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GAZA The fractious factions in the Gaza Strip and across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories have found one voice to unite behind – a 22-year-old youth singing songs about a lost homeland on the Middle East’s version of ‘American Idol’. Gaza native Mohammed Assaf has become the first Palestinian to qualify for ‘Arab Idol’, a TV talent show staged in Beirut, in which singers perform for judges and voting viewers. He is now one of the last 10 contestants – largely thanks to his potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands. He is the pride of Palestine. He broke the siege with his voice,” said fan Rehaf al-Batniji, referring to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, seized by the Jewish state, along with the West Bank, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. She stood in front of a large mural of Assaf at a Gaza restaurant, one of hundreds of posters covering buildings and walls usually marked with political slogans. Assaf’s songs blare out of radios – a counter-balance to their usual broadcasts of bleak economic and political news. Politicians have raced to endorse him and Palestinian mobile phone company Jawwal has cut the price of text messages to make it easier for supporters to vote. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement that holds sway in the West Bank, phoned the singer in Beirut and urged all Arabs to vote for him. The president stressed his support and backing to artist Assaf, whose talent represented pride to Palestine,” said a statement by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA. The Gaza Strip is ruled by the rival Islamist Hamas faction – a group that disapproves of non-Islamic songs and the kind of Western-style excess on full display in TV talent shows. But even Hamas has come as close as it possibly can to showing support. He comes from a good, respected and known family,” Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Facebook. Assaf first made his name inside Gaza at the age of 11, when he recorded a song in 2001 called O Town be Strong”, at the height of Israeli incursions in the enclave during a Palestinian uprising. On Arab Idol, broadcast by Saudi-owned MBC Group, he has performed with a traditional black-and-white Palestinian scarf around his shoulders. His performances have included Flying Bird” which lists the cities of historical Palestine and another song urging Palestinians to unite. The program’s celebrity judges from across the Arab world – where the Palestinian cause reverberates – have piled praise on the singer. I see the Arab idol standing before my eyes,” said Egyptian composer Hassan El Shafei. Your voice is made of diamond,” added Ahlam, a famous singer from the United Arab Emirates. Listening in was Assaf’s mother, Umm Shadi Assaf, watching the show in a restaurant near her home in Gaza’s Khan Younis refugee camp. Her son had only one wish, she told Reuters, beaming with pride, to go out and make the world listen to his voice”.
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BRUSSELS, May 11, 2013 (WAFA) The European Union Friday expressed concern by the developments on the ground inIsraeli-occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, warning that they might undermine peace efforts.
A statement by the EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said that the developments over the past week in East Jerusalem and the West Bank have increased tensions on the ground and risk undermining current efforts to re-launch peace talks.
Ashton, who expressed concern by these developments, said it is important that those concerned exercise maximum restraint and refrain from any actions which could drive the sides to the conflict further apart.
The statement said Ashton was particularly disturbed by the events that took place during Orthodox Easter Holy Fire celebrations in Jerusalems Old City when Israeli police prevented thousands of Christians from reaching the Holy Sepulcher, the unrest in the area of the al-Aqsa Mosque between Muslim worshippers and Jewish fanatics backed by police, and the temporary detention of the Mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein.
It is essential that access to the holy sites in Jerusalem for peaceful worship for all denominations is fully respected, she said.
Ashton also said she was very concerned by reports of the approval of settlement plans for 300 houses at Beit EL near Ramallah in the West Bank.
The EU has repeatedly declared settlements to be illegal under international law and to constitute an obstacle to peace, said the EU official.
The Palestinian Authority and world governments have also condemned the Israeli settlement expansion plan, which they said would undermine renewed efforts by the United States to revive the stalled peace process and re-launch Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is planning to return to the Middle East in 10 days, his fourth since he took office earlier this year, in an effort to re-start peace talks.
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May 8, 2013 – 09:50 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net – Israel’s Prime Minister has issued an unofficial order to stop the approval of new plans or tenders for Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, a leading pressure group says, according to BBC News.
Peace Now said it appeared Benjamin Netanyahu was responding to U.S. efforts to restart Middle East peace talks.
The Israeli government has neither confirmed nor denied the report.
Direct negotiations with the Palestinians stalled in 2010 following a dispute over settlement construction.
About 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel’s 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
After the Palestinians were granted “non-member observer state” status at the United Nations last November, a move which Israel strongly opposed, Netanyahu’s government announced plans to build 3,000 new homes in settlements.
But since US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel in March, the government has not announced or approved any new West Bank settlement construction plans, and has not approved any new tenders for settlement construction, according to Peace Now.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that an order had been given by Netanyahu in a meeting with pro-settlement Housing Minister Uri Ariel.
The Yesha Council, which promotes settlement construction, also said it had heard from Netanyahu’s office that new tenders were not being approved.
See the rest here:
The Israeli authorities must immediately remove a new outpost set up yesterday by Israeli settlers in the Nablus district of the occupied West Bank, Amnesty International said today.
The new outpost was set up following the killing of Evyatar Borovsky, a resident of the illegal Israeli settlement of Yitzhar, on Tuesday.
Borovsky, a civilian who was carrying a gun at the time of the attack, was stabbed and killed by a Palestinian man who was wounded and later arrested by Israeli forces.
Following the killing, settlers unleashed a wave of violence against Palestinian civilians and their property in the northern West Bank, stoning vehicles and burning hundreds of trees.
We deplore all deliberate attacks on civilians, including settlers. But this killing must not be used as an excuse for further violations of the human rights of Palestinians, said Ann Harrison, Deputy Director of Amnesty Internationals Middle East and North Africa Programme.
The authorities in Israel must urgently remove the new settler outpost and prosecute all those responsible for the violence in the West Bank,
“The Israeli authorities arrested four settlers on Tuesday, but seemed to turn a blind eye to much of the violence perpetrated against Palestinian civilians and their property. The Israeli authorities have a responsibility to protect Palestinian civilians under occupation, and to prevent and punish violent attacks by settlers.”
There are approximately 100 unauthorized settler outposts and more than 130 settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, all of which are illegal under international law.
In 2012, the Israeli government retroactively authorized 10 outposts and took no action to prevent settlers establishing four others.
The Israeli authorities also continue to demolish Palestinian homes and structures in the West Bank. So far in 2013, more than 200 structures have been demolished, displacing almost 400 Palestinians from their homes and affecting more than 500 others.
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Army Declares Restricted Military Zone
Published April 29, 2013.
Israeli soldiers evicted several hundred Bedouins from a village in the occupied West Bank on Monday after the army declared the area a live-fire training zone.
The residents of Wadi al-Maleh, a village mostly inhabited by shepherds in the arid area bordering Jordan, had almost all left their homes by an evening curfew and retreated to neighbouring villages, Aref Daraghmeh, a local leader told Reuters.
The displacement coincided with several demolitions of Arab properties in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which come as the United States is trying to revive stalled peace.
In January, villagers received a similar eviction order and left without resisting, only to return after 48 hours. Almost all of their 90 buildings, including shelters for their animals, were demolished in 2010, local rights groups said.
Israeli troops prevented outsiders, including journalists, from accessing the area saying it was a closed military zone. The military did not respond to a request for comment.
Wadi al-Maleh is located in Area C, a swath of land making up two-thirds of the West Bank under full Israeli control and where most Jewish settlements are located.
Half a million settlers live in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory captured in the 1967 Middle East War which Palestinians want for a future state.
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Israeli authorities on Monday barred two Moroccan MPs accompanying EU parliamentarians from crossing into the West Bank to meet Palestinian officials, one of the lawmakers said.
“The Israel authorities prevented me and my colleague Ali Salem Chekkaf from crossing into the West Bank without giving us any reason,” Mehdi Bensaid told AFP.
“I do not understand this Israeli action, which was an insult to the Moroccan parliament and people. I denounce it.”
The two MPs were part of a delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Morocco belongs to a PACE Middle East sub-committee, as a “partner for democracy”.
Bensaid and Chekkaf said they would stage a sit-in at the Allenby Bridge crossing between Jordan and the West Bank until the EU visit ends on Tuesday afternoon, before flying home to Morocco from Amman.
The remaining 16 members of the delegation of Council of Europe’s sub-committee on the Middle East were allowed to cross the border, Bensaid said.
He added that the team is touring the region to prepare a report on the Middle East.
“We denounce that fact that it is the Israelis who grant visas between two sovereign territories, because Palestine, despite all the problems, has now been recognised by the United Nations,” Bensaid said.
Last November, Palestine was accorded the status of observer state at the world body.
Jordanian officials were not immediately available for comment.
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WASHINGTON President Obama heads to Israel this week with quiet hopes, but little real expectation, that by smoothing rough relations he can help restart the Middle East peace effort that went nowhere in his first term.
Obama will not carry with him a detailed proposal for how Israelis and Palestinians might resume talks, such as the one he offered in 2010. He instead plans a listening tour in Jerusalem and in Ramallah, West Bank, to solicit views on what the two sides want and to explore what may be possible.
The White House has sought to lower expectations for Obama’s visit, which begins Wednesday, particularly avoiding any anticipation of a breakthrough on peace talks any time soon. Even a renewed diplomatic effort, should one begin, stands a good chance of collapsing again, they say.
Nonetheless, senior advisors say, Obama thinks time spent in public diplomacy is a worthwhile investment. He is focused on “the broader role of public opinion in peacemaking,” according to one administration official.
He is not alone in thinking that the kind of outreach embodied by a presidential visit can make a difference.
“Israelis would love to see that he cares, and that it’s not just a cerebral effort, but something that comes from the heart,” said former deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. “Israelis as tough as we may be considered abroad are a very, very emotional people. If you smile at them and show some kind of positive attitude, you see they melt.”
That amounts to far more than just a popularity contest, Ayalon said. To achieve his foreign policy goals, he said, Obama will need to win over a deeply insecure Israeli public so that they, in turn, will pressure the government to take risks that could improve relations with the Palestinians. Under this theory, Israelis go out on a limb for peace only when they are feeling secure.
Indeed, former President Clinton, who made four trips to Israel during his tenure, said at the time that he believed reassuring the Israeli public was one of the most important roles an American president could play in Mideast peacemaking.
On that score, Obama has considerable work to do, both with the Israeli public and leaders.
Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have had a notoriously poor relationship; at times last year, the Israeli leader seemed to be rooting for Republican Mitt Romney to win the White House. With Obama and Netanyahu having both been reelected, White House officials hope that, at minimum, the trip will ease that relationship and the domestic political pressure Obama has faced because of it.
Spring is here and so too are Israel Apartheid Week and poison ivy. Apartheid Week is an insult to all thinking Americans in and out of academia, just as poison ivy is an irritant to our skin and well-being. Charles Jacobs, founder of the Boston-based Americans for Peace and Tolerance, reminds us of the venality of the Apartheid Week movement as it personally attacks and intimidates individual students while playing havoc with the truth on campuses throughout the country. At Harvard, he tells us, students personal space was violated when eviction notices were pasted to the doors of their dormitory rooms by members of the so-called Palestine Solidarity Committee. This kind of Saul Alinsky in-your-face type of intimidation goes beyond the norms of society and it, along with the threat and reality of physical harm, is behavior that ought not be tolerated. Nasty apartheid walls a mockery of the barriers Israel has used to effectively defend its citizens from the real and present danger of terrorism and other symbolic constructs are springing up on campuses around the country as a way to push forward lies about Israels alleged discrimination against its Arab minority. Meanwhile, no matter how depraved and vile the mendacity of the Arab effort, college administrators generally, under the false flag of free speech, stand aside. It is a stretch to interpret the actions of these Apartheid Week demonstrators as speech that is free if it is aimed at those it targets and bullies. Almost more egregious than the lack of college reaction to the intimidation of Jewish students is the lack of a full-throated response from key elements of the Jewish community. Yes, there are groups that are active. Charles Jacobs American Peace and Tolerance, The David Project (another group Jacobs helped found), the Zionist Organization of America, Stand-With-Us, Campus Watch, CAMERA and others are now working on many campuses, but coordination is yet to happen and much goes undone. Hillel, in the best position of any Jewish organization to respond on campus, has a mixed effort with a Shaliach program on 56 campuses and active support for the Israel on Campus Coalition, an organization it helped start. But it does not deal with Apartheid Week directly nor does it confront this systemic threat on all campuses. There are, of course some stellar participants who rise to the occasion. A stalwart cadre of Hillel leaders around the country who have seen this all before deal with it bravely and with intelligence. But there is also a passivity on a number of campuses and not just where there is an absence of any organized Jewish presence. Even more difficult though, are campuses where faculty and/or administration aid and abet the intimidation of Jewish students and demean pro-Israel opinion. Columbia University and Brooklyn College stand out as recent examples of this type of travesty. Federations too are more often than not capable of only the most pro forma actions, and rarely connect with students and faculty on campus who have to confront these falsehoods. The Apartheid Week people, on the other hand are well programmed, intrusive and without opposition too often have free reign on campus for their hatred and lies. The proper answer for the besieged pro-Israel students and faculty on every campus, of course, is the ultimate one: the truth. Not a defensive truth or a partial one. But a focus on the Israeli reality in which five million Jews and two million Arabs, both Christian and Muslim, live together in a democratic open society. It is the Arab Middle East where the mirror image of Israel exists. That is the land of hatred and apartheid. That is the land where the ancient Jewish presence was excised by either forced emigration or violent intimidation, and the slaughter of Christians, Jews and other minorities, including Muslims who dont practice Islam in the way the majority prescribes it, continues. That is the land where women are demeaned and gays persecuted. It is the land of countries where personal freedom exists hardly at all. For some reason, our organizations and leaders shy away from these truths and because of that they are absent from this very argument. It is Israel where all citizens have the right to vote. It is Israel where democratic institutions such as a free media exist. In a more rational world it would be Arab apartheid that would be highlighted this month, while Israels bravery for being that lonely beacon of individual rights and democracy for all would be celebrated. Israel Apartheid Week as we know it is a total fabrication meant to snare the unknowing and seduce the uninformed. It is foreign to our soil and ought to be opposed by every American. Two things you can do: 1) Ephraim Karsh of the Middle East Forum provides an excellent essay on the previous page. Read it and forward it to anyone on a college campus whose email address you may have (the essay may also be forwarded from the Ledger website, www.jewishledger.com). 2) Support organizations and individuals actively involved in this struggle; work with Hillel and urge them to stand tall; take steps to fill the void on campuses without any Jewish organization. Working to bring the Jewish world together on this issue is the best way to let those who malign Israel and murder the truth know they cant do it with impunity. Its unfortunate that this apartheid accusation occurs every spring. But as we pointed out, so does poison ivy. Poison Ivy and the lies of Apartheid Week never fully go away, but when summer comes we usually have them both under control.
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Several academics emailed me yesterday about an email from Palgrave Macmillian Publishers titled “Debating Israeli Apartheid Week” and then listing a number of books representing the Palestinian side of the argument, all published by publishing houses that Palgrave MacMillan distributes.
As noted in the box above, Palgrave MacMillan writes:
Debating Israeli Apartheid Week
In conjunction with the 9th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week, take a look at our featured titles from our distribution partners Pluto Press, I.B. Tauris Publishers and Zed Books, bringing attention to this moment of the Palestinian struggle.
Learn more about the IAW here and join the debate!
One of the emails to me referencing this book roster said “Boy, after Hagel won confirmation, guess the dam broke and things are changing fast.”
Listed among the books were Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement; Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy; Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propoganda in Education; and Narrating Conflict in the Middle East: Discourse, Image and Communications Practices in Lebanon and Palestine.
Several thoughts: First, Senator Chuck Hagel’s confirmation as President Obama’s new Secretary of Defense is more disconnected from the Israel-Palestine ball field than most want to admit, but his confirmation gives pragmatic policy thinking a bit of a boost — but it doesn’t come at the cost of the turbo-charged pro-Israel community. I offer that modifier to distinguish between the ultra-pro-Israel crowd and the less-hyperventilating pro-Israel crowd a la J Street.
Second, things haven’t changed at Palgrave MacMillan. Received this email today from them:
In response to our earlier email
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