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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

'Israeli Rosa Parks' receives death threats after refusing to move to back of ultra-Orthodox bus

  • Published 13:56 04.01.12
  • Latest update 13:56 04.01.12

Tanya Rosenbilt made headlines last month when she refused to let an ultra-Orthodox man dictate where she can sit on a public bus traveling from Ashdod to Jerusalem.

By Ophir Bar-Zohar

Tanya Rosenbilt, the Israeli woman who refused to move to the back of the bus when told to do so by an ultra-Orthodox male passenger last month, said Wednesday that she had received several death threats. 

Rosenbilt, hailed as the "Israeli Rosa Parks," filed a complaint to the Yarkon District police after she had received threats through the phone, email, and Facebook. 

Tanya Rosenblit Tanya Rosenblit
Photo by: Ilan Assayag

Rosenbilt made headlines last month when she refused to let an ultra-Orthodox man dictate where she can sit on a public bus traveling from Ashdod to Jerusalem. When she refused to move to the back of the bus, the man held the door openand would allow it to move for approximately 30 minutes. 

When other passengers began to complain about the delay, the driver called the police. The policeman who arrived on the scene spoke with the man and then also asked Rosenblit to move to the back of the bus. When she refused, the man who had been holding the door alighted and the bus continued on its way. 

Rosenbilt was speaking during a discussion of the interministerial team charged with examining the problem of the exclusion of women in Israel, headed by Minister Limor Livnat.

Rabbi Moshe Ravad’s decision comes a day after the IDF officially announced it will not excuse religious soldiers from official army events that feature female soldiers singing.

  • Published 20:45 03.01.12
  • Latest update 20:45 03.01.12

Israeli army rabbi quits Haredi recruitment program amid women’s singing row

By Gili Cohen  
Rabbi Moshe Ravad, Chief Rabbi of Israel Air Force, who also heads a program which recruits Haredim into the air force, has asked on Tuesday to leave the program following the controversy of women singing in IDF events. 

Lt. Col. Ravad’s decision comes a day after the IDF officially announced that it will not excuse religious soldiers from official army events that feature female soldiers singing. 

In a letter published in the ultra-Orthodox website, Ravad said that “in recent months the personnel directorate decided to open up the rules and review them.” According to Ravad, “in the latest draft of the new rules, I saw that clauses meant to protect the soldier’s religious beliefs, and another clause that permits activity that may offend religious beliefs.” 

IDF entertainment - Dan Keinan - September 2011 A member of an IDF entertainment troupe singing during a performance in Rishon Letzion in 2007.
Photo by: Dan Keinan

Ravad said that “even though I received a promise that the laws will be reviewed again, in light of the current situation I cannot see myself being a part of the program as a rabbi and an adviser.” 

IDF spokesman said in a statement that “as agreed a few months ago, the officer who serves as the IAF rabbi is scheduled to retire from the IDF in the summer of 2012. Contrary to the report, the officer has not requested to end his duty or his military service, but asked not to be responsible anymore for the Shahar program.” 

In recent weeks, a number of controversial incidents have spurred the discussion over women’s equality in the public arena. The debate started following the refusal of a number of IDF soldiers to listen to a female soldier singing. 

The debate continued with protests over the removal of images of women from advertisements and on buses in Jerusalem, disagreement on a public bus where women are forced to sit separately from men at the back of the vehicle, and a number of cases of segregation between the sexes in public places, such as at medical centers. 

Following the forced removal of a female passenger from her bus seat by an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on a public bus last week, Netanyahu condemned that incident too, saying that Israel “must protect its public space, and maintain its openness and safety for all citizens.”

Israeli forces 'detain 6-year-old' in Jerusalem

Published today (updated) 04/01/2012 10:32

Muhammad Ali Dirbas, 6, was detained by
Israeli forces in Jerusalem on Tuesday, his
relatives said. (MaanImages/HO)

JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- An undercover Israeli force briefly detained a 6-year-old boy in East Jerusalem on Tuesday, relatives said.

The child's grandfather Dawood Dirbas told Ma'an that Israeli officers raided al-Isawiya and local youth threw stones at the military vehicles.

He said his grandson Muhammad Ali Dirbas was going to the shop when Israeli forces apprehended him and took him to a police station in Salah Addin street where he was interrogated for four hours.

On his release, Muhammad told a Ma'an reporter that police officers tried to scare him "but I am not afraid of them, and they must leave our land."

Residents of al-Isawiya told Ma'an that Israeli forces and undercover police raided the town, firing stun grenades and tear gas as they tried to detain children.

In July, masked, armed Israeli forces were caught on camera detaining teenagers playing football in East Jerusalem.

One of the boys detained, 13-year-old Islam Jaber, said he was taken to a graveyard and beaten up.

Report: “Israeli Jews Will Lose Majority By 2015”

Tuesday January 03, 2012 21:42 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
Israeli paper, Haaretz, reported that recent Israeli and Palestinian statistics revealed that the demography of the country will significantly change by 2015, and the Jewish majority will sharply decline and the number of Arabs and Palestinians will exceed the number of Jews.
Map Of Historic Palestine - Image By Arabs48
Map Of Historic Palestine - Image By Arabs48

The paper stated that, according to Palestinian statistics conducted by the Palestinian Census Bureau, the number of Palestinians in the Palestinian territories is currently 4.2 Million; 2.6 of them are living in the West Bank, and 1.6 in the Gaza Strip. In addition to 1.4 million who live in the 1948 territories (Israel), which brings the estimated total to 5.6 Palestinians.

Israeli statistics revealed that the population of Israel is now 7.8 Million; 5.9 million Jews, 1.6 million Palestinians and 325,000 of different nationalities.

Statistics regarding the natural growth of the population revealed that by 2015, the Jewish population will be demographically equal to the number of Palestinians (6.3 Million Jews and 6.3 Million Palestinians).

According to the statistics, there will be a Palestinian majority in the land by 2020, as the number of Palestinians is expected to rise to 7.2 million while the number of Jews is expected to rise to 6.8 million.

Hamas: Peaceful resistance not applicable to Gaza

Published yesterday (updated) 04/01/2012 10:01
Palestinian and left-wing Israeli demonstrators face tear gas fired by Israeli
forces during clashes at a protest against a nearby settlement, in Nabi Saleh
village, near Ramallah, on Dec. 16, 2011. (Reuters/Darren Whiteside)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahhar has cast doubt his party will take up peaceful resistance against Israel as advocated by former rivals Fatah.

Under a reconciliation deal between the factions signed in May, officials called for a unified "national strategy," and Fatah officials say that Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal agreed to adopt non-violent popular action in favor of armed struggle.

But in comments to Ma'an late Monday, senior Hamas official in Gaza Zahhar stressed the situation in the Gaza Strip is different to the occupied West Bank.

"Against whom could we demonstrate in the Gaza Strip? When Gaza was occupied, that model was applicable," Zahhar said.

Israeli forces withdrew from the coastal strip in 2005, and imposed a crippling land and sea blockade after Hamas took power in 2007.

Zahhar said that no program of peaceful resistance had been agreed with Fatah. "We only discussed that as a slogan," he said, without elaborating.

The mass popular protests of the Arab Spring are not applicable to Palestinians' opposition to Israeli occupation, he added.

"We can't use the same means seen in Egypt, Syria, and Tunisia because they are inappropriate in the West Bank. Egypt got rid of the British occupation with arms, and since we are resisting occupation, we should use all means including armed resistance."

But Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad told Ma'an that Fatah chief President Mahmoud Abbas and Mashaal agreed at their Nov. 24 meeting to adopt peaceful resistance and to increase its scale both in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank.

Suggesting that agreement was still pending, Zahhar said: "The most important thing is to have a united political agenda. We should agree on whether we want all kinds of resistance, or just limit it to rallies and waving flags?"

The May deal aimed to end four years of division between the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas-led Gaza administration, which split after fighting between the factions exploded in 2007.

Hamas will be ready to step down in the Gaza Strip if another party wins elections, Zahhar said, "however, elections must be honorable."

Differences between the parties' strategy was again highlighted on Monday, when Hamas slammed Fatah officials' participation in talks with Israeli and Quartet envoys in Jordan this week, saying such meetings were "reproducing a failed policy."

Get all Doc Jazz songs for free - until January 15th !

 Tuesday, 03 January 2012 08:44

It started out as giving away a .zip file of the complete works of Doc Jazz to friends on Twitter, but now it's going global !

No doubt you would love to have songs like 'Intifada', 'Right of Return', 'Freedom Flotilla', 'We Resist (Free Palestine)' and 'Wake Up!' so that you can put them on your iPod or share them with your friends. Just follow the instructions, and you too can receive ALL the mp3's of Doc Jazz songs as a single free download!

Here is how:

1. Get a Twitter account, if you don't already have one;

2. Follow @docjazzmusic and send a Tweet that you would like to receive the songs, and you will be followed back;

3. Send a DM (direct message) with your email address. 

NOTE: Your email address will not be shared with others, and will not be used for other purposes. You may occasionally - in fact, rarely - receive news by email about the music of Doc Jazz.

That's it ! A tweet will be sent that you have been sent the song files, would be great if you retweeted that!
You will receive a download link to a .zip file that contains 98 Doc Jazz songs, including the two most recent ones (Right of Return and Ya 7alali Ya Mali). It also includes the Doc Jazz Songbook with many of the lyrics of the songs, in .pdf format. Is that easy or what?

Don't hesitate, just do it, you won't regret it ! This offer is valid until January 15th.

Former Detainee Dies Of Health Condition Suffered While In prison

 Tuesday January 03, 2012 06:29 by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC & Agencies
Zakariyya Daoud, a former Palestinian political prisoner, who got seriously ill while in Israeli prisons, and was only released on August 22, 2011, died of cancer on Monday, he was diagnosed in prison Israeli prisons and was deprived of the needed and specialized medical attention.
Zakariyya Daoud - Image Maan News Agency
Zakariyya Daoud - Image Maan News Agency

Israel released Daoud, 43, after he spent nine years out of a 16-year sentence due to the ongoing decline in his health condition. He is a father of four children; Ahmad, 19, Wisal, 20, Malak, 14, and Dalal, 13, the Maan News Agency reported.

He was kidnapped and imprisoned by Israel on February 10th, 2003, the Palestinian Prisoners Society (PPS) reported.

The PPS said that Zakariyya had cancer that spread in his body due to the lack of specialized medical treatment in Israeli prisons.

He used to be a member of the Palestinian Soccer Team, and a member of the soccer team in his town, Al-Khader, near Bethlehem. His brother is also a soccer player, in addition to his son, who currently plays with the same team his father once played on.

After his release from Israeli prisons, Palestinian athletes and soccer fans, held a massive ceremony to honor him at the Al-Khader soccer field on August 28, just before a match was held there.

The PPS issued a press release stating that with the death of Zakariyya, the number of Palestinian detainees who died in prison arrives to 204, while the vast majority of them died due to torture, the lack of adequate medical attention, and due to being shot or continuously beaten after or during their arrest.

The PPS called on the international community to ensure that all ill detainees in Israeli prisons and detention facilities receive all needed medical help and attention.

OIC Secretary General Launches Urgent Appeal to Rescue Health Sector in Gaza

Article Date:
10:34 2012/01/03 

Article ID:
Jeddah, January 03 (QNA) - The Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has launched an urgent appeal for emergency medical assistance to the Gaza Strip in order to address the unprecedented health crisis in the Strip. Ihsanoglu appealed to the OIC Member States, humanitarian organisations and philanthropists in the Muslim world as well as to civil society and international organisations in the world to provide urgent assistance to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, particularly for the treatment of cancer diseases, the provision of dialysis supplies with a view to alleviating the difficult humanitarian situation due to the lack of medicines and the other health requirements. Meanwhile, the OIC Humanitarian Affairs Department stated that the OIC humanitarian aid coordination offices in Cairo and Gaza are prepared to coordinate the provision of the required assistance and facilitate access to beneficiaries in the Gaza Strip. In another respect, health centres and hospitals in the Gaza Strip are unable to meet the health needs particularly due to hospitals'' failure to provide medicines and medical supplies, which may lead to a disaster in the health sector which is already exhausted as a result of the Israeli blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip. (QNA) SHM/LY

2012 Campaign: The United States of “Israel”?

Nour Rida  

Its 2012, the presidential battle in the United States of America started its real warm up. Since the current US President Barack Obama took office in 2009, he has only been adding up more stories to the “Tell some Obama administration memoirs”. He has spent his term collecting the scattered US administration and people, who had suffered a lot during the Bush era, but not too long before he even did worse. 

The failing health care plan, the ballooning nation’s debts reaching past $15 trillion, the expansion of US military activity worldwide-including the drones buzzing over several countries and aiming for haphazard targets under the pretext of counter-terrorism, the ongoing financial support for “Israel’s” Iron Dome and War system at the time some Americans still live in tents upon loss of their homes during the Global financial crisis back in 2009, and the list of O’bummer achievements is endless. Oh and did we forget to mention the oil spill in the Mexican gulf that has led to a natural disaster? All that among claims that economy is on the mend…

In his May 2011 speech on the Middle East, President Obama described the US commitment to “Israel’s” security as “unshakeable”. Also in 2011, the Obama administration requested $3 billion in Foreign Military financing for “Israel”, the highest level since 2003. According to the State Department, the assistance is aimed at maintaining “Israel’s” “qualitative military edge” and ensuring “the security it requires to make concessions necessary for comprehensive regional peace.”

Today, after all the relentless efforts Obama has made to support “Israel”, nearly all Republican presidential candidates have expressed resentment towards the Obama administration for what they said is waning support for “Israel”. They also have expressed strong backing for “Israel”, as quotes the Council on Foreign Relations. 

Beginning with Representative Michele Bachmann, she cites her Christian background as the foundation of her support for “Israel”. “”Israel” is not merely the cradle of my faith; it’s the greatest strategic asset the United States has in the region.” She says, stressing that “the United States should ensure that “Israel” gets “stronger and stronger” so that it is able to defend itself “at all times and under all circumstances.”

Bachmann said she would “fully recognize al-Quds (Jerusalem) as “Israel’s” undivided capital, and will be the first administration to finally implement the laws passed by Congress requiring the State Department to move the US Embassy to al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

As for Newt Gingrich, in his remarks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in December 2011, former speaker of the House Gingrich said the greatest obstacle is that “Israel” should not be expected to negotiate with any Palestinian coalition that includes Hamas, “an organization dedicated to its destruction.” Gingrich, criticizing Obama’s stance on pre-1967 borders as a basis for negotiations during his May 2011 speech on the Middle East, said it is “a suicidal step for “Israel”.”

Gingrich supports the recognition of Jerusalem as the “undivided capital of a Jewish state,” and has also vowed, if elected, to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to al-Quds (Jerusalem). 

In a December 2011 interview, Gingrich questioned the historical basis of a distinct Palestinian people, stating “remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman Empire. And I think that we’ve had an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs, and were historically part of the Arab community.”
As for Jon Huntsman, he believes “the foundation of a successful US policy in the Middle East rests upon a strong US-”Israel” relationship.”

Huntsman says the “best chance for peace is for “Israel” to know that America stands shoulder-to-shoulder beside her and for the Palestinians and “Israelis” to negotiate with each other.”

Writing in the National Review Online, Huntsman referred to the Palestinian bid for statehood at the UN as a “cynical, counterproductive ploy.”

In the short term, he says, “We must work to regain the confidence of our friends in Israel so that meaningful work toward an enduring peace can begin.”

Representative Ron Paul, for his part, calls for a reduced US diplomatic role in Arab-”Israeli” affairs, including cutting off foreign aid to “Israel” and other countries in the region. Perhaps being less diplomatic on “Israel” would help him arrive in office… He says the United States buys “Israel’s” allegiance and “they sacrifice their sovereignty to us.”

Paul has also been critical, referring to the 2009 “Israeli” invasion of Gaza as a “sad day” that demonstrated the “unfortunate” spread of preemptive war.

He has described conditions in Gaza as a “tragedy” similar to that of a concentration camp. He opposed House Resolution 34, a 2009 congressional motion formalizing U.S. support for Israel’s actions in Gaza. Paul said he was “appalled by the longstanding Israeli blockade of Gaza–a cruel act of war–and the tremendous loss of life that has resulted from the latest “Israeli” attack.”

Now Texas Governor Rick Perry, a strong advocate of U.S.-”Israeli” relations, describes the latter as a special partner and the US’s “oldest and strongest ally in the Middle East.”

Perry condemned the White House for suggesting the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations, and described the Palestinian insistence on the “right of return” of refugees as “a disturbing sign that the ultimate Palestinian ‘solution’ remains the destruction of the Jewish state.”

Perry says the Obama administration has encouraged Palestinians to “take steps backward” from the peace process by demanding an Israeli settlement freeze in late 2010.

Speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition Forum in December 2011, Perry said, “I support the goal of a Palestinian state, but it should be the Palestinians who meet certain preconditions,” These preconditions include a statehood “directly negotiated between “Israeli” and the Palestinian leaders; second, a Palestinian recognition of “Israel’s” right to exist as a Jewish state; and third, Palestinian leaders must renounce the terrorist activities of Hamas.”

Under the title “An American Century”, which outlines his foreign policy strategy, Republican candidate Mitt Romney describes “Israel” as the closest US ally in the Middle East, and said he will work to maintain “Israel’s” “strategic military edge.” He iterated that “The key to negotiating a lasting peace is an “Israel” that knows it will be secure.”

Romney said he will oppose “any measure,” such as a moratorium on Jewish settlements, “that would frustrate direct negotiations” between the two parties.” In the November 2011, foreign policy debate, Romney said, “My first foreign trip will be to “Israel”, to show the world we care about that country and that region.”

Just like his fellow candidates, Lawyer and former United States Senator from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Rick Santorum has denied the existence of a Palestinian people, stating that “All the people who live in the West Bank are “Israelis”, they are not Palestinians. There is no Palestinian. This is “Israeli” land.”

In a November campaign stop, the candidate also strongly condemned the Palestinian statehood bid at the UN, describing the move as “an embarrassment to this country,” and “an offense to the state of “Israel”.”

In the National Review Online in May 2011, Santorum wrote that “Israel” “has never been in more danger of disappearing” and described it as “surrounded by an armed alliance of Jihadist fundamentalists and nationalists.” 

The 57th quadrennial United States Presidential Election will be held on November 6, 2012, and it will be expected to feature the incumbent, President Barack Obama for the Democrats, against a yet to be decided Republican candidate all “Israel”-friendly. 

All Republican candidates have exploited the stuttering economy, runaway public debt and the lack of viable solutions as well as the rise to the Occupy Wall Street movement, especially in light of a Democratic administration under which the gap between the rich and poor has widened.

By Nour Rida.  Article originally posted here

Three right-wing activists to be charged over surveillance

Three right-wing activists arrested last month in Jerusalem on suspicion of illegally carrying out surveillance on security forces in the West Bank will be charged in the coming days, police said.

Police said the suspects passed on classified information with a view to creating disturbances.

On Tuesday, the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court extended the custody of five right-wing suspects who police said were involved in the vandalism raid on the Ephraim military base in the West Bank last month.

Livni: Ties weakening between Israeli and Diaspora Jews

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) warned against the weakening of ties between Jews in the Diaspora and their Israeli counterparts, in a meeting with US Senator Joe Lieberman on Wednesday.

Livni cited recent "radical legislation" in the Knesset, religious extremism causing discrimination against women, violence against IDF soldiers and "price tag" attacks carried out by right-wing activists as reasons for the tension. These events, she explained, "make it difficult for [Jews in the Diaspora] to defend Israel."

The government must work to stop "the wave" of worrisome events instead of encouraging it, she urged.

US commander visits Israel to finalize missile drill

Israel, US to hold largest ever missile defense exercise this spring; thousands of US soldiers will be deployed in Israel.

Israel is moving forward with plans to hold the largest-ever missile defense exercise in its history this spring amid Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.

Last week, Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.

The drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.

The US will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel.

The American systems will work in conjunction with Israel’s missile defense systems – the Arrow, Patriot and Iron Dome.

Gorenc came to Israel for talks with Brig.-Gen. Doron Gavish, commander of the Air Force’s Air Defense Division.

He toured one of the Iron Dome batteries in the South and the Israel Test Bed lab in Holon where the IAF holds its interception simulation exercises.

The IAF is planning to deploy a fourth battery of the Iron Dome counter-rocket system in the coming months and is mulling the possibility of stationing it in Haifa to protect oil refineries located there.

The Defense Ministry has allocated a budget to manufacture an additional three Iron Dome batteries by the end of 2012. IAF operational requirements call for the deployment of about a dozen batteries along Israel’s northern and southern borders.

The IAF is also moving forward with plans to deploy Rafael’s David’s Sling missile defense system, which is designed to defend against medium-range rockets and cruise missiles. Rafael recently completed a series of successful navigation and flight tests of the David’s Sling’s interceptor and plans to hold the first interception test by mid-2012.

Israel's radical settlers: A fifth column?

Settlers try to stop security forces from dismantling illegal outposts by making the price too high to bear. 
Last Modified: 03 Jan 2012 17:18
Israel's Supreme Court ruled that the state must destroy six illegal outposts by the end of 2012 [Credit: Jonathan Guyer]

Oz Zion, West Bank - Heroic youth. Righteous Jews. Hill top kids. Crazy folks. Nationalist criminals. Vigilantes. Terrorists. The price tag movement.

Countless names exist for a group of settlers in the occupied West Bank that exact retribution against Palestinians and the Israeli army in response to policies targeting the settlement movement. The group has burned and desecrated mosques, destroyed olive groves on private Palestinian land, harassed people and property, and most recently confronted an Israeli army base. The last assault on December 13 forced Israel's government and the Israeli public to take note of this rogue element in their society.

Police arrested two of these young settlers on Wednesday evening in the illegally constructed outpost of Oz Zion. The reason for their arrest remains unknown.

Oz Zion, or "Zion's might", a newly built outpost erected on private Palestinian land, is east of Ramallah and neighbours the larger settlement of Givat Assaf in the occupied West Bank. The hilltop resembles a campsite with five makeshift wooden sheds, where a few dozen residents live.

A new Aliyah

The average age of those living on the hill is less than 20 and many of the residents' parents live within Israel's green line. A group of girls inhabit a poorly insulated shed as a declaration of commitment to "the land of the Fathers". Young boys carry planks of wood through a barren hilly landscape to build another home as a means of asserting their ownership over the land.

"We know we have to continue building. We can't stop."
- Oz Zion settler
"We know we have to continue building. We can't stop," a 21-year-old youth fervently said.

The dynamics between the residents of Oz Zion and the Israeli authorities are a clear illustration of the confrontation between the concepts of the 'Land of Israel' (religious and nationalist convictions) and the State of Israel (the civic, legal and political entity). Last month, the Israeli police and army dismantled the illegal outpost in a dawn raid. A YouTube video testimonial of the incident was later circulated on the internet. However, the authorities' actions have not deterred the residents of Oz Zion from rebuilding the hilltop. In fact it has only intensified their zeal.

"Our government wants to destroy us, so we have to be prepared to fight back," the young settler said.
He compared the settlement of the land to an Aliyah - an ascent or immigration to the Jewish state. While Aliyah may be difficult, it is worth it, he explained. "What we are doing is for the people of Israel; I am not looking for a comfortable life."

Paying the price

The residents of Oz Zion claim that they are not involved in the "price tag movement", the name given to violent acts by Jewish settlers to prevent security services from dismantling illegal outposts by making the price too high to bear. However they have felt the repercussions of these attacks.

Since a group of right-wing activists vandalised the Israeli army's Eprhaim Brigade in the northwest West Bank and attacked two Israeli army commanders on December 13, the army allocated 30 per cent of its troops to fight price tag attacks.

Both Tel Aviv and leaders of the settlement movement condemned the assault on the base. Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, called the attack "a stain on Israel's democracy". Danny Dayan, the chairman of the Yesha Council, the principal voice of the settlement movement, also denounced the raid, describing it as a "shameful ungrateful atrocity".

Following the attack, Netanyahu announced a set of new steps to be applied to violent settlers. Yet radical settlers have said they will use whatever tools necessary to show that settlements and outposts should not and will not be dismantled.

"We want to go to Ramallah, and Lebanon, and Sinai, and Gaza and live there," a young settler, renowned for being the "best builder in Judaea and Samaria" said.

He dismissed the attack on the army base. "The government is just making noise," he added.

 Religious tensions on the rise in Israel
'Wake-up call' 

In a conflict-driven region, critics question whether the rise in settler violence and direct attack on the Ephraim Brigade signals a new era or whether the episode will go into a collective historical oblivion. Some are asking whether the group is a fifth column in Israel and why the Shin Bet, Israel's internal security forces, remains impotent in the face of these settlers. 

"When you invade an army base and cause damage I think that is a wake-up call," a former US senior official said.

The attack may be a sign that some settlers are using extremer strategies to protect their homes. Yet Avinoam, a 29-year-old student at Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, disagreed. Police have linked students from Merkaz Harav Yeshiva to the attack on the Ephraim Brigade.

He compared the price tag attacks to the summer riots in London and said that just like the youth in London, "these kids have some issues like we all do, you can't hold a grudge against anyone that looks like them and holds the same political opinions".

Sitting in a West Jerusalem cafe, Avinoam described the doctrine behind the settler movement: "It started as something known as mutual solidarity. When they [the army] destroy one hilltop they [the settlers] build another hilltop."

The recent settler-army confrontation has provoked questions about Israel's disengagement from the occupied West Bank. If the response to dismantling small outposts was so violent, how will the government disengage from larger settlements? Nearly half a million settlers live in towns built illegally under international law and the number of those occupying outposts is unknown.

Israel's Supreme Court has ruled that the state must destroy at least six illegal outposts in the West Bank by the end of 2012.

"There is more political tension and campaigns by the settlers because they are trying to do their utmost to prevent the demolitions," said Hagit Ofran, a senior official at Israeli group Peace Now, who monitors the expansion of Israeli settlements. Ofran, who has taken a lead role in petitioning the court to dismantle these illegal outposts, has had her own run-in with these settlers. In November, settlers vandalised her home, slashed her neighbour's tyres, and grafittied death threats like "Rabin is waiting for you", in reference to the murder of the former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Legal measures

As part of an attempt to overcome and delegitimise the Supreme Court decision to dismantle certainillegal outposts by the end of 2012, settlers and right-wing groups have joined together to push forward legislation in Israel's parliament to legalise the outposts. To promote the ruling, a new ad campaign depicts ministers who oppose the bill wearing army uniforms with Peace Now badges. A caption reads: "Members of Peace Now Eviction Forces".

"The problem is that the government is afraid. There is a reason why for 44 years there has not been real enforcement of laws against them."
- Hagit Ofran

"The problem is that the government is afraid. There is a reason why for 44 years there has not been real enforcement of laws against them," Ofran said.

Separate legal systems have existed in the occupied West Bank for Palestinians and Jewish settlers. Palestinians are tried under administrative detention - imprisonment without trial - while Jewish settlers are not. Human rights group have criticised this measure, which strips individuals to due process of law.

In reaction to the attack on the Israeli base, Netanyahu announced that the use of detention without charge and trial through military courts would also apply to "those who raise a hand against Israeli soldiers or Israel police personnel". Thus far, not one of the attackers has been convicted.

'Conspiracy of silence'

Although Tel Aviv has condemned the surge in settler attacks, they have not rethought Israel's settlement expansion project. Netanyahu stressed that he does not believe settlements are the problem. "It is important to me to emphasise that this is a small group that does not represent the public that lives in Judea and Samaria, who are loyal to the state and its laws and who condemn the rioting," he said on December 14.

The expansion of the settlements has not been possible without the co-operation of state and legal institutions.
"It [settler violence] is a movement that has political and legal protection," Hassan Jaafar, the director of Mossawa Centre, an advocacy organisation for Arab citizens in Israel, said.

He explained these settlers are granted lawyers to "support and protect them", the media to "explain them", and money to "finance them".

The former US senior official characterised the state's complicity in a similar way.
"I think the army and the Shin Bet know exactly where they [those who attacked the Ephraim Brigade] are and I think it has essentially been a conspiracy of silence," he said.

"It is part of the coddling that has gone on with the settlement movement for the past 30 years. As you sow, so shall you reap."

Follow Roxanne Horesh on Twitter: @RoxanneHoresh

On anniversary of Gaza war, we will remember IDF soldiers who destroyed Palestinian families

 Published 03:53 02.01.12 Latest update 03:53 02.01.12

While Yoav Galant's name is most prominently mentioned in the context of the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, we must recall the other, nameless soldiers, guided by the spirit of the army's top brass.

By Amira Hass

On the third anniversary of the Cast Lead onslaught, we remember the anonymous soldiers who fired on a red car, in which a father, Mohammed Shurrab, and his two sons were returning home from their farm lands. It is not fair that the officer who then served as GOC Southern Command of the Israel Defense Forces, Maj. Gen. Yoav Galant, will be the only one remembered on this anniversary. Indeed, the list of fighters who should be mentioned and recalled is long. 

We will remember the pilot who delivered the bomb that killed Mahmoud al-Ghoul, a high-school student, and his uncle Akram, an attorney, at the family's home in northern Gaza. We will remember the soldiers who analyze photographs taken by drones, who decided that a truck conveying oxyacetylene cylinders for welding, owned by Ahmad Samur, was carrying Grad rockets - a decision that led to an order to bomb the vehicle from the air which, in turn, led to the deaths of eight persons, four of them minors. 

IDF Cast Lead- Bloomberg IDF soldier during Operation Cast Lead.
Photo by: Bloomberg

We will remember the soldiers who turned the Abu Eida family home in eastern Jabalya into a base and place from which to shoot, and confined in one room an elderly invalid, a blind woman and two older women. We will remember how these soldiers did not allow these four persons to go to the restroom for nine days. We will remember the soldiers who herded members of the Samouni family into one house and were themselves positioned 80 meters from it when it was shelled, with all its residents inside, under orders from brigade commander Ilan Malka - someone else whom we will remember, of course. 

The list goes on and on, and we ask forgiveness from those we haven't cited due to lack of space. But on this occasion we shall especially remember the soldiers at a certain post in the eastern part of Khan Yunis. 

On Saturday, January 17, 2009, at 8:46 (a day before the cessation of the attacks ), I received the following letter from the United States in my inbox: "My father and two brothers were attacked yesterday [Friday, January 16th] while driving home from their farm. One brother [Kassab - 27] died, but the father [Mohammed Shurrab - 64] and the remaining brother [Ibrahim - 17] are now wounded and stranded in an Israeli Defense Force (IDF ) controlled area. They were attacked between 1:00-1:30 P.M. local time during the cease-fire time, and emergency services are unable to reach them." 

The IDF did not allow an ambulance to approach this area; the letter writer, Amer Shurrab, believed that media pressure would help bring about such authorization. "We are very desperate, and trying as many avenues as possible to get aid to reach them. If you know even a foot soldier who might be able to push the ball by calling a local commander we would really appreciate any help," he wrote. 

Shurrab did not know that while he was writing this desperate appeal to a person he did not know, his second brother was already dead, after bleeding in his father's arms for 10 hours. The bereaved brother also did not know that from 6 A.M. that same Saturday, Tom, a field worker for the Physicians for Human Rights nonprofit organization, was in touch with me. 

This was a case of death on via live broadcast: Until the battery of the father's cell phone went dead, Shurrab phoned his relatives in Gaza and the United States, as well as the Red Crescent and the Red Cross, Tom from PHR, and local journalists. 

The humanitarian cease-fire, as it was called by the IDF, had lasted on that Friday from 10 A.M. to 2 P.M. The father, who was driving, and his two sons passed an IDF checking position, and were allowed to continue on. Around 1 P.M. they reached the Abu Zeidan supermarket, in the Al Fukhary neighborhood in eastern Khan Yunis, whose residents had fled at the start of the ground attack. The neighboring house, the largest building on the street, had been turned into an army base two weeks beforehand. Shots were fired from this base at the Shurrab car. Wounded in his chest, Kassab got out of the jeep, collapsed and died. Ibrahim jumped out of the vehicle, and was then wounded in his leg by unrelenting gunfire. 

The father was wounded in the arm, but managed to drag his surviving son to a nearby wall. He saw a tank, and soldiers coming and going. The soldiers could see him. At 11 P.M., 10 hours after the shooting, still pinned against the wall, the father noticed that his bleeding son was becoming cold and that his breathing was becoming labored. He managed to carry his son back to the gunshot-riddled vehicle, hoping it would be warmer there. But half an hour after midnight, between Friday and Saturday, the son drew his last breath, in his father's arms. 

All this occurred some 50 or 100 meters from the soldiers. Periodically, the newly bereaved father spoke on the phone with Tom who, stationed in his Tel Aviv home throughout the night, joined the Red Cross in efforts to persuade the army to allow an ambulance to come immediately to the scene. The European Gaza Hospital is located some two kilometers, a one- or two-minute ride, from this area.
Around 9:30 Saturday morning Tom was informed that the IDF had given authorization for the ambulance to come at noon that day.
At the time, the IDF Spokesman relayed that, "In general, during the cease-fire the IDF opened fire only when rockets were fired at Israel, or shots were fired at the IDF. We are unable to investigate and retrieve the facts of every incident, or to verify or deny each piece of information that is brought to our attention. The ambulance's entry was allowed only after an assessment was made of the situation in the field, and a decision was reached that operational conditions allowed such entry. The wounded persons [!!] were evacuated by the Palestinian health ministry, and brought to the hospital in Rafah." 

I well remember those anonymous solders who destroyed the Shurrab family. Upon my arrival at the site on January 24, I discovered that they had left behind not only the usual images of destruction, and the routine filth, at the Palestinian home from which they fired shots against this family: They also left behind the inscription, "Kahane was right."

Is Hamas a Mean-minded Christmas Scrooge?

16:45 01/01/2012 

By Stuart Littlewood

Phoebe Greenwood, writing from Gaza City in The Guardian on 23 December reported:

'There hasn't been a Christmas tree in Gaza City's main square since Hamas pushed the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza in 2007 and Christmas is no longer a public holiday.'

The headline said Hamas had “cancelled Christmas”. Could this possibly be true?

When I visited Gaza in late 2007 Fr Manuel Mussallam, the feisty old priest in charge of the Catholic community, took me and others to meet Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and some of his colleagues. Relations between Christian and Muslim - or at least between the Catholic community and the Hamas government - seemed strong enough and friendly enough for Christmas celebrations to be left undisturbed.

The very idea of a ban actually makes me smile because Scotland, a Christian country of course, saw Christmas as a papist festival and for centuries discouraged it. When I lived there it wasn't even a public holiday.

But back to the Strip… Is Hamas being beastly to Gaza’s Christians? Has Phoebe Greenwood got her story straight? I wrote to her at The Guardian, pointing out that revelations of this kind in the popular British press undo the hard work activists put in to help the Palestinian cause. Could she please throw more light onto it? I've had no reply.

I’m in England and unable to contact Hamas. Phoebe Greenwood is on the spot. Shouldn’t someone from Mr Haniyeh's office be given a chance to comment?

As for Fr Manuel, he has finally retired and left Gaza. The school he ran there, part-funded by the Vatican, had 1200 pupils. About 1000 were Muslim and some of these the children of Hamas leaders.

The relationship between Muslim and Christian in the Holy Land, and the potential for friction, is frequently poked and prodded simply to make mischief.

Archbishop Theodosius Hanna (Greek Orthodox Church), on a visit to Ireland a year ago, told politicians: "The problem in Palestine has nothing to do with religion – it is not a religious issue. It is not a conflict of Christians, Muslims and Jewish people. It is a conflict between those who are the holders of a rightful cause and those who took away that right by military might.

“Palestinian people as a whole, including Christians and Muslims, have said repeatedly that what they want is peace. We want two states that live together in peace. However, the reality on the ground is that we are extremely far away from that goal because Israel does not want peace."

Fr Manuel, who accompanied the Archbishop, told his listeners what happened when the Christian school in Gaza was targeted.

“Five Hamas ministers visited the school after it was attacked and promised they would repair the damage… A Hamas minister, a Muslim, picked up the Holy Bible thrown on the ground, kissed it and put it back on the altar. He said Muslims were forbidden to do such things to the Bible. Hamas paid more than $122,000 to repair all the damage caused.

“Afterwards I met the Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. When he embraced me he said this, and we believed it. He said: “Go to your family, but be assured that Hamas will employ weapons against Muslims to protect Christians in Gaza.” This is the reality. Christians in Palestine are not suffering persecution, because we are not considered to be a religious community, but rather the people of Palestine. We have the same rights and the same obligations.”

It is hardly surprising that Israeli oppression aided and endorsed by western Christendom, and the grinding poverty this evil alliance creates in the occupied territories, drives some Muslims into the arms of Islamic extremism. Hamas insists that extremist acts are incidents not policy.

Fr Manuel went on to tell the Irish what things were really like under military occupation. "We have spoken to Israel for more than18 years and the result has been zero. We have signed agreements here and there at various times and then when there is a change in the government of Israel we have to start again from the beginning. We ask for our life and to be given back our Jerusalem, to be given our state and for enough water to drink. We want to be given more opportunity to reach Jerusalem. I have not seen Jerusalem since 1990."

He described the nightmarish system of entry and exit permits, which Israel invariably refused. "We want to see an end to this occupation, and please do not ask us to protect those who are occupying our territory."
A week ago, on Christmas Day, the Voice of Palestine website ran this news item:

"DAMASCUS - Hamas Movement have offered its best wishes to all Palestinian Christians in occupied Palestine, and other countries on the occasion of Prophet Jesus' birth and wished them a happy holiday.

"'On the occasion of rejoicing the birth of Prophet Jesus peace of God be upon him, the Islamic Movement of Hamas extends its sincere wishes to all our fellow Christians in their homeland Palestine, the cradle of prophecies and the land of divine messages, as well as to the Palestinian Christians in the Arab and Islamic countries and the whole world,' Hamas said in a press release on Saturday.
"Hamas wished this occasion to be an opportunity for uniting the Palestinian people and pooling the efforts of the world's free people to support the Palestinian cause and protect the Islamic and Christian holy sites."
In the past Hamas has shown great respect for the Christian tradition of Christmas and, I hear, Hamas officials in Bethlehem used to dress up as Santa Claus to distribute gifts to Christian children. So the question remains: has Hamas really become such a Scrooge as to torpedo Christmas with a tree ban?

If so, it’s a sure-fire way to lose friends and alienate people.

- Stuart Littlewood's book Radio Free Palestine can now be read on the internet by visiting He contributed this article to

Haredim also have rights

Op-ed: Does Israel’s majority have deep desire to make the haredi minority disappear?
Hanoch Daum
Published: 01.01.12, 11:02 / Israel Opinion
A moderate haredi I spoke with last week praised Minister Limor Livnat, who said that segregated buses should be permitted in haredi areas. People don’t realize it, but these bus routes started because of women’s complaints, he said. According to one study, one-third of all women in Israel report being sexually harassed on a bus at least once in their life.

Saving Israel

Time for Israeli civil war? / Raanan Shaked

Op-ed: Silent majority may have to resort to violent, non-democratic means to save Israel
Full story

This does not justify the humiliation experienced by women who board a segregated bus and sit at the front, of course, yet it should make all of us wonder about the exact aims of the public struggle over this issue.
Let’s assume that the haredi sector fears that some men would take advantage of the crowded conditions on a mixed-gender bus in order to harass girls and women, can we decide for them that this is not a legitimate way to contend with the problem?
Will we, those who protest against the exclusion of women, make do with the prevention of religious coercion, does Israeli society hold a deep desire to make this odd community disappear and turn the haredim into people that conduct themselves just like everyone else?

What do we really want – to see the haredim allowing us to live peacefully in the public sphere? Or maybe deep inside, without being consciously aware of it, we also hold patronizing aspirations to prompt them to “regain their senses” and live like us, dress like us, and study the exact curriculum we study at school? 

The protest wave against the radical haredim is more than important, yet it must not get confused or get overly excited. Israel’s majority must remind itself all the time that not only women have rights. The haredi minority has rights too.,7340,L-4169431,00.html

Israel and the Christians

Op-ed: Does Israel need Christian help? Italian journalist Giulio Meotti offers his perspective
Giulio Meotti
Published: 01.02.12, 11:22 / Israel Opinion
Does Israel need Christian help? It’s an old dilemma, as devout Protestants were advocating the restoration of a Jewish State with Jerusalem as its capital long before Theodor Herzl. Moreover, Anglicans of the 19th Century played a central role in the process that led to the State of Israel’s establishment of.

The question about pro-Israel Christian activism cyclically surfaces in Israel and in the US public debate. Now the focus is on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, because his Mormon Church is charged with baptizing dead Jews, a rite that has been a Mormon practice for more than a century. Meanwhile, the latest Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s top 10 anti-Semitic slurs list features two Christian priests from Syria and the US.
Religious Debate

Haredim also have rights / Hanoch Daum

Op-ed: Does Israel’s majority have deep desire to make the haredi minority disappear?
Full Story

The current Christian arena is divided among the liberal Protestant churches - like the United Church of Christ attended by US President Obama - which are prominently anti-Israel; the Vatican, which embraced a new aggressiveness against Israel; the US Evangelicals, which are the most pro-Israel, and some independent Protestant groups, like the Christians for Israel.

In the last decade, US Christians invested millions of dollars in school equipment, playgrounds, medical supplies and bulletproof buses to protect the Jews in Judea and Samaria, while other groups, such as Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, raised money to protect Sderot’s residents from Hamas’ rockets.

The contempt for Evangelicals shown by US Jewish leaders, like Anti-Defamation League Director Abraham Foxman, is motivated by the doctrine that sees Israel as having a special role in the final earthly battle in the “End of Days” during which most Jews are wiped out and the rest embrace Jesus. But it seems that most Evangelical leaders rejected this theology.

Indeed, it is true that some Evangelicals did not show a real tendency to curtail their missionary activities among Israeli Jews, which cannot forget 2,000 years of Christian anti-Semitism (burning of Talmud, Crusaders, Inquisitions, blood libels and pogroms.) But to label all pro-Israel Christians as “missionaries”, as haredi group Yad L’Achim is saying, is not accurate.

Jethro-like partnerships

Certainly, some US Evangelicals would like to convert Jews, and Israel must fight them. However, the vast majority simply wants to bless Israel because that is what they believe is the right thing to do. The origins of Christian support can be traced back to the Gutenberg press (1456), which popularized ideas of “The Promised Land” and “The Chosen People.”

The hostility toward Israel encouraged by liberal Christians, such as the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, poses a much greater near-term threat to Jews than anything the evangelicals espouse. Last week, the head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales offered the Palestinians a powerful tool of propaganda: The comparison with Jesus’ passion.

“We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort, a shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight,” Archbishop Vincent Nichols said during his Christmas Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral. This propaganda is much more dangerous for Israel than the pro-Israel fever of the US Evangelicals.

Israel’s leaders urgently need to set up a moral platform rejecting the “Judeo-Christian” blend, which theologically fuses Jews and Christians together without protecting the Jewish faith and maintaining Israel as an independent single-faith Jewish community. But the Bible teaches also that if there is the “gentile” who is jealous and aggressive (Amalek), there is also a “Righteous gentile” who is admiring and willing to help (Jethro.)

 Israel will continue to struggle against Amalek-like governments and groups that utilize terror against innocent citizens, but it will be blessed by establishing Jethro-like partnerships with those who recognize the unique role and place of the Jews and Israel in this world.

Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book “A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism”,7340,L-4169804,00.html

Israeli politicians decry ultra-Orthodox protesters' use of Holocaust imagery

  • Published 09:11 01.01.12 Latest update 09:11 01.01.12

'Putting on yellow badges on children is a gross offense to Holocaust remembrance,' Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni says on her Facebook page.

By Haaretz

Israeli politicians responded to Saturday night‘s ultra-Orthodox demonstration in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat (Sabbath Square), with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni expressing outrage over protesters use of Holocaust symbolism to protest what they termed the exclusion of Haredim.
Ultra-Orthodox Jew hold banners denouncing what they call the 'media campaign of incitement' being waged against their community.AFP
“With all due respect to the right of groups in the Haredi world to protest, and it is an elementary right,” Kadima leader Livni posted on Facebook on Sunday morning. “Putting on yellow badges on children is a gross offense to Holocaust remembrance.”

“Even in the debate we are holding today, there are lines we must not cross.” Livni continued. “Hilltop youth calling IDF officers Nazis and now Haredim with yellow badges are sinning against the collective memory of the Holocaust and meaning of the State of Israel”

Haredi protest - Olivier Pitoussi - 01012012 Saturday night‘s ultra-Orthodox demonstration in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat.
Photo by: Olivier Pitoussi

“Prisoner uniforms and yellow badges with the word ‘Jew’ written in German are appalling and shocking,” leader of the Labor Party breakaway party Independence Barak said in a statement issued Sunday morning.

“The use of the yellow badge and young children holding their hands up in defeat is crossing the line.”

“The Haredi leadership, which is responsible in the most part, cannot accept such behavior,” Barak added. “They must put an end to unacceptable behavior of this sort.”

Over a thousand ultra-Orthodox men assembled Saturday night in Jerusalem’s Kikar Hashabbat (Sabbath Square), in protest of what they termed the exclusion of Haredim, a response to the recent outrage over the exclusion of women in Beit Shemesh and elsewhere.

The protesters also expressed their solidarity with Shmuel Weissfish, one of the leading activists in the radical Sikrik group. Weissfish is slated to begin his two-year prison sentence on Sunday for vandalizing a computer store in the same Kikar Hashabbat.

Some of the protesters were wearing yellow badges; others were dressed in prisoner uniforms symbolizing the prosecution of Jews by the Nazi regime during World War II. The protesters were trying to express by way of analogy that they are being persecuted for their Jewish way of life by Israel’s secular majority.

Interior Minister Eli Yishai, himself a member of the Haredi community, admonished the violence, but said “wild incitement” against all the ultra-Orthodox was taking place.

“Everyone knows it is only a small minority of Haredi society is involved,” the leader of the Shas party said in an interview with Army Radio, Sunday morning. “Haredi women and children are being abused and verbally assaulted off camera.”

“I don’t want to my words to be misconstrued as supporting the wild and extremist behavior,” he said. “I am opposed to the use of Holocaust symbolism in demonstrations.”