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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Foreign ministry: Palmer report not objective

[ 03/09/2011 - 08:07 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)-- The Palestinian foreign ministry in Gaza has criticized the Palmer report on the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla, expressing surprise at its finding regarding the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip.

It charged that the report lacked “objectivity and professionalism”, which made it default on the siege and its “destructive consequences”, adding that the siege is one of the results of occupation.

The report justified Israel’s “oppressive and illegal siege”, which most countries of the world deemed unacceptable and should be lifted, the ministry said, and expressed absolute rejection of such justifications that only allowed Israel to continue its blockade and aggression against the Gaza Strip.

The ministry asked the UN to revise its position regarding the siege on Gaza since it owns specific reports on the degree of oppression and suffering that befell the Strip as a result of the siege.

Hamas Welcomes Turkish Decision To Expel Israeli Ambassador

Saturday September 03, 2011 06:10 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, welcomed the Turkish decision to expel the Israeli ambassador, to reduce the diplomatic relations with Israel, and to freeze all military agreements signed with Tel Aviv.
On Friday, Hamas issued a press release stating that the Turkish decision is “a move in the right direction”, and that this move comes in response to the “Israeli arrogance, and its attack against the Freedom Flotilla”.

It also stated that what Israel did against the Turkish MV Marmara ship and the killing of the nine Turkish activists is a crime against humanity, and as an “act of piracy in international waters”.

The movement further stated that it supports the families of the victims, “the activists who sacrificed their lives for justice”, and that it “salutes the Turkish efforts in prosecuting Israel in international courts”.

At the end of its statement, Hamas called on all Arab and Islamic countries, and all nations that believe in freedom and justice, to boycott Israel and to act on ending the Israeli siege on Gaza.

It also called on the international community to support the Palestinian cause until the people of Palestine achieve their national and internationally guaranteed rights by establishing an independent and sovereign state.

It is worth mentioning that the Israeli Ambassador left Turkey several days ago after he finished his term in office.

The Turkish ambassador to Tel Aviv was recalled last year after Israeli attacked the MV Marmara. Turkey also suspended all of its military cooperation and joint training with the Israeli army. All Israeli flights were also banned from entering Turkish airspace.

France Warns Against Palestinian UN Bid

Saturday September 03, 2011 02:34 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
French Foreign Minister, Alain Juppe, warned the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank of heading to the United Nations this month, and claimed that “heading to the UN to seek international recognition of statehood, could lead to a serious diplomatic crises”.
Flag Of France
Flag Of France
The statements of Juppe came as he was talking to reporters in Sopot city in Poland where EU Minister met for two days, and held informal talks on the issue.
He said that “Paris hopes that the Palestinians will seize the opportunity to reopen the paths of dialogue instead of risking a serious and deep diplomatic crisis”.

Juppe also said that “all 27 EU member countries must have a united stance regarding the September Palestinian UN move to seek recognition of statehood”.

Also, Austrian Foreign Minister, Michael Spindelegger, suggested that the EU should present its own proposal to UN, while several EU diplomats opposed the idea.

Furthermore, EU Foreign Policy Chief, Catherin Ashton, stated that EU countries currently have no time to make a decision on the issue, and how to act at the United Nations, and added that Europe must focus on mediation between Israel and the Palestinians to ensure the resumption of talks.

Ashton added that the changes and revolutions in the Arab World gave the European Union the chance to be part of determining how new democracies in the region should develop and advance.

On Wednesday, French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, called on all European countries to have a united position regarding the Palestinian UN bid.

On Thursday, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, threatened that should the Palestinians go ahead with their plan to seek international recognition of statehood at the UN in September, Israel will void all peace agreements, and the US support to them will be jeopardized.

He said that Israel will not be committed to all signed peace agreements, and that “there are agreements that were signed with the Palestinian Authority, and not the Palestinian government, including agreements regarding exports and imports, water, and security cooperation.

The American born ambassador claimed that “the Palestinians will use the international recognition to file lawsuits against Israel in international courts”, and that “an international recognition of statehood will reduce the possibilities of achieving a peace deal”.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, stated Wednesday that the Palestinian decision to head to the UN is not, in any way, an alternative to peace talks with Israel, but a move to achieve international support to the legitimate Palestinian rights.

Abbas affirmed that the Palestinian Authority is committed to peace and security with Israel, based on the two-state solution based on the Palestinian right to live in an independent and sovereign state, living in peace next to Israel.

The United States said it strongly oppose the move, while several officials stated that Washington will use its Veto power to void the Palestinian UN move. The US believes that direct talks with Israel are the only means to achieve a peace agreement.

The Palestinians had to withdraw from talks with Israel as it violated its obligations, and resumed all of its illegal construction and expansion of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem.

The P.A decision was also made in protest to Israel’s ongoing violations and military escalation in the occupied territories.

Israel deports children to preserve "Jewish character" of state

1 September 2011
Israel arrested and attempted to deport a migrant worker and her young child last month.
JERUSALEM (IPS) - After Israel attempted to deport the first migrant workers’ child educated in its school system, human rights groups are calling on the Israeli government to develop a clear immigration policy and an official protocol that will minimize the psychological impact of detaining and deporting young children.

We ask the government to show humanity and compassion to these children and to their families and to try to work out a policy which will not on one hand deport the children and at the same time bring [new] people into Israel again and deprive them of their right to raise a family,” Moriel Matalon, chairman of the Israel branch of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.

In addition to the negative effects of this “revolving door” immigration policy, Matalon said that putting the children of migrant workers in jail prior to deportation is a clear violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Israel is a signatory.

It’s unjustified to put the children with their parents in jail or in prison, even for a temporary period of time. This can have a tremendous adverse effect on the raising up of the child,” Matalon said. “These children have committed no crime whatsoever. There’s no reason they should spend any time in jail.”
In July 2009, the Israeli government announced its intention to deport 1,200 children of undocumented migrant workers. After a great deal of criticism, an inter-ministerial committee finally approved the deportation of 400 children in August last year, while the remaining 800 were told they could apply for permanent status in Israel if they met certain requirements.

These criteria included that the children speak fluent Hebrew, be enrolled in the Israeli school system in the first grade or higher, have been born in Israel or entered before the age of 13, have been in Israel for five consecutive years, and have parents who entered Israel legally.

Zionist considerations”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the time: “We all feel and understand the hearts of children. But on the other hand, there are Zionist considerations and ensuring the Jewish character of the state of Israel. We don’t want to create an incentive for the inflow of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrant workers.”

But many of the undocumented workers lost their legal status simply by giving birth, as Israeli policy formerly stipulated that migrant workers who give birth must either send their babies back to their home countries, or keep their children and lose their work visas.

In April this year, the Israeli high court ruled that this law was unconstitutional.

Forcing a woman to choose between continued employment while realizing her legitimate financial expectations, and realizing her right to motherhood, cannot be reconciled with the normative and legal-constitutional perceptions of Israeli society. Constructing the alternatives in such a way is, first and foremost, a violation of the migrant worker’s right to parenthood,” the court stated in its ruling.
As the court’s ruling is not being implemented retroactively, migrant workers who gave birth before the ruling are still scheduled for deportation with their children. According to Noa Galili, spokeswoman for Israeli Children, an organization that has been working to stop the deportations and grant the children permanent status in Israel, approximately sixty children have been deported to date.

No doctor for detainees

There’s no official protocol [for the arrest and deportation of children] so, for example, there’s no doctor in the detention facility [at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport] specifically for kids. Social workers aren’t there all the time. The mothers say there’s not enough milk for the babies or water to wash the kids. It’s really, really problematic.”

This lack of a formal policy on how to carry out the arrest, detention and deportation of migrant workers and their children causes serious damage to the psychological well-being of the children, Galili said.

In a lot of cases, we can see that kids react with anxiety. We heard a lot of cases where the kids started throwing up because that’s how they reacted to the arrests. There is no routine, no written routine, and that’s what we’ve been asking for since the beginning of the arrests: that they have a protocol for how they arrest kids.”

Ultimately, Galili said that the Israeli government should provide the children with permanent status because they were born in Israel and don’t know anywhere else as home, and because their parents entered the country legally.

It’s not that we’re asking to make a law that from now on, all kids that are born in Israel should get status, but rather creating immigration laws so that all the kids that are here today should get status,” she said. “It’s a small number of kids and deporting them will be the biggest trauma of their life.”

All rights reserved, IPS - Inter Press Service (2011). Total or partial publication, retransmission or sale forbidden.

How US "charities" break tax laws to fund Israeli settlements

3 September 2011
In spite of US government statements about its displeasure with the expansion of Israeli settlements, US based organizations are abusing the 501(C)3 section of US tax codes to provide billions in subsidies to do exactly that.

There are hundreds of these tax-exempt, so-called charities funneling money to illegal Israeli settlements, often with the names no more creative than “American Friends of name an Israeli settlement.”

One such organization, American Friends of Ariel Inc., paints a picture of how these US based front groups collect tax-deductible donations, and use them to build and expand illegal Israeli settlements, and in some cases, purchase weapons for the settlers within them. In many cases, including that of American Friends of Ariel Inc., the organization does not make substantial efforts to disguise the fact that the US based tax exempt entity is nothing more than a shell organization being used to transfer money abroad.

For example, the president of American Friends of Ariel, Ron Nachman, also happens to be the longtime mayor of Ariel. The sole programmatic function of American Friends of Ariel is to transfer funds to a non-exempt organization based in Ariel called the Ariel Development Fund, also controlled by Nachman, which describes itself simply as the “fundraising arm of the city of Ariel.” Under Ron Nachman’s leadership, American Friends of Ariel transferred more than $5 million to the Ariel Development Fund over the last several years.

It is worth noting that much of the funding for American Friends of Ariel has come from Christian Zionist groups, and in general, these groups have played an increasingly dominant role in the financial and political support for the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.

Devastating impact

The work of American Friends of Ariel Inc., and the many tax-exempt organizations like it, is having a devastating impact on local Palestinian communities. A recent report by the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs, covered by the Ma’an News Agency, described the “alarming trends of forced displacement of Palestinians in Area C” as a result of settlement expansion, and found that “more demolitions have taken place so far in 2011 than in all of 2009 and 2010 combined” (“UN: Marked increase in forced displacement of Palestinians,” 21 July 2011).

In addition to the gross human rights violations inherent in illegal Israeli settlement expansion, US taxpayers simply cannot afford to build homes and walls in illegal Israeli settlements while record numbers of Americans are losing their homes, and unmet domestic needs in the US are at an all time high.

American Friends of Ariel, and the vast number of organizations like it, not only violate Palestinian human rights, they violate US laws. American Friends of Ariel Inc. flouts US laws in two ways.
The first has to do with the structure of the organization, and the fact that most of these tax exempt 501(c)3 organizations are simply shells that transfer money to non-exempt organizations abroad, and the second deals with the exempt purposes set forth by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury Department.

The rule concerning the use of tax exempt entities as conduit organizations is clear, and states that “the code would be nullified if contributions inevitably committed to a foreign organization were held to be deductible solely because, in the course of transmittal to a foreign organization, they came to rest momentarily in a qualifying domestic organization” (Section 170(c)(2)(A)). That is exactly the case with American Friends of Ariel Inc., and hundreds of organizations like it, a fact which is abundantly clear upon review of their publicly available 990 tax forms.

Exacerbating poverty and neighborhood tensions

The second major legal violation occurs because these organizations fundamentally violate the purpose for which charities can be organized, namely to provide “relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.”

Illegal Israeli settlements, mostly built on expropriated land and operated with stolen resources, exacerbate poverty and systematically create an underprivileged class of people. Race-based colonies inherently increase neighborhood tensions, and they effectively annex occupied Palestinian land through a system of apartheid infrastructure that has been detrimental to Palestinian communities across the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

The raison d’etre of illegal Israeli settlements is rooted in institutionalized discrimination, and therefore technically violates IRS regulations on a daily basis in the same way that Bob Jones University violated those same regulations barring discrimination (Bob Jones University v United States).

In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that the IRS had the authority to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because they openly discriminated against interracially married individuals. The court ruled that such behavior was “wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption,” and clarified by stating that “whatever may be the rationale for such private schools’ policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy.” Fundamental human rights like equality are not confined by jurisdiction, and organizations operating abroad are similarly bound to respect and uphold them.

The numerous and flagrant violations of the tax-exempt purposes set forth by the IRS and Treasury department should be reason enough to revoke the tax-exempt status of these organizations. It is hard to imagine the US playing any constructive role as an “honest broker” when in addition to providing $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel, Americans are also being forced to subsidize the construction and expansion of the same illegal settlements that our government is politely telling Israel are very unhelpful.

Because of the US government’s unwillingness to equally enforce the law, or use the proverbial stick instead of just carrots, money that would otherwise be going into our national treasury to pay down the debt or build affordable housing in the US, is instead being used to construct and defend Jewish-only colonies in the occupied West Bank.

Mike Coogan is a member of Virginians for Middle East Peace.