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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thousands rally in Tel Aviv in support of democracy in Israel

  • Published 23:05 22.11.11
  • Latest update 23:05 22.11.11
 Protesters say series of bills passed in the Knesset in recent days is draconian and anti-democratic; activists block several junctions, 7 arrested.

By Gili Cohen 

Approximately 2,000 protesters rallied in Habima Square in Tel Aviv on Tuesday against the series of Knesset bills seen by them as draconian and anti-democratic.

The rally came after on Monday a contentious bill toughing Israel's libel passed its first hurdle in the Knesset, passing first reading despite vocal resistance from both opposition and coalition members.

Tel Aviv protest - Alon Ron - 22.11.2011 Protesters at a rally in support of freedom of the press, Tel Aviv, Nov. 22, 2011.
Photo by: Alon Ron

The bill represents an amendment to Israel's existing libel law, which would make it possible to sue a newspaper for libel, not only for commensurate compensation for any tangible damage caused by the publication, but for an additional sum of NIS 300,000 − without having to prove damages.

Critics of the amendment believe this will hamper freedom of expression and the independent press.
After the Tuesday rally, hundreds of protesters began blocking roads, including the junctions of Rothchild Boulevard and Marmorek, and the corner of King George and Bograshov.

Police tried to clear the protesters and used pepper spray. One person was arrested, but the protesters are currently blocking the police car he was put into. The police is negotiating with the protesters. Seven protesters were arrested following the rally.

Attorney Talia Sasson, who in 2005 wrote a report on illegal outposts, said at the demonstration that “dark forces have risen upon Israel.”

According to Sasson, the recent wave of legislation “is not a change of parties in a democratic state, it is regime change. We should be trembling with fear… we must shout out the cry of Israeli democracy and not let up.”

Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz also spoke at the rally, saying that “we are facing a government that cannot stand a different voice. Not because the voice is dangerous, but because it is different. You may ask, why are being silenced? Why intimidate the media? To cover women, make them disappear? The goal of persecution is persecution, as George Orwell wrote in his book ‘1984.’”

Some protesters pasted tape on their mouths to protest the new amendment to the libel law, which dramatically raises compensation and is dubbed “the silencing law.” Yariv Oppenheimer, director of Peace now, said: “The Attorney General will not stop the legislation, not even Yair Lapid – it is us who will stop the legislation.”

Prominent Israeli rabbi faces criminal probe over anti-Arab remarks

  • Published 13:11 22.11.11
  • Latest update 13:11 22.11.11
Shmuel Eliyahu was signatory to edict calling on Jews to refrain from selling or renting property to non-Jews; right-wing NGO: Indictment represents crime against the Jewish people.

By Tomer Zarchin and Eli Ashkenazi  
Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein decided Tuesday to open a criminal investigation against Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, for alleged incitement to racism.

The decision to investigate Eliyahu came after he was quoted making several anti-Arab comments in interviews with the media.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu.
Photo by: Emil Salma

Eliyahu was one of 18 rabbis who signed a petition in October 2010, urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews – a move seen as being directed against Arab students enrolled in Safed’s college. Some 50 rabbis eventually endorsed the so-called "rabbis' letter."

The criminal investigation opened by Weinstein will not focus on "rabbis' letter," however, but rather on personal remarks made by Eliyahu.

After a series of complaints were lodged with the Attorney General's office regarding Eliyahu's anti-Arab remarks, Weinstein decided to investigate whether any criminal intention could be found in the remarks.

Eliyahu last year slammed those who have accused him of being a racist, saying that a survey showed that 74 percent of the public supports the letter. He added that he believed the letter had backing from God.

The rabbis of the right-wing NGO World Headquarters to Save the People and the Land of Israel denounced the move to indict Eliyahu, calling the decision "a crime against the Jewish people meant to humiliate Israel's rabbis and Torah."

"We urge Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu do refrain from cooperating with the political investigation, which harkens to a darker time in Jewish history," the right-wing group said.

In another response to Eliyahu's indictment, the Follow-up Committee on Arab Education (FCAE) called the move "too little, and, mainly, possibly too late."

"Eliyahu's racist positions – which Arab students in Safed and around Israel have suffered and continue to suffer – are no longer a marginal phenomenon but have found their way to the majority of Israel's lawmakers and ministers, FCAE director Raja Za'atra said.

Za'atra added that racism was a "malignant" affliction, saying that if Israelis don't "fight it determinately, Jews and Arabs alike, it will bring an irreversible fascist disaster on us all."
Eliyahu, the son of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, is known for his extreme stances, and has been indicted in other occasions for incitement to racism. In one occasion, he called to remove all of Safed Academic College's Arab students following a suicide attack on a bus near Meron in northern Israel.

At the time, Eliyahu criticized Safed Academic College as a potential site for the creations of inappropriate relations between Jews and Arabs, saying that best possible solution for the issue was the forming of a separate Arab college.

In a 2004 interview, Eliyahu commented on posters distributed in Safed, which claimed that "Jewish girls were imprisoned by Arabs in the village of Akbara," saying that relations between Jewish women and Arab men were "another kind of war the Palestinians are waging against us, and we must know how to defend ourselves."

"There are Jewish girls, 15-25 years-old, seduced by young Arab men…. I also know that in many of the cases they were Arab men already married to Arab women, and those Jewish girls were taken as slaves of sort, without any possibility of escape," Eliyahu said.

Former IDF soldier enters jail over leaking classified documents to Haaretz

  • Published 10:03 23.11.11
  • Latest update 10:03 23.11.11 

Last month, Anat Kamm was sentenced to 4.5 years in jail for passing on classified information to Haaretz journalist; Supreme Court rejected request to delay her sentence until verdict is reached in appeal.

By Haaretz 

Former Israel Defense Forces soldier Anat Kamm on Wednesday began serving a four-and-a-half year prison sentence after she was found guilty of gathering, holding and passing on classified army documents to a Haaretz reporter.

Israel's Supreme Court last week rejected Kamm's request to delay her sentence until a verdict was reached in her appeal. Kamm will complete her sentence at the Neve Tirza prison in Ramle.

Anat Kamm jail Anat Kamm entering prison, Nov. 23, 2011.
Photo by: Moti Milrod

During her army service in the bureau of the Central Command commander, Kamm regularly saved copies of documents and slide presentations in a special folder and just before her discharge, copied them onto two CDs.

The documents included plans for military operations, information on troop deployments, summaries of various internal discussions, military targets and intelligence assessments. Of the 2,085 documents she copied, some 700 were classified as "Secret" or "Top Secret."

In September 2008, Kamm met with Haaretz journalist Uri Blau, and gave him a disk-on-key on which she had copied 1,500 documents, of which 150 were classified "Top Secret" and 330 were "Secret."

Blau later wrote several articles based on the documents Kamm had given him. While the articles were submitted to and passed military censorship, their publication spurred the search for his source, though it was around a year before Kamm was arrested.

A love story, a Palestinian story

24 November 2011
The idea of writing about something very personal is haunting me. As a Palestinian, it’s really hard to know where to draw the line between the political and the personal. But, in Palestine, the personal is political and the political is the personal. For now, I’ll keep the political away and dig down into the personal.

My blog Live from Gaza has been an outlet for me to write some simple and humble accounts coming from a very ordinary person living under extraordinary circumstances.

Being a woman from Gaza formed the person that I am today. I proudly consider myself born and raised in Gaza even though I was actually born in Kuwait and moved to Bolivia before coming to Gaza. I discovered my voice on the electronic pages of my blog, where I’ve written a digest of my life.
Now that I am getting married, it’s the time to share my story — a life story, a love story, a Palestinian story.

In the past few months, I’ve been living through some very fast-paced events. I’d be lying if I say that I understand all of them 100 percent. But all I know is that they look like everything I hushed to myself in my sleepless dreams but never actually thought would happen. But they did happen!
I’m a few days away from reuniting and getting married to a man who I really respect, admire and love. Our story proves that love knows no borders, no siege, no time and no occupation. It all started by a tweet debating whether the loud bang that was heard across Gaza was an Israeli bomb or just some thunder.

Building a future

We started as friends who shared the same interests. We tweeted together as Egyptians were toppling Mubarak in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. After chatting online for a while, Mohammed became my best friend. Long chats about Palestine, the world and the future dreams led us to believe that we can build a future together.

Mohammed is Palestinian South African working in Qatar. God brought us together through the social media tools we used to communicate: Twitter, WordPress, Facebook and G-chat, then later on Skype. He left Gaza just a few days before I first knew about him. The last thing I expected in my life is to be engaged and married to a Palestinian South African!

Even when I first told my parents (yeah, I am a Muslim woman who didn’t have an arranged marriage, get over your stereotypes), they were surprised to hear that I was in love with someone from South Africa. But love knows no difference between South Africa and Palestine. Actually, between South Africa and Palestine, there’s the common love of freedom and dignity.

Meeting Mohammed

In April, we were officially engaged. But I had still not yet met Mohammed in person. From April to September, our chats were often cut by the electricity outages, bad Internet connection and the Israeli siege on Gaza. Hearing the ghastly stories of Rafah crossing, the continuous closures and the difficulty of going out and in Gaza, made us more determined to meet. But there were times when I used to tell Mohammed: “being engaged to a Palestinian is a pain, isn’t?” To which he would answer: “I love you all the more because you are a Palestinian.” That answer was enough for me to stand the days, weeks and months of talking on Skype.

Palestinians don’t have airports to travel anywhere, so I had to endure a six-hour trip though Sinai to Cairo then from Cairo’s international airport to the intended destination. So, a trip to South Africa took about six hours by car and eight hours by plane, but the result was totally worth it.

Finally I met my future husband. I enjoyed South Africa for the richness of its history. We visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg where similarities between the Israeli occupation and the former South African apartheid regime are striking. I felt like I was home in South Africa. Indeed, now it’s my second home.

After a forty-day trip between Gaza, Cairo, South Africa, Cairo again, Jordan, then Cairo again, I returned back home to my parents. Mohammed went back to Qatar. Going back to Gaza was like sending me back to prison. We both felt the fear of not being able to go out again. But I’m from Gaza, Palestine, and our wedding must be in Palestine, too.

A difficult good-bye

Time flew by, and very soon I’m uniting with the man that I love in the country that I love here in Gaza. But I’m also a few days away from leaving my family here. Though I’m moving, I know that no matter where I go, I’ll carry Gaza, Palestine and the struggle along with me. Home is where my heart is. And my heart, mind, and roots will be in the country and the city where I grew up.

As I anticipate starting my new life in Qatar, I’ve been buying Palestinian crafts, Gaza mugs, Palestinian embroidery, Palestinian traditional dress and kuffiyehs (traditional checkered scarves). I am moving a part of Palestine that I really cherish into my small house. And I know that I’ll be telling stories about the sea, the war and the contradictions of life in this part of Palestine.

The good-bye will be difficult. Leaving my family, especially my mother, will be the hardest thing I’ll do in my life. The fact that Gaza is not free makes it difficult to visit it whenever I want. Any trip would require me to cross a desert and withstand the humiliation of the Rafah crossing, let alone the possibility that it can be closed anytime. So, I’ll live with the hope that I’ll be seeing them again, God willing.

Lina al-Sharif is a 23-year-old blogger from Gaza, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at

Boycott activists to US hip-hop artist MF Doom: "Don’t entertain a doomed apartheid regime!"

Submitted by nora on Mon, 11/21/2011 - 16:59

Fans of legendary New York-based hip-hop artist MF Doom are demanding that he cancel a scheduled performance in Tel Aviv this week, while student activists and artists in Gaza encourage French singer Mireille Mathieu to do the same. Meanwhile, activists with the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) have released a statement to Filmbase — a “progressive forum for Irish film” — which has agreed to host the Israeli Embassy in Ireland for “Israeli Film Days” beginning 24 November.

Don’t entertain a doomed apartheid regime!

MF Doom, a hip-hop artist known for his eccentric and unique lyrical style as well as his mysterious stage presence, is due to play a show in Tel Aviv on 26 November. PACBI released an open letter to Doom on 14 November that demanded he respect the Palestinian-led call for boycott:
It is with great disappointment that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned of your scheduled performance in Israel set for November 26, 2011. Given that Israel is involved in grave violations of international law and human rights we urge you to cancel this show until the time comes when Israel is in compliance with its obligations under international law and fully respects Palestinian rights. … Israel practices ongoing occupation, colonialism and apartheid over Palestinians.
As a prominent artist of African descent, we hope you can relate to the meaning of this racist, multi-tiered system of Israeli oppression, and its devastating impact on our lives and our culture.  Refusing to entertain Israeli apartheid is a minimal expression of solidarity with our aspirations for freedom, justice and equality. If you play in Israel, you would be performing for the oppressor while undermining our peaceful struggle for justice.
Many of your fans have expressed their outrage over your coming performance in Tel Aviv. In fact, a local Palestinian contemporary of yours, Boikutt Kutt, has written on your Facebook page: “You’re performing 30 minutes from where I live but I can’t come to your show simply because I’m Palestinian. I live in a prison called the West Bank and I’m a big supporter of your music. Don’t play for the oppressor, don’t play for colonialism, don’t play Apartheid ‘Israel’ … Stand on the right side of history and respect the Palestinian call for boycott.” We join your fans in urging you to stand up for what is right.
Boycott apartheid in the name of love!”
Responding to French pop singer Mireille Mathieu’s scheduled performance in Tel Aviv on 22 November, artists, musicians and students activists in Gaza have released an open letter to her, encouraging her to respect the Palestinian-led call for boycott and cancel her show.
The letter states, in part:
You once sang about your lament of soldiers going to war, ‘In line, soldiers of love’ calling on them to, ‘leave in the name of love.’ Yet you plan to entertain the Israeli armed forces that control, limit and demean our very existence, many of whom will be in the crowd for whom you intend to perform. Right now Israeli soldiers are committing with impunity all manner of well documented war crimes against us, the indigenous population of Palestine.

We are calling on you now to heed our call to boycott the only apartheid regime in the world that maintains our imprisonment. In what mainstream human rights organizations have called the largest open-air prison in modern history, we tell you that Israel’s five-year blockade, 63 years of dispossession and ethnic cleansing must come to an end. Until then we rely on people of conscience, including artists and musicians, to take a stand and refuse to perform there.
Apartheid debases art!
Activists with the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) launched an email campaign to protest the move by Dublin’s Filmbase forum to host the Israeli embassy for a series of “Israeli film days” beginning 24 November.
Raymond Deane, cultural boycott officer with the IPSC — and contributor to The Electronic Intifada — wrote an open letter to Filmbase on 10 November, stating:
I would remind you that the Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry has explicitly stated that it “sees no difference between hasbara (propaganda) and culture.” The information on the Facebook page dedicated to the “Film Days” fails to make the slightest reference to Israel’s status as a rogue state, a serial violator of international law and international humanitarian law, and an illegal occupier of Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese territory. For that reason one can only conclude that these “Israeli film days” will constitute another attempt to whitewash the criminality of the Israeli state by presenting Israeli culture as if it were somehow independent of state propaganda.
Please note that respected Irish filmmakers like Bob Quinn, Joe Comerford, Dearbhla Glynn and Steve Woods, as well as actors like Stephen Rea and SinĂ©ad Cusack, have signed the IPSC’s “pledge to boycott Israel.” Most recently, John Michael McDonagh declined an invitation to be present at the screening of his film The Guard at the Haifa Film Festival, in protest against Israeli politics.
At a time when Irish peace activists have been illegally imprisoned in Israel after their humanitarian ship the MV Saoirse was hi-jacked in international waters by Israeli commandos, hosting these “Israeli Film Days” sends out the worst possible message: that Filmbase is indifferent to its exploitation as a site of propaganda for the state that perpetrates such atrocities. To cancel the event at this point would send the opposite message, and would be perceived worldwide as an honourable gesture of solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people who have called for an international cultural boycott of the Israeli state.
PACBI also released a statement on 18 November that echoed IPSC’s demands, adding:
The Israeli embassy is actively promoting this free-of-charge festival on social media, and the festival’s promoters promise an extravaganza of Israeli music, dance, photography, and food dedicated to “celebrating the success of Israeli cinema worldwide.” Given Israel’s intensifying occupation, colonialism and apartheid, we call on Filmbase to cancel this latest Israeli festival which aims at “re-branding” Israel and whitewashing its grave violations of international law and Palestinian rights.
We are particularly surprised that a prominent Irish cultural institution would allow the Israeli embassy to carry out this audacious “Brand Israel” activity on its premises hardly two weeks after Irish peace activists were illegally apprehended by the Israeli navy in international waters, humiliated and imprisoned in Israel after the MV Saoirse was accosted and hijacked by Israeli commandos.

Netanyahu Rejects U.S., International Calls To Release Palestinian Money

Wednesday November 23, 2011 10:15 by Saed Bannoura
Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, phoned Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, urging him to release Palestinian tax money Israel has been withholding since Palestine was voted as a full UNESCO member. Netanyahu also rejected a request from the U.N. in this regard.
Image By Arabs48
Image By Arabs48
Officials at the Netanyahu office stated that Clinton phoned Netanyahu, but claimed that the call was focused on the Iranian file, and not the $200 Million Israel is withholding.

Last week, Israeli National Security Adviser, Tom Donilon, phoned his Israeli counterpart, Yaakov Meridor, discussed measures regarding new sanctions on Iran, and informed him that the White House expects Israel to release the Palestinian tax money.

Israeli sources reported that Clinton demanded Netanyahu release the Palestinian tax money, but Netanyahu rejected the demand and stated that the majority of his cabinet is against the move.

He also stated that Israel will not make any decision until after Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, meets Hamas Political Bureau Chief, Khaled Mashal, in Cairo onThursday.

Israel opposes the Palestinian Unity Agreement, and punishes the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas whenever it makes amends with Hamas.

Also, a spokesperson of the United Nations stated that U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon phoned Netanyahu and asked him to release the Palestinian tax money.

The secretary-General also informed Netanyahu that settlement activities in the occupied territories, and in occupied Jerusalem, hinder the efforts to ensure the resumption of peace talks, adding that settlement construction violates the International Law.

He told Netanyahu that it is imperative to avoid any tension in the region, and to create a positive atmosphere that would help boost the peace process.

It is worth mentioning that Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, opposes the freeze of Palestinian tax money, and repeatedly stated that such a move would make the P.A. unable to pay wages, including the salaries of its security forces “that are helping Israel in countering terrorism”, according to Barak.

Israeli Finance Minister, Yuval Steinitz, pushed for freezing the Palestinian tax money in order to “punish the Palestinians for conducting unilateral moves at the U.N.” Israeli security leaders warned against the move, and said that the freeze harms the Palestinian security forces that coordinate their activities with Israeli.

On his part, Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, threatened to cause the collapse of the government coalition should Israel evacuate settlement outposts, and should it transfer the Palestinian tax money back to the P.A.