Gaza Digest: June 9, 2009

CODEPINK: Women For Peace, PINKtank, June 9, 2009

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Gaza Digest 91, 6/9/09

News Clips: Under pressure from pro-Palestine campaigners, the French company Veolia is poised to withdraw from the controversial Jerusalem Light Rail project that links the city center to illegal West Bank settlements; Seventy-three Palestinian children left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing on Monday morning en route to Poland where they will receive trauma counseling for the affects of the recent Israeli war; United States President Barack Obama wants “immediate” talks between the Palestinians and Israel to forge a comprehensive Middle East peace agreement, U.S. envoy George Mitchell said on Monday; Interior Minister Eli Yishai has begun to make good on a pledge to exploit all the resources of his ministry, “its branches and its influences over local government” to expand settlements in the territories; Under mounting American pressure to define his intentions regarding peace efforts, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel said Sunday that he would make a major policy speech next week mapping out the government’s “principles for achieving peace and security’; El Al passengers have received maps of Israel marking out a “separation wall” along the West Bank, but the Foreign Ministry has asked the airline to change the classification to “security fence.”

1. Report from Haaretz on an upcoming meeting by Israeli defense officials to discuss Gaza Blockade, with this beautiful mention of the action at the border by CODEPINK & The Coalition of Women for Peace: “At the Erez crossing, an American-Israeli feminist delegation and left-wing activists dressed like clowns held a rally Sunday to protest the ban on toys entering Gaza.”

“Defense Officials to Meet on Easing Gaza Blockade,” Amos Harel, Haaretz, 6/8/09

Excerpt: Israeli security officials are expected to meet this week to discuss easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent criticism of the “continuing humanitarian crisis” there.

So far, Israel has made do with weak promises to reconsider its policy, but Obama’s Cairo speech Thursday - in which he said the blockade devastates Palestinian families and does not serve Israel’s security interests - may push Jerusalem to take action.

The Defense Ministry department responsible for coordinating government activities in the territories began assessing the closure two weeks ago to determine whether to advocate any changes.

The top Israel Defense Forces officers involved in the assessment are due to explain their positions to Defense Minister Ehud Barak this week. The matter is slated to be discussed by the cabinet at a later stage.

Although Israel has reduced the amount and type of goods entering Gaza, Palestinians are still receiving medicine and medical equipment, gas and food. However, Israel still bans “dual-use” goods - those it classifies as potentially enabling terror activities - such as construction materials.

2. Report from Reuters about the dismal prospects of Tony Blair’s sewage treatment project in Gaza because of the blockade. (Would just like to point out that Hamas had won a free and fair election that preceded “the violent take-over.”)

“World Bank says Blair sewage project in Gaza may collapse,” Adam Entous, Reuters, 6/8/09

Excerpt: Middle East envoy Tony Blair’s signature project in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip could collapse because of Israeli restrictions on bringing in equipment, an internal World Bank memo obtained by Reuters said.

The $75 million (110 million pound) north Gaza sewage treatment project was the centrepiece of an economic package spearheaded by the former prime minister to try to boost Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking.

In a June 4 memo to donors, the World Bank said Israel has prevented delivery of critical equipment to the project since March.

The equipment included pipes, cement and spare parts.

Attempts to hire building contractors failed last year.

“No bid was submitted as the bidders did not want to run into the security risk in Gaza,” the World Bank said. “The failure of attracting bidders in the second round will be devastative to the project.”

International donors and Gaza residents view the sewage project as urgent. In 2007, a flood of raw sewage from a plant in north Gaza killed several people.

But like other Western-backed infrastructure projects in the territory, Blair’s have suffered lengthy delays because of an Israeli-led blockade which was tightened after Hamas’s violent takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

3. And an article from the IMEMC about the Israeli Army’s destruction of water infrastructure in a village near Hebron.

“Israeli Army Demolishes Water Infrastructure of West Bank Village,” Katherine Orwell, International Middle East Media Center, 6/8/09

Excerpt: The Israeli army has been trying to take out water and electric systems of the small village Baqua, north of the Southern West Bank city of Hebron on Monday morning. Around 5 people sustained injuries as they tried to stop the Israeli army from demolishing their water wells. Jeff Halper, from the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) was arrested for trying to obstruct the military.

The Israeli army arrived at the village around six in the morning, bringing three cranes, four bulldozers and numerous back-up and support vehicles.

A local witness from the Christian Peacemaker Team told IMEMC that the army had been targeting four different sites in the area. It is known that at least six water wells were demolished by the Israeli army. Two wells are expected to have been destroyed, as the Israeli machinery has been seen at the location of the wells.

Irrigation pipes have been confiscated by the military and at least one electric tower has been taken down.

Villagers that tried to stop the destruction of their property sustained injuries as they were beaten by soldiers.


Gaza Digest 90, 6/8/09

News Clips: Four Palestinian fighters were killed along the Gaza border by Israeli soldiers on Monday; Israeli security officials are expected to meet this week to discuss easing the blockade of the Gaza Strip, following U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent criticism of the “continuing humanitarian crisis” there; Senior U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama’s Mideast envoy George Mitchell, say they might propose immediate talks on setting Israel’s border along the West Bank; Israel will be forced to acknowledge the necessity of a future Palestinian state because there are no signs that the Obama administration will yield on this issue, an Israeli diplomatic source told Israel Radio on Saturday; United States President Barack Obama on Friday postponed moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem by an additional six months, Israel Radio reported; U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dismissed on Friday reports that Israel and the Bush administration had an understanding under which Israel could keep expanding settlements on the West Bank; Israeli forces killed a demonstrator named Yousef Akil Srour, aged 36, with live ammunition in the West Bank village of Ni’lin during the weekly non-violent protest against the Wall; Meanwhile, five demonstrators were injured in confrontations with security forces in the anti-wall rally in Bil’in; South African Judge Richard Goldstone, the head of a United Nations team investigating possible war crimes by Israel and Hamas during the Gaza war, said Thursday he had been shocked by the scale of the destruction in the Palestinian areas; The team also announced Thursday that it will hold public hearings with the war’s victims later this month in Gaza and Geneva.

1. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza has collected evidence of Israeli War Crimes during Operation Cast Lead and plans to file lawsuits in Spain, as reported by Haaretz.

“Report: Palestinians plan to file 936 lawsuits over over Gaza ‘war crimes’,” Haaretz Service, 6/6/09

Palestinian lawyers have prepared 936 lawsuits against Israel over alleged war crimes committed during its three-week offensive against Hamas in Gaza, the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza has recorded the cases, the magazine said, which include alleged incidents of children shot at close range, women burned by white phosphorus shells and entire families buried under their houses.

According to Der Spiegel, the center hopes to try the cases in Spain’s National Court in Madrid, where a lawsuit was filed in January against senior Israeli officials over the 2002 killing of Hamas leader Salah Shehadeh.

“Winning a case, just one, would be enough,” Iyad al-Alami, the head of the center, was quoted as saying. “Then I would retire immediately, because I would have achieved everything.”

2. As the analyses of Obama’s speech last week in Cairo keep pouring forth, thought it was worth sharing this one from Noam Chomsky via Alternet.

“What Obama Didn’t Say in His Cairo Address Speaks Volumes About His Mideast Policy,” Noam Chomsky, AlterNet, 6/4/09

Excerpt: Overlooked in the debate over settlements is that even if Israel were to accept Phase I of the Road Map, that would leave in place the entire settlement project that has already been developed, with decisive U.S. support, to ensure that Israel will take over the valuable land within the illegal “separation wall” (including the primary water supplies of the region), as well as the Jordan Valley, thus imprisoning what is left, which is being broken up into cantons by settlement/infrastructure salients extending far to the east.

Unmentioned as well is that Israel is taking over Greater Jerusalem, the site of its major current development programs, displacing many Arabs, so that what remains to Palestinians will be separated from the center of their cultural, economic and sociopolitical life.

Also unmentioned is that all of this is in violation of international law, as conceded by the government of Israel after the 1967 conquest, and reaffirmed by Security Council resolutions and the International Court of Justice. Also unmentioned are Israel’s successful operations since 1991 to separate the West Bank from Gaza, since turned into a prison where survival is barely possible, further undermining the hopes for a viable Palestinian state.

3. From The American Prospect comes this article about West Bank settlement expansion.

“House Hunting in the West Bank,” Gershom Gorenberg, The American Prospect, 6/4/09

Excerpt: Settlement homes aren’t quite the giveaways they were a few years ago. But they are still cheap, subsidized housing that continues to draw Israelis to move to the West Bank. In 2007, the last year for which there are official figures, the settlement population (not including annexed East Jerusalem) grew by 14,500 people. Of that growth, 37 percent was due to veteran Israelis or new immigrants moving to occupied territory. The “natural growth” argument is intended to cover up the continued, state-backed effort to encourage this migration.

The same official figures show over twice the rate of natural increase in the settlements than in Israel as a whole. Yes, the settler population is younger, meaning more women of childbearing age, and yes, much of it is Orthodox and puts a high value on large families. But people express their values more when the material conditions allow them to. Inexpensive housing makes it easier for younger couples to start having children and for families to be larger. That’s especially true of the kind of housing available in many settlements: small, inexpensive homes that couples can buy when they don’t have a lot of money, expecting to expand them later. The construction style is meant to “entice” people to come to settlements, as a realtor told me. Inside Israel such homes aren’t available, she said. Put differently, even natural growth is unnaturally high in settlements. A construction freeze threatens that pattern.

Netanyahu and his partners don’t want any of this to stop. They want settlements to keep growing, in order to block an Israeli withdrawal and a two-state solution. Obama wants a freeze as the first step toward a solution. The natural-growth argument is worse than a distraction; it’s a scam. Let the buyer beware.

4. As the crippling blockade on building materials (and books, crayons, pumpkins, musical instruments, toys, paper, light bulbs…) for Gaza continues, IRIN reports on a school for handicapped children that is being built with clay.

“Gaza Building Experiments with Clay, Rubble,“ IRIN, 6/4/09

Excerpt: Local Palestinian NGO Mercy Association for Children began building a school for handicapped children in Gaza City on 24 May to test a recently developed method using clay blocks, salt and rubble - with the source material coming mainly from the hundreds of buildings demolished during the Israeli offensive (27 December 2008 - 18 January 2009).

Fourteen construction workers on the 5,000 square metre building site in the Shujayah neighbourhood of the city haul buckets of clay for moulding into large blocks from which the structure, with its domed ceiling, will be made.

“If the school, upon completion, proves structurally sound we will move forward with other construction projects in Gaza,” said lead engineer Maher Batroukh of the Mercy Association for Children. “The school is the first building of its kind in Gaza.”

The three-storey school, occupying about 1,025 square metres, will contain no steel, cement or concrete, said Batroukh.

The US$190,000 project is being funded by the Kuwaiti charity Arab Fund for Social and Economic Development, and will take at least six months to complete, according to Mercy Association for Children project manager Muna Abu Shareh.

5. And finally, a report from The Guardian about fraudulent tunnel investment schemes that are robbing some in Gaza of their savings.

“Tunnel fraud leaves Gazans on verge of financial ruin,” Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, 6/7/09

Excerpt: At first the tunnels emerged as smuggling routes; then they became the vital lifeline for a Gaza under economic siege by Israel. But many people who invested in the tunnels now see them quite differently - as a source of ruination.

The tunnel schemes were advertised as opportunities for doubling and trebling money by unscrupulous figures linked to powerful businessmen in Gaza and, allegedly, to senior officials in Hamas, but have instead led to huge losses for ordinary residents of the Strip.

According to Hamas’s economics minister, Ziad al-Zaza, whose office is investigating the issue, some $100m has been taken fraudulently from would-be entrepreneurs. Others suggest the figure could be closer to $500m.

There have been many brutal phases in Gazan history, culminating in the Israeli invasion at the turn of the year, which laid waste much of the Strip’s fragile infrastructure. But the hitherto untold story of the great Gazan tunnel scam is notable for being self-inflicted and, therefore, particularly depressing for a beleaguered population.

As Omar Shaban, an analyst from a local thinktank, says: “The harm done to Gaza goes well beyond the savings lost in the investment schemes. The tunnels distort Gaza’s social structure. They destroy the values that a state requires to function. In fact, they present no values that people can believe in.”


Gaza Digest 89, 6/5/09

News Clips: A team charged with leading the UN’s fact-finding mission over alleged Israeli war crimes departed Gaza on Friday, according to a border spokesperson; On Thursday, the Palestinian Government Workers Union, the Health Workers Union and the Teachers Union issued a press release welcoming the Cairo speech of the US president, Barack Obama, especially his statements on the two-state solution, rejecting settlements, and calling for ending the Palestinian suffering; Israeli settlers established a new illegal West Bank outpost on Thursday, dedicating it partly to US President Barack Obama; Major projects and investments spearheaded by Middle East envoy Tony Blair and Western powers to promote economic growth in the Palestinian territories have had little effect, the World Bank said on Thursday because Israeli restrictions on the Palestinians are holding up many of the projects; At around 9 am on Thursday, six Palestinian fishermen were abducted by the Israeli Navy whilst fishing in Palestinian territorial waters.

1. Reports about Israeli, Palestinian, American and Arab responses to Obama’s speech in Cairo yesterday are all over the papers, the Internet and the airwaves. The general review is “mixed positive,” as they say in Variety. This piece by Ali Abunimah from the Electronic Intifada is more negative than most, but since the idea of a “one-state solution” is not given any airtime in the mainstream press, I thought it was an important one to highlight.

“Obama in Cairo: A Bush in Sheep’s Clothing,” Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 6/5/09

Excerpt: Some people are prepared to give Obama a pass for all this because he is at last talking tough on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In Cairo, he said: “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.”

These carefully chosen words focus only on continued construction, not on the existence of the settlements themselves; they are entirely compatible with the peace process industry consensus that existing settlements will remain where they are for ever. This raises the question of where Obama thinks he is going. He summarized Palestinians’ “legitimate aspirations” as being the establishment of a “state.” This has become a convenient slogan to that is supposed to replace for Palestinians their pursuit of rights and justice that the proposed state actually denies. Obama is already on record opposing Palestinian refugees’ right to return home, and has never supported the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to live free from racist and religious incitement, persecution and practices fanned by Israel’s highest office holders and written into its laws.

He may have more determination than his predecessor but he remains committed to an unworkable two-state “vision” aimed not at restoring Palestinian rights, but preserving Israel as an enclave of Israeli Jewish privilege. It is a dead end.

There was one sentence in his speech I cheered for and which he should heed: “Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail.”

2. Oxfam issued a report on Wednesday about the situation in Gaza with recommendations for action. This coverage of the report comes from the Alternative Information Center.

“Oxfam Report—Rebuilding Gaza: Putting People Before Politics,” Alternative Information Center, 5/4/09

Excerpt: In June 2009 the blockade on the Gaza Strip enters its third year. The intense closure policy, coupled with the government of Israel’s recent military operation ‘Cast Lead’, has had a devastating impact on the lives and livelihoods of one and a half million Gazans, pushing them further into poverty and aid dependency.

Parties to the conflict and the international community have, to varying degrees, prioritised their own political objectives over people’s rights and needs, leaving Gazans sitting on the ruins of their homes. By attempting to isolate Hamas, the government of Israel and key international donor governments and institutions have in fact isolated the people of Gaza, thereby reducing chances of securing a peaceful, just and durable resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The current situation cannot be allowed to persist. Israeli, Palestinian and world leaders must abide by their respective legal obligations to take concrete actions to end the collective punishment of Gazan civilians by securing the full and immediate opening of all the Gaza crossings.

3. Interesting analysis from Jonathan Cook on the Electronic Intifada of the varying media reports on the numbers of settlers in the West Bank.

“Media Agencies Annex 200,000 Settlers,” Jonathan Cook, Electronic Intifada, 6/3/09

Excerpt: There are about half a million Jews living illegally on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 war. Give or take the odd few thousand (Israel is slow to update its figures), there are nearly 300,000 settlers in the West Bank and a further 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

Sounds simple. So what is to be made of this fairly typical line from a report issued by AFP last week: “More than 280,000 settlers currently live in settlements dotted throughout the Palestinian territory that Israel captured during the 1967 Six Day War”?

Or this from AP: “The US considers the settlements — home to nearly 300,000 Israelis — obstacles to peace because they are built on captured territory the Palestinians claim for a future state”?

Where are the missing 200,000 settlers?

The answer is that they are to be found in East Jerusalem, which increasingly means for agency reporters that they are not considered settlers at all.

In many reports, East Jerusalem’s settler population is left out of the equation. But even when the news agencies do note the number of settlers there, they are invariably referenced separately from those in the West Bank or described simply as “Jews.”

Worse, this misleading approach has had a trickle-down effect. Major newspapers’ own staff make the same basic errors.

Thus, The New York Times blithely reported last week that the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, had made a “brusque call on Wednesday for a complete freeze of construction in settlements on the West Bank.”

In reality, she had said that the US president wanted “to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions.” The implication was that the White House wants a freeze on all settlements, including in East Jerusalem.

This is not linguistic nitpicking.

Israel’s attempt to differentiate between the status of the West Bank and that of East Jerusalem, even though these adjacent territories are equally Palestinian and were both captured by Israel in 1967, lies at the heart of the conflict and its resolution.

Israel’s official position, accepted by its politicians of the left and right, is that in 1967 Israel “unified” Jerusalem by annexing its eastern, Palestinian half, and made the city the “eternal capital of the Jewish state.”


Gaza Digest 88, 6/4/09

News Clips: In an effort to facilitate unfettered movement of Palestinians in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces on Tuesday removed two roadblocks in the Ramallah area, and the army said it would man an additional West Bank checkpoint around the clock so as to permit Palestinian passage 24 hours a day; An update on the aforementioned announcement—on Wednesday United Nations officials found that Israel did not dismantle two West Bank military checkpoints as promised; The Israel Defense Forces has declared the area around the West Bank city of Nablus a closed military zone, in order to prevent left-wing activists, including and especially the women from Machsom Watch, from entering the area; Right-wing Israeli Jewish activists outside the American Consulate in Jerusalem protested Obama administration statements regarding Jewish settlements; Also Wednesday, left-wing groups, including Meretz, Hadash, Gush Shalom and others, announced that they were holding a peace rally Saturday night in Tel Aviv; in a move sure to infuriate the Obama Adminstration, Israel’s Interior Ministry on Tuesday approved a plan to build a new hotel in eastern Jerusalem that would entail demolishing a Palestinian open-air market and kindergarten; in his speech in Cairo Thursday morning, U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed Washington’s strong backing for a Palestinian state, highlighting his administration’s commitment to follow through on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

1. Our very own Medea Benjamin, who was in Gaza until Tuesday and is now in Cairo and will soon head to Israel to try to enter Gaza again, wrote this stirring piece that was on The Electronic Intifada and then picked up by a number of other online news digests and blogs. Medea left Gaza carrying with her a letter to Obama from Hamas. (Can already envision the nasty e-mails coming into our staff e-mail accounts in response to that bit of news.)

“Obama Should Visit Gaza,” Medea Benjamin, Electronic Intifada, 5/3/09

Excerpt: Obama won great support from the American people during the presidential campaign when he said that America must talk to its adversaries, without preconditions. But his administration now puts ridiculous conditions on talking to Hamas: It must recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept previous international agreements. Israel, on the other hand, does not have to recognize Palestine, renounce violence or abide by past agreements. Putting preconditions on just one side of the conflict makes it impossible to move a peace process forward.

While Obama prepares for his trip to the Middle East, more than 150 people — mostly Americans — are trying to enter war-torn Gaza through both the Egyptian and Israeli borders. Organized under the umbrella of the peace group CODEPINK, this is the largest group of Americans to travel to Gaza since the siege began.

The delegations, invited by the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), are bringing medicines, toys, school supplies and playground building materials. An estimated 1,346 Gazan children were left without one or more of their parents as a result of the Israeli assault and the majority were left traumatized and depressed.

That’s why the peace group CODEPINK has launched an international petition calling on Obama to visit Gaza and see for himself the devastation and deprivation that continues to plague the region’s 1.5 million people almost six months after the invasion. Just this week, Obama tacked a new stop to his upcoming Middle Eastern visit: Saudi Arabia. If he can make room for a private dinner with the King, then surely he can find the time to go to Gaza. Isn’t it more important for Obama to visit a region where 1,400 people have recently been killed and thousands of homes, schools and mosques destroyed? Isn’t it more important for him to see how the Israelis are using the yearly $3 billion in military aid from US taxpayers?

Obama should take the opportunity, during this visit to Egypt next week, to visit Gaza. He should express his condolences for the loss of so many innocent lives, call for a lifting of the inhumane siege that continues to imprison an entire population, and support an investigation of how US military funds to Israel are being spent.

2. Great interview with Amira Hass from Democracy Now via Common Dreams.

“Israeli Journalist Amira Hass on the Start of the UN’s Probe into Possible Israeli War Crimes during Gaza War,” Democracy Now, 6/3/09

Excerpt: The actions of the Israeli army during its twenty-two-day assault on the Gaza Strip earlier this year are back in the spotlight with the arrival of a United Nations delegation in Gaza this Monday. The fifteen-member team will be investigating possible war crimes and other violations of international law during Israel’s military assault. It’s headed by South African judge Richard Goldstone, who was the former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Israel opposes the investigation and denied the delegation visas, forcing them to enter Gaza through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing.

3. An answer to the piece I posted yesterday from Politico about complaints in Congress about Obama’s stance on the settlements, this article from Haaretz says that American Jews are not so happy about Netanyahu’s stubbornness about the issue.

“Key U.S. Jews wary of Netanyahu’s unbending policy on settlements,” Nathan Gutman, Haaretz, 6/3/09

For the first time in America’s decades of jousting with Israel over West Bank settlements, an American president seems to have succeeded in isolating the settlements issue and disconnecting it from other elements of support for Israel.

It is a disentanglement now seen most clearly in Congress, which in the past served as Israel’s stronghold against administration pressure on the issue. But when Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu came to Capitol Hill for a May 18 meeting after being pressed by President Obama to freeze the expansion of West Bank settlements, he was “stunned,” Netanyahu aides said, to hear what seemed like a well-coordinated attack against his stand on settlements. The criticism came from congressional leaders, key lawmakers dealing with foreign relations and even from a group of Jewish members.

They included Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee; California Democrat Howard Berman, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, and California Rep. Henry Waxman, a senior Democrat.

The Jewish lawmakers among them believed “it was their responsibility to make him [Netanyahu] very, very aware of the concerns of the administration and Congress,” said a congressional aide briefed on the meeting. The aide, who declined to be identified, stressed that despite the argument on settlement issues, members of Congress remained fully supportive of Israel on all other issues, including the need to deal with Iran and the concern over Hamas and Hezbollah’s activity.

In their meetings, according to the congressional aide, lawmakers rejected Netanyahu’s call for Palestinian reciprocity on terrorism as a precondition and kept pressing him on the need to stop building in settlements.

Another staffer on Capitol Hill however, stressed that the heated atmosphere should not be interpreted as a sign of a breakdown in relations. “Jewish members,” the staffer said, “express their views very freely” when meeting with Israeli leaders, and did so with Netanyhau’s predecessors as well.

The Israeli prime minister also found little support for his position on settlements from the organized Jewish community. Jewish communal groups have largely remained silent and did not spring to Netanyahu’s defense.

“Even the most conservative institutions of Jewish American life don’t want to go to war over settlement policy,” said David Twersky, who was until recently the senior adviser on international affairs at the American Jewish Congress. “They might say the administration is making too much of a big deal of it, but they will not argue that Jews have the right to settle all parts of Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel].”

4. This profile from the New York Times of an eighteen-year-old Palestinian named Shehade Shelaldeh who runs a stringed instrument repair shop in Ramallah also describes a music program, Al Kamandjati (The Violinist) that offers training to Palestinian children in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and Southern Lebanon. You can read more about Al Kamandjati here.

“Amid West Bank’s Turmoil, The Pull of Strings,” Daniel J. Wakin, The New York Times, 6/2/09

Excerpt: In a place all too familiar with the sounds of gunfire, military vehicles and explosions, he said, “Al Kamandjati taught us to hear music.”

The center, and Mr. Shelaldeh’s acquisition of a trade born in the workshops of 17th-century Italy, are part of a recently kindled interest in classical music, both Western and Oriental, in the occupied territories. Parents, students and teachers here say it comes from the realization that culture is an effective assertion of national identity, particularly at a moment when the prospects for a Palestinian state seem to be receding. It is also a way to give idle young people something to focus on.


Toward the end of his eight years at the conservatory, Mr. Aburedwan decided to establish a music school in his hometown. He rounded up donations of money and instruments, invited colleagues to the area for workshops and pushed for the renovation of a building in Ramallah’s old town. Al Kamandjati opened in January 2006. Operating on a shoestring budget of about $400,000 a year, it now has about 400 students studying both Western and Oriental instruments.

“I want these children to achieve something,” Mr. Aburedwan said. “That’s my dream, that they have a way of expression, a way of living. I want these kids to participate in the building of a Palestinian cultural future.”

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