem, Israel is actively encouraging American Jews to come and settle in the West Bank."

In early 2006 Bahour, who is married with two daughters, was affected by another rule change when Israel refused to renew tourist visas to Palestinians with foreign passports, forcing them to separate from their families in the West Bank.

After an international outcry, Israel revoked the policy but insisted that Palestinians such as Bahour apply for permits from the Israeli military authorities to remain in the West Bank.

"This latest rule, like the earlier one, fits into Israel's general goal of ethnic cleansing," he said. "Israel makes life ever more difficult to encourage any Palestinians who can, such as those with foreign passports, to leave."

Bahour said the new restrictions would further sever the West Bank from Jerusalem, the centre of Palestinian commercial and cultural life.

Overnight, he said, his Ramallah business consultancy had lost a quarter of its clients -- all from nearby East Jerusalem -- because he was now barred from leaving the West Bank.

He lost his limited privileges last month when he finally received a Palestinian ID. He said he had been forced to take the ID, which supersedes his American passport in the eyes of the Israeli authorities, to avoid the danger of being deported.

"The ID was bittersweet for me. It means I can't be separated from my family here, but it also means my American passport is not recognized and I am now subject to the closures and arrests faced by ordinary Palestinians."

Sari Bashi, a lawyer with Gisha, an Israeli organization that challenges restrictions on Palestinian movement, said the new policy was placing a severe obstacle in the way of humanitarian organizations, as well as foreigners working in Palestinian welfare organizations and academic institutions.

"Many of the aid organizations working in the West Bank have offices and staff in East Jerusalem and even in Israel, and it's difficult to see how they are going to cope with this new restriction."

She said staff of major international organizations such as the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, and its humanitarian division, OCHA, had been denied entry at Ben Gurion airport after declaring that they were working in the West Bank.

"When Israel prevents access to an area, it raises the question of what is happening there," she said. "What are we being prevented from seeing?"

Human rights groups are also concerned by the wording of the new restriction, confining foreign citizens to the "Palestinian Authority." The PA rules over only about 40 per cent of the West Bank. The groups fear that in the future Israel may seek to prevent foreigners from moving between the PA-controlled enclaves of the West Bank and the 60 percent under Israel control.

Guy Imbar, a spokesman for Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, said the phrase referred to the entire West Bank.

But Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions warned: "Given Israel's track record, it is right to be suspicious that the restriction may be reinterpreted at a later date."

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.

Amnesty int'l withdraws from Israel concert fund following campaign

Press release, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, 19 August 2009

The following press release was issued on 18 August 2009 by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert's proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen's concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International's announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization's reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, "We welcome Amnesty International's withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel's violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization's prestige and respectability."

A statement confirming Amnesty's withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

After reports in late July that Amnesty International would manage a fund from the proceeds of Leonard Cohen's concert in Israel, groups in occupied Palestine and around the world mobilized to pressure Amnesty International not to participate in such a fund. The Palestinian Non-governmental Organizations' Network (PNGO) called in an 11 August letter on Amnesty International to reject management of a fund that is to be created from the proceeds of Leonard Cohen's planned September concert in Israel. The West Bank village of Bilin had made a similar appeal to Amnesty International. An international campaign of about 1,000 letters to Amnesty International called for Amnesty's withdrawal from the Cohen concert initiative. The only Palestinian organization that was claimed to be a recipient of the fund had previously announced that it was not involved in the project. Additionally, a representative of the joint Palestinian-Israeli group Combatants for Peace, another previously announced beneficiary of the Cohen concert fund, had informed the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel in writing that the group had decided not to participate in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and not to accept any funds from its proceeds.

PNGO explained in its letter to Amnesty International that Israel Discount Bank, a major sponsor of Cohen's concert in Israel, "is involved in the construction and the continuation of the Israeli settlement project in the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] ... These settlements built on Palestinian lands are illegal under international law and are considered as war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention." PNGO added that Cohen's "concert in Israel contributes in normalizing Israeli occupation and colonization policies." In a 9 August letter to Amnesty International, the West Bank village of Bilin, a leader in the Palestinian nonviolent resistance movement, said that "Israel Discount Bank's trading room and other computer services are run by an Israeli company called Matrix IT. Matrix IT's trading room is located on our villages land stolen by the illegal settlement of Modiin Illit."

Additionally, 19 groups and organizations worldwide explained in an open letter to Amnesty International that "Being one of the world's strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a nonviolent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel's violations of international law and human rights principles." The groups asserted that "Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen's concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa." They also commented that the Peres Center for Peace, Amnesty International's announced partner in managing the concert fund, "has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that enhance 'Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians.'"

On 5 August, 11 groups launched a letter writing campaign to Amnesty International which has resulted in hundreds of emails sent. Among those urging Amnesty International to reject involvement with the Cohen concert are former Amnesty International USA board member Prof. Naseer Aruri, Amnesty International USA's former Midwest Regional Director Doris Strieter, peace activist Kathy Kelly, and a number of Amnesty International members.

The announcement of Cohen's planned concert in Israel was swiftly met by letters from British, Israeli and Palestinian organizations and protests at his concerts in New York, Boston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities, calling on Cohen to respect the international call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. In response to the protests, Cohen had tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to "balance" his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert, insisting that Cohen should first cancel his Tel Aviv gig to be welcomed in Ramallah.

With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an institutional academic and cultural boycott. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Palestinian boycott calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel's assault on Gaza last winter.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Out in the cold from another world body: Israelis complain Palestinian names being used in Palestine

August 2009
World Archaeological Congress excludes Israelis from Ramallah
13th August 2009

Israel's Antiquity Authority bitterly condemned the World Archaeological Congress for failing to invite Israelis to a conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah. This follows the departure of the Israeli Journalists from the international body recently.

The Israeli State normally excludes all Israelis from visiting Ramallah, but consistency has never been a Zionist trait (save for dispossession and theft)

In a letter to WAC President Clair Smith Thursday, the IAA protested the organization of the conference, "which relates specifically to the conduct of Israeli archaeology, but, to our knowledge, Israeli archaeologists were not invited nor were they informed."

Dahari was angry at the use of Palestinian names for the sites such as Haram al-Sharif for the Temple Mount, since Israel is in the middle of a long-term programme of obliterating Palestinian names, history and memory, with the active connivance of the Israeli Antiquities Authority.

"It would be best if the WAC would focus on archaeology and not on politics," said Dahari, on behalf of the highly politicised IAA, without a doubt one of the most politicised archaeological associations in the world.

Report from UPI here

See related articles:Corrupt Israeli archaeology in the service of ethnic cleansing

King David Recruited to Expel Palestinians When Archaeology Becomes a Curse

Le Monde diplomatique: Myths of Zionism shattered, Zionist political 'amnesia' challenged

Israeli archaeological vandalism - artefacts inconvenient to rabid Zionists were 'disappeared'

Challenges mounting to Zionist archaeology that ethnically cleanses the past

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Nonviolent direct action, solidarity and struggle

Ramzi Kysia,
The Electronic Intifada,
17 August 2009

"You who stand in the doorway, come in...The siege is a waiting period

Waiting on the tilted ladder in the middle of the storm...It is up to the soul to come down from its mount

And on its silken feet walk

By my side, hand in hand, like two longtime friends...May we walk this road together"

(from "Under Siege," by Mahmoud Darwish)

A year ago, 44 ordinary people from 17 different countries sailed to Gaza in two small wooden boats. We did what our governments would not do -- we broke through the Israeli siege. During the last year the Free Gaza Movement has organized seven more voyages, successfully arriving to Gaza on five separate occasions.

Regardless of Israeli threats and intimidation, Free Gaza volunteers will continue sailing unarmed boats to Gaza. Ours remain the only international ships to reach the Gaza Strip in more than 42 years. By directly challenging the Israeli military with our small boats, we have concretely demonstrated that this siege has nothing whatsoever to do with security and is simply an illegal act of collective punishment.

But the siege of Gaza cannot be separated from the crisis of checkpoints and home demolitions in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, nor from the oppression of Palestinian citizens of Israel, nor from the harsh and unjust conditions of the millions languishing in refugee camps across the Middle East, nor from the plight of the more than 11,000 political prisoners held by Israel, nor from the calamity of extra-judicial killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces, particularly the killings of Palestinian children, nor from Israel's ongoing theft of Palestinian natural resources, nor from the right of return for all Palestinians in the Diaspora. Gaza is but one bitter element of the struggle for justice for all of Palestine.

Contrary to its presentation in the mainstream media, this conflict is neither a righteous war against terrorism, nor a long-standing religious or ethnic dispute. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the struggle of two irreconcilable and unequal causes: the struggle of an oppressed people for freedom, justice and self-determination against their oppressors' struggle to maintain their domination.

The purpose of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance is to take risks and put our selves in the way of injustice. We take these risks well aware of what the possible consequences may be. We do so because the consequences of doing nothing are so much worse. Any time we allow ourselves to be bullied, every time we pass by an evil and ignore it, we lower our standards and allow our world to be made that much harsher and unjust for us all.

Other international solidarity and action campaigns preceded ours, such as the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, and more have begun in recent months, such as Viva Palestina, the International Movement to Open Rafah Border, Code Pink's delegations to Gaza, and the Gaza Freedom March.

These campaigns are all important. Working together, we have been able to complement and multiply our efforts, drawing the world's attention to the suffering caused by Israel's illegal blockade. We have been able to bring in limited amounts of needed aid, and bring out of Gaza a handful of Palestinian students, medical patients and others. These are worthwhile labors, but they are not enough. As the great Indian resistance leader Mahatma Gandhi stated on 11 September 1924: "[The people] are as yet untouched by [our] politics ... Their politics are confined to bread and salt ... We must share their sorrows ... Then and not till then shall we truly represent [them] ..."

The truth is that all our work combined has yet to significantly impact the daily lives of the Palestinian people.

As solidarity campaigners, it's our job to take our direction from comrades already struggling inside occupied Palestine. But as internationals we should also remind ourselves that our primary work lies in our own communities. In the end, our struggle is not about charity; the Palestinian people need justice and political action, not charity.

Viva Palestina's journey through North Africa, on their first mission from Britain to Gaza, helped mobilize countless individuals. Their planned journey through Europe this December will mobilize countless more. Volunteers working and traveling with Viva Palestina have begun dozens of twinning projects between their communities in the West and communities inside Palestine. The fruits of these efforts are unknowable. However, there are tremendous possibilities for not only providing concrete assistance to those in need, but also for politicizing and mobilizing individuals across the world to get involved in the struggle for justice in Palestine.

Similarly, the Free Gaza Movement is working to mobilize individuals through the Right to Read campaign, and through direct lobbying of governments and the international community to actually enforce international law in regards to Palestine. We are reaching out to existing social movements and labor unions in the West, complementing existing efforts to establish and broaden boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns against apartheid Israel.

The continuing failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the Palestinian people demands that we as private citizens directly intervene to take action commensurate with the crisis. What is needed in our world today is not simply protest against the violence of occupation and oppression. What we need is a greater resolve -- a new militancy rooted in the profound respect for human life, and sustained by profound disrespect for any government or group that terrorizes our sisters and brothers around the world.

More than at any time in recent memory, ordinary people around the world seem to be answering this call.

Ramzi Kysia is an Arab-American essayist and an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement. If you would like to support these efforts, please visit, or email donations[at] If you would like to volunteer with Free Gaza, please send an email to volunteer[at]

Important Websites:

* Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition

* Palestinian BDS National Committee

* Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

* The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights

* Al-Haq, an independent Palestinian non-governmental human rights organization

The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue & Democracy

* ADDAMEER, Prisoners' Support & Human Rights Association

* The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza

* Viva Palestina

* International Movement to Open Rafah Border

* The Free Gaza Movement

1. Bil’in demonstrates against the ongoing Israeli arrest and intimidation campaign
2. International activists beaten, arrested attempting to accompany farmers in Saffa
3. Rights group: Israel killed unarmed Palestinians
4. Candle vigil in solidarity with evicted Palestinian families held in Sheikh Jarrah
5. An account of life on the West Bank
6. Court refuses to issue restraining order against evicted Sheikh Jarrah Arabs
7. Settlers attack Susiyan Palestinian sheep herders
8. Five new house demolition orders issued in Silwan, East Jerusalem
9. PCHR condemns harassment of Palestinian civilians at military checkpoints

1. Bil’in demonstrates against the ongoing Israeli arrest and
intimidation campaign

14 August 2009

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli, Spanish, French and other international supporters, responded today to the Popular Committee’s call to resist the Wall and to show solidarity with the Bil’in prisoners.

14 August 2009

Hundreds of Palestinians, Israeli, Spanish, French and other international supporters, responded today to the Popular Committee’s call to resist the Wall and to show solidarity with the Bil’in prisoners.

As is the case each week, demonstrators left the village after the midday prayers and marched towards the gate of the Wall separating Bil’in from its lands. Israeli soldiers used large amounts of tear gas, including the “Cannon” which shoots 30 canisters at a time. They also attempted to use the “Skunk”, a gun shooting a foul smelling liquid that sticks to skin and clothing for days, but the Skunk Machine malfunctioned.

Five years after Bil’in began its’ resistance against the Wall and Settlements, the Israeli army is still trying to break the popular non-violent resistance. Amongst injuring over 1300 people at demonstrations, Israeli forces killed Bil’in resident Basem Abu Rahmah on 17 April 2009 by shooting him directly with a high velocity tear
gas projectile from around 30 meters.

Update on Bil’in prisoners

The latest wave of arrests and night raids on the West Bank village of Bil’in began on 23 June 2009, To date, Israeli forces have arrested 25 people (most under 18). Eighteen of the 25 remain in detention. Through Israel’s interrogation and intimidation tactics, two of the arrested youth have ‘confessed’ that the Bil’in Popular Committee urges the demonstrators to throw stones. With such ‘confessions’,
Israeli forces then proceed to arrest leaders in the community, including Adeeb Abu Rahme and Mohammad Khatib. Adeeb has been in detention since his arrest during a non-violent demonstration on July 10th. Both are being charged with “incitement to damage the security of the area.”

In a military court hearing for Mohammad Khatib on Thursday August 13th, the military prosecution requested to hold Mohammed until the end of legal proceedings against him, a process that can last over a year. The evidence presented against him was a picture the prosecution claimed was of Mohammad throwing stones during a demonstration. The prosecution backed this assertion with a “confession” from one of the Bil’in youth that is currently in their custody, claiming that the person in the picture was Mohammad Khatib, whom the boy knows well. When Khatib’s attorney, Gabi Laski questioned the prosecution about the photograh, she was told the picture was taken in October of 2009. Laski then presented the judge with Mohammad’s passport, showing that Mohammad was in New Caladonia during that time.

Many Israeli supporters of the struggle in Bil’in and the Palestinian Occupied Territories made a showing at this hearing. In attendance of the hearing were Dove Haneen, the Israeli Knesset member from the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality, Uri Avnery, the head of Gush Shalom (Peace Group), and Arc Asher, head of Rapanem; the Movement for Human Rights. Other Israelis and internationals supporters held a
vigil outside the prison gates.

A decision for Mohammad Khatib’s case as well as Abdullah Yassin and Mustafa Khatib, will be given on Sunday, August 16th. On the other hand, the court ordered Issa Abu Rahma, and the two brothers Khalid and Muhammad Shaukat Khatibhas to be kept in custody without bail until the completion of legal proceedings against them.

To view video, see

2. International activists beaten, arrested attempting to accompany farmers in Saffa

Palestine Solidarity Project

15 August 2009

Today, at 8 am, international activists with the Palestine Solidarity Project and International Solidarity Movement, along with Palestinian members of PSP, accompanied the family of Abu Jabber Soleiby to plow their land in Saffa, near the illegal Israeli settlement Bat ’Ayin. The family has been confronted with ongoing harrasment by the Israeli Military and violent attacks by settlers from Bat ’Ayin. Today, the group of over 20 people was stopped by dozens of Israeli soldiers and
Border Police near the edge of the Saffa built-up area. Initially, the military insisted that the farmers needed permits, and then IDs, to enter their privately-owned agricultural land. The Soleiby family has rejected all attempts by the Israeli military to force them to engage in a process of asking permission from the Occupation Forces to enter their own land, and refused to show ID, insisting on their natural right to go to their land, well within Palestinian territory, freely.
The military also forbade the entrance of the international activists to the valley, and eventually presented a closed military zone area order. One youth, carrying a Palestinian flag, was violently pushed several times by the Israeli forces.

The group then backed up to what was clearly indicated as the edge of the closed military zone and continued their negotiations with the soldiers to at least allow the farmers into the valley to their land. When the military insisted on seeing IDs, the young children and grandchildren of Abu Jabber, who do not yet carry IDs, asked to enter on their own. The Israeli Forces insisted that they must present their birth certificates in order to access the land. After a short time of negotiating, the military illegal declared, without accompanying paperwork, the entire Saffa area a closed military zone, informing the internationals they had 10 minutes to leave the area. They also forced the media present to remove the batteries from their cameras, obviously preparing for a confrontation they did not want documented.
They immediately began violently pushing the group with wooden batons further away from the agricultural area. The Palestinians decided to leave the area, and most of the group began leaving when border police began attacking the back of the group. During a short scuffle, two international women, one from Denmark and one from Germany, were arrested. A third international woman, also from Denmark, was struck
on the forehead with a baton as she tried to help the other two detained activists, leaving a significant welt on her head.

The group decided the leave the area, with the farmers committed to returning another time to continue the work on their land without asking for permission.

3. Rights group: Israel killed unarmed Palestinians

Jen Thomas | Associated Press

13 August 2009

A new report by Human Rights Watch charged Thursday that Israeli soldiers killed eleven unarmed Palestinian civilians who were carrying white flags in shooting incidents during Israel’s offensive in Gaza earlier this year.

The report says the civilians included five women and four children. The group urged Israel to conduct investigations into the deaths, which it said occurred when the civilians were “in plain view and posed no apparent security threat.”

The group says at least three witnesses confirmed the details in each of the seven separate shootings.

The report is the latest in a slew of charges from human rights groups alleging that Israel violated the rules of war in its Gaza offensive. The reports on the Gaza war have focused on Israeli violations, but Human Rights Watch has also said Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups violated the rules of war by firing thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians.

Israel says groups like Human Rights Watch are unfairly singling it out and has criticized the methodology of reports based largely on Palestinian testimony. Israel says it did not deliberately target civilians and that noncombatants were killed because Hamas militants took cover, fired rockets and stored ammunition in crowded residential areas.

In a response to the report, the Israeli military said its soldiers were obligated to avoid harming anyone waving a white flag but that in some cases Hamas militants had used civilians with white flags for cover.

“Any person who displays a white flag in this way acts illegally, does not enjoy protection from retaliatory action, and endangers nearby civilian populations,” the military said.

Last month, the Israeli government released its own report defending its use of force in Gaza. The report says Israel is investigating five alleged cases in which soldiers killed civilians carrying white flags, incidents that it said resulted in 10deaths.

Two of the five incidents were among those mentioned by Human Rights Watch.

Both Israel and the Palestinians acknowledge that more than 1,100 Gazans were killed in the Israeli offensive. Palestinians say most were civilians. Israel says most were armed militants, but has not released evidence to back up that claim.

Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were killed during the Gaza war.

Shortly after the new report was released, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev questioned the organization’s objectivity.

Regev did not directly comment on the Gaza allegations, instead referring to a recent flap over Human Rights Watch’s fundraising activities in Saudi Arabia. The group came under fire for reportedly highlighting its criticism of Israel at a meeting attended by several Saudi officials.

This, Regev said, “raises important questions about the organization’s impartiality, professionalism and credibility.”

4. Candle vigil in solidarity with evicted Palestinian families held in Sheikh Jarrah

10 August 2009

At 8pm, around 200 Palestinians, Israelis and international solidarity activists congregated outside the evicted homes of the Hanoun family. Under the presence of the Israeli police, the demonstrators lit candles which illuminated signs and posters condemning the evictions and demanding their homes back. Peacefully, people sang and spoke whilst traffic tooted their horns in support of the families.

As demonstrators began to march towards the al Gwahi home around 9pm (another home that was evicted and is currently being occupied by settlers), the police violently attacked people walking on the sidewalk, dragging kicking and beating them as they pulled them back along the street towards their vehicles. Police units dressed in all
black charged through to lend a hand and eventually forced Arik Asherman of the Rabbis for Human Rights into a police van, which hastily left the scene. When things calmed down, an announcement was made that the peaceful protest was an illegal one and everyone had two minutes to leave the area. Taking that as their cue, the protesters regrouped and once again moved towards the home of the Al Ghawi family
where they were met with a police blockade. The vigil continued with two groups in separate spaces on the streets with the space in between occupied by settler youth mixing with the police and border police.

As settlers exited their settlement through the groups people jeered and whistled but the candle lit peacefulness prevailed, despite the best efforts of the police. Eventually the banners, posters and protesters made their way back to the space outside on the street where the families are now living and are joined overnight by friends, family and international support.

To view pictures see,

5. An account of life on the West Bank

Lamia Khatib | The Huffington Post

13 August 2009

Lamia Khatib is a 27 year old Palestinian mother of of four. Lamia’s husband Mohammad is secretary of the village council and a member of the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. They live in the West Bank village of Bil’in, which has been under Israeli military occupation for the last 42 years.

On August 3, my husband Mohammed Khatib, and my little brother Abdullah, were taken from their beds in our West Bank village of Bil’in at 3 AM by the Israeli military. My husband is a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee, which has been leading our village’s nonviolent campaign against Israel’s construction of a Wall and a
settlement on our land. For nearly five years, every Friday we have been joined by supporters from Israel and around the world as we attempt to march to our land on the other side of the Wall. According to the terms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the settlement amounts to a war crime, and in 2004 the International Court of Justice ruled the Wall illegal.

In addition to years of peaceful protests, for the last four years our village has held an annual international conference on nonviolent resistance. Bil’in’s struggle has become an emblematic example for Palestinians and worldwide. Last December, the Bil’in Popular Committee was awarded the 2008 Human Rights Medal by the International
League of Human Rights in Germany.

Despite this, the construction of the Wall and settlements continued, and we are treated as criminals in our quest for justice. On top of tens of arrests, hundreds of protesters from Bil’in have been injured and one has been killed by the Israeli military.

Just a few days before he was arrested, Mohammed wrote this account of our life in Bil’in:

I woke up this morning to find my three year-old son, Khaled, beating me and screaming wildly. Of course I was shocked by this, so I started to comfort him and ask what was the matter… through the sobs and tears, I managed to make out a few words:

“Why are you not a good Dad… you left me to the soldiers… at the Wall…
and they shot me in the leg!”

“What happened to your leg, Khaled?”

“It’s better now…”

He was describing a nightmare.

My wife, Lamia, once asked me: “Why can’t we live like other people?” It was a very difficult question for me to answer. All the Palestinians of my generation were born under military occupation, so this is the only life we know.

As I write these words, it’s almost midnight and we are sitting on the roof of my house, on the look-out for the Israeli army. It’s been two months since the most recent wave of night raids began, with the army now employing a new strategy of arresting every villager who attends the demonstrations, in an attempt to crush our campaign of nonviolent resistance. Up until now eleven people have been arrested, but the list of those wanted is much, much longer. So in Bi’lin, no one goes to sleep before four or five in the morning. We stay awake all night, observing the movements of the Israeli military, fearing that we may be the next person to be kidnapped and thrown in jail. Our nights have become our days, and our days have become our nights. For some it is more difficult than others because of work commitments, but we have no choice.

But it’s not only the adults who stay awake. Our children can’t sleep either, afraid that the army will burst into his or her room in the middle of the night. They don’t knock on the door during the night raids. So imagine the horror for a child to wake up to find a stranger with a painted face pointing his gun in their face. We don’t stay up so much to avoid arrest, but to avoid facing this terrible moment.

Even with all this, I know that I have a good quality of life compared to other Palestinians. I’m lucky enough to have avoided, up till now, both jail and the loss of a family member. Two out of three Palestinians you meet will have suffered one or the other, if not both.

Yesterday, I saw Mohammed and Abdullah in the Israeli military court. My brother had bruises all over from the beatings he received from the soldiers. My husband is being accused of “incitement to damage the security of the area.” It is obvious that the Israeli authorities will do all that they can to prevent Palestinians and Israelis from working together towards a just peace. Mohammed may no longer be one of the “lucky” ones, but I know that he, Abdullah and I, and everyone in Bil’in, will continue our struggle for justice.

6. Court refuses to issue restraining order against evicted Sheikh Jarrah Arabs

Jonah Newman & Abe Selig | The Jerusalem Post

14 August 2009

A Jerusalem District Court rejected on Thursday a request by Jewish families who have taken possession of homes in east Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood by court order to issue a restraining order against the Arab families who were evicted from those homes.

However, Judge Eilata Diskind issued a warning to the Arab families to refrain from violent behavior.

The petition for the restraining order, which was made by the Nahalat Shimon International organization, asked that nine people – three members of the Hanoun family and six members of the Gawhi family – be prohibited from congregating outside the homes.

It was rejected by Diskind, who said there was insufficient evidence to prove the plaintiffs’ claims that members of the families had thrown rocks at the homes and harassed the new occupants.

The judge did issue a warning to the defendants to refrain from such behavior in the future.

Both the Hanoun and Gawhi families have set up makeshift protests across the street from their former homes to protest what they have called the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinian residents from the neighborhood.

In their testimony, the Jewish plaintiffs said the defendants yell, “Your grave will be here” and other curses every time they pass in front of the building.

“They have nothing to do there but bother us,” said Yitzhak Mamo, one of the plaintiffs. “What are they doing there, playing backgammon?”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Ilan Shemer, cross-examined each of the respondents after the judge finished asking questions, and asked one of them, Khaled al-Gawhi, why he and his family continued to live on the sidewalk, if their intention was not to bother the new residents.

“I want to show the whole world what kind of law they have in this country,” Gahwi responded.

Gawhi also claimed that the Jewish families had thrown rocks at him, including one which came from the upper floors of the building and landed meters from a five-month-old baby.

Two of the other respondents, Majed and Salim Hanoun, refused to answer questions without their lawyers present.

The respondents complained that the court summons had been far too hasty, arriving an hour before the proceedings were to begin, and hardly giving them enough time to contact their lawyers.

“I called someone to come translate [the court summons] for me, and then it took us 30 minutes to get here,” Maher Hanoun told The Jerusalem Post.

Hanoun and Gawhi’s lawyers, who said they didn’t know about the hearing until almost an hour after it was set to begin, arrived just as the judge was reading her decision.

Nonetheless, both families seemed somewhat relieved after the decision was read, and were seen moments later preparing to return to their ongoing protest vigils in Sheikh Jarrah.

While the Jewish plaintiffs declined to comment on the verdict, Khaled al-Gahwi told the Post simply, “They didn’t get their request, that’s it, it’s over.”

7. Settlers attack Susiyan Palestinian sheep herders

10 August 2009

At 7:30 of this morning, a group of sheep shepherds from Susyia, a small Palestinian village in the Southern Hebron hills, came under attack by a pair of Israeli settlers from the nearby illegal colony.

The shepherds, a small group of two Palestinian men and one woman had been grazing their sheep in their family land, in the hills near their homes. The two settlers, having faced no previous provocation from the group, came running suddenly down a dirt road, attempting to frighten the sheep off the land. The Palestinian shepherds began chasing after their animals and shouting at the settlers to end their harassment, but the pair continued their attack, hitting the sheep with stones and
sticks they had been carrying with them. The Palestinian woman in the group had a stack of firesticks she had been collecting thrown of her hands and herself pushed away from her retreating animals.

Meanwhile, a pair of Israeli soldiers standing watch on an adjacent hilltop and overlooking the scene did nothing to stop the attack. Instead a large number of Palestinian residents of Susyia arrived shortly to attempt to confront and halt the settler attack.

The two settlers eventually retreated having pushed the sheep completely off the hills and back to the Palestinian settlements, giving no explanation or reply as regards their actions. With the two of them present, the shepherds together with fellow family members confronted the Israeli soldiers who had been overlooking the scene, demanding explanations for their inaction. The two attackers however remained protected by the soldiers, and allowed to leave freely.

The Israeli police arrived shortly afterwards requesting information from the Palestinian shepherds. As of this moment no information is known as to possible responses from the occupation authorities regarding the attack.

8. Five new house demolition orders issued in Silwan, East Jerusalem

Alternative Information Center (AIC)

10 August 2009

Israeli forces issued five new house demolition orders in the al-Bustan section of Silwan in East Jerusalem on Wednesday, 5 August, injuring eight Palestinians in the process and seizing the identification card of Musa Odeh, a member of the al-Bustan Committee working to non-violently oppose the demolitions. Authorities also deployed tear gas to prevent residents from confronting the soldiers ordering the demolitions.

The orders augment the 90 demolition orders already standing in Silwan, a densely populated village located on the southeastern slopes of the Old City of Jerusalem. The area, which is located near the biblical site of Siloam and which houses approximately 55,000 residents, was annexed by the state of Israel in 1967; since then, the Municipality of Jerusalem has nearly uniformly refused Palestinian residents building permits to develop the neighborhood, typifying Israeli urban planning policy in East Jerusalem for the past 42 years. In 2004, a directive was issued from the Municipality’s building supervision department to demolish all the homes in Silwan in order to build the “King’s Valley” archaeological park, which is
currently under the administration of the fundamentalist settler group
Elad. If completed as planned, the Silwan demolitions would constitute the largest scale demolition program in the city of Jerusalem since the leveling of the Maghrebi quarter the night after Israel’s seizure of East Jerusalem in 1967 in order to build today’s Western Wall plaza.

9. PCHR condemns harassment of Palestinian civilians at military

Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR)

11 August 2009

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns the harassment and cruel and degrading treatment inflicted upon Palestinian civilians by Israeli troops positioned at military checkpoint throughout the West Bank.

PCHR field workers documents three cases of harassment against Palestinian civilians in the first three days of the week.

At approximately 22:00 on Saturday, 08 August 2009, Israeli soldiers harassed Tha’er Bader Jaradat, 20, from Sa’ir village northwest Hebron. They attacked him near the Annexation Wall in al-Ram town, north of Jerusalem. He sustained fractures to the legs.

According to investigations conducted by PCHR and the victim’s testimony, at approximately 22:00 on Saturday, 08 August 2009, Israeli soldiers forced him to jump from a height of 4.5 meters, when they caught him and other civilians attempting to climb the Annexation Wall in al-Ram town. He fell onto the ground, and sustained two fractures to the left leg and one fracture to the right heel. Soon after, Israeli soldiers gathered around him and attempted to force him to stand up and accompany them to a military vehicle. They also released a bloodhound to attack him in order to force him to stand up. When all of these attempts failed, they forced him to creep towards the military vehicle, which was approximately 15 meters away. They
handcuffed him and transferred him to the Hamashbir area to the northwest of al-Ram town. Jaradat attempted to go to Jerusalem in order to work in a boutique.

On Sunday morning, 09 August 2009, Israeli soldiers positioned at a military crossing established on al-Zahiriya – Bir al-Saba’ road, south of Hebron, harassed Mohammed ‘Abdul Hai ‘Asafra, 26, from Beit Kahel village northwest of Hebron. They forced him to stop while he was his way to work in a workshop in the area. The detained and violently beat him for more than two hours. He sustained bruises
throughout the body.

At approximately 11:30 on Monday, 10 August 2009, Israeli soldiers patrolling in al-Sahla and Tariq Ben Ziad streets in the south of the old town of Hebron stopped Saleh Mohammed al-Rajabi, 20. They detained and violently beat him for nearly an hour. He sustained bruises throughout the body.

In light of the above:

1. PCHR asserts that acts of harassment are a form of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and constitute serious violations of international human rights standards and instruments, especially the Convention against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of 1984.

2. PCHR calls upon the international community to exert pressure on Israel to dismantle military checkpoints and stop acts of harassment and other violations of human rights and international humanitarian law against Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.




GALWAY - Thurs 20th August - Public meeting, Imperial Hotel @ 8pm Derek & Jenny Graham with Susan Johnson who recently returned from Gaza


Derek & Jenny Graham from Mayo, are here to get Irish support to bring in desperately needed rebuilding materials into the port of Gaza along with supplies for our partners in the Universities and schools as part of “Right to Read” campaign. Derek was thrown in jail along with 20 others including Mairead Maguire as they tried to deliver badly needed building supplies to civillians in Gaza who's homes, schools, hospitals were destroyed by the Israel at start of the year.

It is crucial that we continue sending boats to Gaza to challenge Israel’s criminal closure on the Strip,” said Huwaida Arraf, delegation leader.

“Gaza does not need our charity but needs us to stand up against the forces that continue to deliberately deny an entire people their human rights."

Even though Israel hijacked our boat, the Spirit of Humanity in international waters, we are not backing down.

Since August last year the Free Gaza Movement have organized 8 voyages to Gaza successfully arriving in the port of Gaza on 5 occasions, ours are the first international ship to sail to Gaza since 1967.

International donors pledged over $4 billion to rebuild Gaza, and yet none of them are doing anything about the fact that Israel is not allowing any building supplies into Gaza, not to mention coffee, tea, paper, school books, toys for children and thousands of other items.

We need to raise a substantial sum of money and engage in considerable outreach over the next few weeks in order to be able to send the next mission before the weather changes and the Mediterranean Sea starts becoming unpredictable." said Huwaida in recent interview.

Six months after the end of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, 850,000 people in Gaza still rely on the United Nations for food and there is a total absence of meaningful reconstruction according to a cross party delegation from the Oireachtas Foreign and European Affairs Committees who visited the area last week.

The Deputies met Irishman Mr. John Ging the Agency’s Head of Mission in Gaza, they saw for themselves the appalling humanitarian effects Israel’s military action and persistent refusal to end its blockade is having on the people of Gaza.

Based on what they observed, the delegation has called for the immediate opening of crossings into Gaza for unimpeded humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials.

The Free Gaza Movement calls upon the international community to join the movement's efforts to help end the human suffering created by Israeli's strangulation of Gaza. We urge governments, non-governmental organizations and civilians to help alleviate the suffering and provide ships, materials, heath care professionals, lawyers and other forms of humanitarian aid immediately and join us in asserting the right of the Palestinian people to have access to the outside world: that we will not stay silent as the Palestinian people are deliberately starved and humiliated; that Palestinians have a right to life with dignity.

For more information contact

Niamh Moloughney

Irish Free Gaza Coordinator

091 472279/085 7747257

Derek & Jenny are available for interview - 086 3403689 or contact Niamh 085 7747257 to arrange.


on the Right of Resistance is on YouTube.

If you have not seen our last video, Is Israel Guilty of Piracy, please also take the time to watch at

Background information

UNITED NATIONS DEMANDS ALL TO ‘Respect Gazan children’s right to education’

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator and other NGO’s have demanded full and unfettered access into and out of Gaza in particular to restore the Gazan educational system.

During the Gaza war, 18 schools were completely destroyed and at least 280 were damaged. Today, one month before the start of the new school year, more than six months after the ceasefires, none of these schools have been properly rebuilt or rehabilitated due to lack of construction materials. Since the imposition of the blockade, students have faced chronic shortages of educational supplies including textbooks, paper and uniforms.

The UN is urging Israel to respect the right to learn and be educated as a fundamental right. Going to school and becoming educated remains the single most cherished priority among Palestinian children.

Free Gaza Movement Partnership projects

“Education is a right. Yet throughout history, societies have used access to education as a weapon of oppression. We refuse to let Israel blockade our students’ thirst for knowledge.We welcome working with Free Gaza and others to break this siege against our people’s greatest resource.”

Dr. Haidar Eid, professor at Al-Aqsa University

Al-Aqsa University and the Free Gaza Movement (FG) has started its “Right to Read” campaign which will use the Free Gaza

boats to deliver educational supplies and rebuilding materials to universities and schools throughout the occupied Gaza Strip.

This is not a charitable endeavor. Rather it is an act of solidarity and resistance to Israel’s chokehold on Gaza and attempt to deny

Palestinians education.
Our first shipment of educational supplies will be sent on the next voyage to Gaza in early October.


Suggestions to become involved - contact

Donate. You have donated to us so generously to us in the past, we need you to do it again. Please consider making a donation and asking 9 friends to do the same.

Fundraise. Plan a fundraiser for the Free Gaza Movement in your home or community. A dinner, movie screening, house party or other could be a great way to get your friends and family more aware of and involved in our efforts, while contributing to our goal of purchasing a cargo ship and accompanying passenger boats to go to Gaza.

Educate. We have volunteers in various countries that might be available to come speak at your school, university or other venue about their experiences in Gaza, the horrifying effects of Israel's illegal blockade, and what the Free Gaza Movement is doing to break the siege. Consider hosting an event or a speaking tour for the Free Gaza Movement. For help in doing this, please contact us.

Outreach. We would like to get celebrities, dignitaries, and community leaders to join our next mission in order to draw more attention to the dire situation in Gaza and the need for immediate action. If you have contact to an actor, singer, athlete, artist, producer, politician or other public personality, including prominent human and civil rights leaders, ask them to lend their voice and presence to this nonviolent action in defense of human rights. Reach out to your member of congress or parliament and ask him/her to join us. If someone is not able to physically be on our boat, ask them for a statement or letter or endorsement.

Contribute. We would like to get as many local, national, and international groups and organizations involved in the success of this mission as possible. Approach a local group or organization about donating cargo to send to Gaza on the next Free Gaza boats. One of the two areas our next mission will focus on is education, taking in books (see information about Right to Read campaign below), paper, ink and school supplies. Ask your local school, church, mosque, synagogue, social justice group, or other NGO to commit to this effort. Even primary schools can contribute to breaking the siege on Gaza by writing letters to schoolchildren in Gaza. Please contact us about the items that we are accepting for cargo.

The second area our mission will focus on is building supplies. It is now more than six months since the end of Israel's brutal 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which led to the killing of over 1400 Palestinians, and the people of Gaza are still living in rubble. Consider approaching a local business about sponsoring reconstruction cargo for Gaza. Please contact us for details.

Right to Read campaign. The response to the Right to Read campaign has been heartening. In addition to the books that the universities in Gaza requested, some of you sent us school supplies for children, as you know that paper, pencils and crayons are among the thousands of items that the Israeli authorities do not allow into Gaza.

Others approached their local universities about offering free e-library and other database access to Palestinian universities; this is invaluable! Also a few authors have donated copies of their books to the campaign; thank you! As great as the response has been, we still have not acquired all of the books we need. Please, let's keep going! We will start taking these books in on the next voyage.

How soon we can make this next voyage happens will depend on our collective effort. We are aiming for early October.

Let's make it happen!

In solidarity & struggle,


Oireachtas Members Witness at Firsthand Disastrous Consequences for Civilians in Gaza of Israeli’s Military Operation and Continued Blockade

Parliamentary delegation urges use of Northern Ireland Peace Process model to help break Middle East impasse



28th July 2009

Chairman of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee Michael Woods TD, who led the delegation together with Chairman of the European Affairs Committee, Bernard Durkan TD, said:
“UNRWA, led by its Director, John Ging, is the reputable authority on the ground. UNRWA is a creditable and transparent organisation whose only objective is to ease the suffering of the people of Gaza. If UNRWA could have access to the right materials, such as doors and windows, it can repair up to 40,000 damaged homes before the onset of winter and begin the completion of 7000 new homes, therefore offering employment to up 22,000 Palestinians. This would help put Gaza on the road to recovery. Israel must now open the crossings to these essential materials to allow the UN to do its crucial work”.

Niamh Moloughney

Irish Free Gaza Coordinator

091 472279/085 7747257

Jerusalem families waiting for US action

Marcey Gayer, The Electronic Intifada, 14 August 2009

A banner hanging outside of homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. (Tess Scheflan/Activestills)

In the early morning hours of Sunday, 2 August, a force of hundreds of police and border guards invaded the quiet East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and systematically evicted the sleeping Hanoun and Gawi families from their homes. The sun dawned upon a new reality: chaos in the streets, children crying and elders in anguish. The police blocked every entrance to the area, preventing friends from coming to the aid of the distressed families or even helping them to remove their belongings from their homes. Revealing prior coordination with the authorities, the homes were quickly occupied by ultra-orthodox Jewish settlers.

The Hanoun and Gawi families, consisting of 16 and 38 members, respectively, lived in their homes for 53 years. Built in 1956 by the UN and the Jordanian government (who had sovereignty over East Jerusalem at the time) as part of a temporary housing complex for refugees of the 1948 war, these were homes for those who already knew eviction and ethnic cleansing. However, this time the dispossession was accomplished "legally."

Since the 1967 conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel has been building settlements along the eastern flank of Jerusalem to prevent expansion of its Arab neighborhoods. Moreover, within the past 20 years, the Israeli settlement project has begun encroaching upon the Arab neighborhoods themselves, installing nationalist Jewish families within their perimeters by force. Slowly but relentlessly, Israel is attempting to Judaize these neighborhoods in a manner designed not to attract international scrutiny and criticism.

Thus Maher Hanoun, the head of the Hanoun family, was ordered by Israeli courts to hand over the keys to his home to the Association of Sephardic Jewry on 19 July. Rather than comply with the court order, he held a press conference outside his house accompanied by several top officials, including Nils Eliasson of the Swedish Consulate representing the European Union, Robert Serry representing the UN, and Dr. Rafik Husseini of the Palestinian Authority. They all condemned the proposed eviction, calling it an affront to norms of international justice. In spite of US President Barack Obama's call to freeze Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, no representative from the US was present.

Hanoun, a 51-year-old salesman for the Nestle Corporation whose sales territory includes Jerusalem, the occupied West Bank, and Tel Aviv, is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English. He is a man of culture and conscience, a believer in peaceful co-existence. He is soft-spoken, dignified and humorous, a devoted husband and the father of three wonderful children. He is the global everyman -- simple, honest, hard-working -- hardly deserving to be evicted from his home. But he and his family were evicted, simply because they are Palestinian.

Where does this all leave us? Maher Hanoun, his two brothers and their wives and children and the Gawis, 54 persons all together, are now sleeping under trees 50 feet from their former homes. Menacing armored vehicles are parked in front of each house and the neighborhood is overrun with police, border guards and stone-throwing settlers.

The dispossession of the Hanoun and Gawi families is a clear act of defiance directed at the Obama administration's call to freeze settlements. If it succeeds, this will be a green light for Israel to continue with its ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Already five additional Sheikh Jarrah families have received court summonses and they are fated to join the Hanouns and the Gawis in the street if this supposedly "legal" land grab isn't stopped. If the new US president is to have any credibility on the international stage, he must keep faith with Maher Hanoun. Outside his home, Hanoun hung a big banner bearing President Obama's picture and the slogan "OBAMA,YES YOU CAN stop housing evictions in Sheikh Jarrah." He and the world are still waiting.

Marcey Gayer is an Israeli-American activist residing in Tel Aviv.

Young love in Gaza

Eman Mohammed writing from the occupied Gaza Strip, Live from Palestine, 17 August 2009

Newlyweds Rana and Mahmoud al-Zourby at their home in the Gaza Strip. (Eman Mohammed)

They say that all is fair in love and war. In Gaza, love and war have come together in a bittersweet union.

Rana, 26, like many women around the world, dreamed of walking down the aisle in a white dress and veil. But her marriage to Mahmoud is extraordinary in many ways as life is these days in Gaza.

On the rehearsal morning about a week before their planned wedding, Mahmoud, 21, got dressed with the help of his younger brother, then sat smiling in the corner as he waited for Rana to come visit to write out invitation cards. Before Israel's winter invasion of Gaza, it was easy for Mahmoud to recognize Rana from the merest glimpse. After the war he had to find new ways to sense her presence. "Sometimes I know she is around when I hear her giggle, or when I hear her talking to my mother," he said.

Mahmoud lost his eyesight and right leg during an air raid on the ninth day of the attack while he was having dinner with four friends at his neighbor's house. All survived but with severe injuries.

Rana is undaunted by the challenges Mahmoud faces adjusting to life with his injuries. "He lost his sight and his leg, but no bomb can ever take his heart, and he will never lose his sense of love," she said. "I can't understand why some people see what we are doing as hard; no marriage is easy," she added. "This is a life-long commitment, for better or worse."

At a traditional family gathering before the wedding, relatives and friends expressed their admiration for Rana and Mahmoud and have done much to support their wedding plans. Life for young couples is especially hard under the siege conditions in Gaza. A relative applied for Rana and Mahmoud to be included in one of the joint weddings held by the al-Tayssir Association, an Islamic charity that holds such events to help those injured in the war have normal lives. Mahmoud's parents have donated their bedroom to the young couple after renovating it for them.

Umm Rawhi, Mahmoud's mother, expressed her excitement about the expected wedding: "We may be simple people who don't have two pennies to rub together, but we are here for each other." Reflecting on her son's injuries, she added, "Marriage might be the last thing anyone in Mahmoud's shoes would think about, but life goes on."

Mahmoud's father, Abu Rawhi, added, "I was as surprised as others at Mahmoud's decision, but I would do anything to see him happy again, especially after all he has been through. Still, I would never want to jeopardize anyone else's happiness, even for my own son. So I thank God every day for sending Rana. She not only made my son happy, but she made all of us smile when we thought we would never smile again."

Eman Mohammed is a Jordanian-Palestinian freelance photojournalist and reporter based in the Gaza Strip since 2005.

Fatah conference leaves problems unresolved

Helena Cobban,

WASHINGTON (IPS) - Mahmoud Abbas, the 74-year-old leader of the Palestinian Fatah movement, registered a significant achievement in holding the movement's Sixth General Conference, which has been wrapping up its business in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank this week.

But veteran Palestinian analysts say Abbas's biggest internal political challenges still lie ahead. Many of these challenges, they note, stem directly from the compromises he made to be able to convene the conference at all -- and to ensure that it presented the trappings of success in the form of a political platform and leadership elections.

One of the biggest compromises was linked to the decision to hold the conference inside the Israeli-occupied West Bank. That meant there were numerous long time Fatah activists from the demographically weighty Palestinian diaspora -- and from Gaza -- who were barred from attending by Israel.

An additional 470 Fatah members from Gaza were barred from attending by the Islamist movement, Hamas, which now controls Gaza. Hamas said it would only allow Fatah's delegates to travel to Bethlehem if Fatah released all or most of the numerous Hamas people it has imprisoned in the West Bank. Fatah refused.

The Fatah members trapped in Gaza took part in the conference's leadership elections by phone and email.

To no one's surprise a large majority of the conference's 2,241 attendees ended up being West Bankers. For a movement that was founded -- around 50 years ago -- in the Palestinian diaspora and was based on the urgent political demands of the exiled Palestinians, that fact alone marked a sea-change.

The massive swing to West Bankers' predominance in the movement was also evident in the first round of elections. Of the 19 people -- all male -- elected to the Central Committee (CC), one was from Gaza and two from the diaspora. The rest are all West Bankers.

Abbas himself was named head of Fatah by unopposed popular vote, early in the proceedings.

Preliminary CC election results were announced Tuesday -- and within hours they had provoked a storm of anger from many long time Fatah members and activists.

One group of Fatah leaders from the diaspora has announced a decision to form a breakaway called "Fatah, the Awakening." They include Muhammad Jihad, who was a long time CC member until last week -- when he found he had not even been invited to the Bethlehem conference.

Two other prominent former CC members have also gone public with their anger. Farouq Qaddumi, now based in Tunis, criticized the decision to convene the conference in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the beginning.

In mid-July, Qaddumi even publicly accused Abbas of having conspired with Israel in the poisoning death of long time Fatah head Yasser Arafat, who died of unknown causes in 2004.

Another veteran CC member, former Palestinian prime minister and long time Abbas rival Ahmed Qurei, did attend the conference. But he was so angered by losing in the CC elections that he then voiced public criticisms of the vote-counting process, saying the electoral fraud was even greater than in Iran's recent election.

Many Western commentators have described the results of the CC vote as representing a turnover of power to a new generation. However the biggest vote-getter, with 1,368 votes, was Muhammad Ghneim, 71, who along with Arafat, Abbas, and Qaddumi was one of Fatah's earliest leaders. Significantly, Ghneim had also been responsible for drawing up the list of conference attendees.

Coming in second was Mahmoud al-Aloul, a close associate of Fatah founder Khalil al-Wazir, who was killed by Israel in 1988.

Altogether, veteran Fatah "old guard" members made up around half of those elected. And most of even the "young guard" people elected to the CC are in their 50s or 60s -- so the prospects for revitalization do not seem very large.

The two new "young guard" CC members most frequently lauded in Western capitals are Marwan Barghouthi, 50, now serving five consecutive life terms in an Israeli prison, and Mohammed Dahlan, 47, a security boss who has worked closely with US and Israeli security planners for several years.

Barghouthi came third in the voting with 1,063 votes, and Dahlan was tenth, with 853.

Supporters of each of these men had hoped they would top the electoral list. By that metric, their performance was a sharp disappointment. According to some reports, Dahlan only made it onto the list of winners at all by cutting last-minute deals with Abbas and other Fatah politicians.

Also, Barghouthi and Dahlan may belong to the same generation, but they have widely diverging views on many issues.

On the now-key question of whether Fatah should reconcile with Hamas, and on what terms, Barghouthi, like most of the other Fatah prisoners in Israeli jails, has been a strong advocate (and practitioner) of reconciling with Hamas, while Dahlan is a strong anti-Hamas hawk.

In 2007, Dahlan was a key actor in a US-backed plan to topple the Hamas government in Gaza by force. The attempt failed. Since then he has been a highly controversial figure in Palestinian politics -- including inside Fatah -- where some criticize the failure of his anti-Hamas coup attempt and others the fact he tried it at all.

Hussein Agha, a veteran Palestinian analyst based in London, noted that even if the CC's "young guard" members could agree among themselves on how to revitalize Fatah, they would have a tough time of it. "The movement doesn't have the kind of internal structures in place that would allow to them to effect real change," he said.

He added, however, that one result of Abbas's success in having held the conference -- and having overseen the more-or-less successful generation of a new CC -- is that now he will have to be much more attentive to the views of this new collective leadership, and be more proactive in trying to build support from within it, than he ever was with the previous CC.

Prior to this month, Fatah had not held a General Conference since 1989. Over the years since, many of the movement's mechanisms of internal consultation and discipline fell into disuse.

Abbas in particular, according to many Palestinian analysts, had previously derided calls from Fatah members for more accountability within the movement. But at and since the latest conference he has shown a new attentiveness to the sensibilities of the Fatah base.

That was clearly on display in the "political report" he presented in Bethlehem.

Many long time Fatah supporters who were not at the conference -- and even some who were -- expressed disappointment that the report provided no critical evaluation of the movement's successes and failures over the decades since the last conference, and that no one within the movement was held to account for the failures.

But in the report, Abbas straddled a fine line on the question of whether Fatah should support active, presumably military, resistance to the Israeli occupation. He said that though "legitimate forms of resistance" remained a Palestinian right, still, Fatah remained committed to negotiating a peace with Israel.

His remarks about "legitimate resistance" aroused predictable ire from those in Israel who do not want to negotiate a peace agreement with any Palestinian leaders, however moderate.

In his report, Abbas also spelled out that the Palestinians should only resume final peace talks with Israel after Israel stops its settlement-building program in the West Bank and releases all the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners it currently holds.

In fact, this brings Fatah's positions on the big diplomatic issues, on paper, very close to those of Hamas.

Reconciliation talks between the movements are scheduled to resume in Cairo later this month. But Palestinian analysts note that Abbas -- unlike some people in Fatah's new CC -- remains strongly opposed to the reconciliation. And they judge there is little probability the talks will generate a ruling coalition capable of representing the Palestinians in any resumed peace talks -- unless Abbas is subjected to much stronger pressure from Washington to make this happen.

For many years now the US and its allies in the European Union have been the main financers of all the Fatah-headed Palestinian institutions.

So does the record of the recent congress make Fatah stronger? Agha gave a nuanced reply. "It made nearly all the people who were at the meeting very happy," he said. "Remember, some of them haven't seen each other for many years. So from that point of view the conference was a real achievement for Abu Mazen [Abbas]."

But, he added, "There was no real political discussion in Bethlehem at all. None of Fatah's many problems were resolved, or even addressed. So the feeling of happiness won't last for more than two or three months -- if that."

Helena Cobban is a veteran Middle East analyst and author. She blogs at