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Israeli Special Police remand Jerusalem Governor for four days

Ma’an – October 21, 2018

JERUSALEM – Israeli authorities remanded the Palestinian Governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, several hours after he was detained from the Beit Hanina neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem, on Sunday.

According to local sources, on Saturday, several vehicles, belonging to the special unit of Israeli forces, intercepted another vehicle that was transporting the Palestinian Governor of Jerusalem, Adnan Ghaith, in the Beit Hanina neighborhood, and detained him without providing a reason.

Sources added that Israeli forces immediately took Ghaith to an unknown location.

However, several hours after his detention, the Israeli authorities remanded Ghaith for four days.

Muhammad Mahmoud, Ghaith’s lawyer, said an Israeli court in Jerusalem referred Ghaith to the court of Ofer, near Ramallah, for allegedly “committing a violation” inside the West Bank.

The exact details of what the “violation” entails remained unknown.

Additionally, Israeli forces detained Jihad Faqeeh, 50, who is the head of the Jerusalem office in the Palestinian Intelligence force, at a military checkpoint near the Qatanna village, also in the central West Bank district of Jerusalem, as he was heading to work in Ramallah City.

October 21, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Australia and its Israel Embassy: What are they Thinking?

By James O’Neill | OffGuardian | October 18, 2018

According to recent media reports, the Liberal candidate in the Wentworth (Sydney) by-election, former diplomat David Sharma said he “was open” to the idea that Australia’s embassy in Israel could be shifted from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In a separate tweet he went further and said Australia “should consider recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The ostensible reason is that it would be following the lead of the United States.

In separate reports, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is said to be making an announcement in Canberra on 16 October also suggesting that Australia should follow the US lead.

Sharma did qualify his suggestion that Australia’s embassy shift to Jerusalem “should be looked at in the context of a two-state solution (to Israel-Palestine)“.

It is possible that both Sharma and Morrison have timed their statements to coincide with the by-election by making a pitch for the Jewish vote in that electorate. According to census data, Wentworth has 12.5 percent of its population professing the Jewish faith, a significant figure in electoral terms. That is the kindest interpretation that can be placed on their remarks.

More likely, it is yet another example of Australia blindly following the United States in adopting a policy that is clearly in breach of international law. The Guardian and other mainstream media outlets have noted that the American policy has thus far only been followed by Guatemala. No mainstream media outlet has raised the issue of such a policy being in breach of international law. The special status of Jerusalem has been completely ignored.

Jerusalem is an international city under United Nations protection, and has been so since Resolution 181 of 1947, which declared Jerusalem a “separate entity.”

In June 1980, UN Security Council Resolution 476 was unanimously passed (i.e. including the US), declaring that “all actions by Israel, the occupying power, which purports to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of international law.”

UNSC Resolution 478, also passed unanimously, called upon all “States to refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in the Holy City of Jerusalem.” UNSC resolutions are binding on all States. There is no room for ambiguity here, and even if Sharma and Morrison (and the Australian media) choose to ignore this issue, that is not an excuse. It has to be presumed that the legal advisors to the government in the Department of Foreign Affairs are cognisant of the legal implications of the government’s proposed shift in policy.

Sharma’s qualification that such a move would be in the context of a two state solution is absolutely meaningless. The Israeli government is totally uninterested in such a development, as its actions since 1948 make abundantly clear. Its ongoing theft of Palestinian land, the blockade of Gaza, the daily shootings of Palestinian men, women and children and its complete ignoring of multiple General Assembly resolutions over decades are all symptomatic of a violent, apartheid regime for whom international law is just an impediment to fulfillment of the Yinon Plan for a Greater Israel.

That Australia should even contemplate moving its embassy to Jerusalem beggars belief. UNSC resolutions are binding on member states. The fact that the United States chooses to ignore international law comes as no great surprise, even when, as with the Jerusalem resolutions they were a party to their formulation and voted for them.

The latest suggestions about Australia moving its embassy to Jerusalem puts them in the same dubious company as the US and Israel, both serial violators of international law. Does Australia really want to be in that company? Its voting record in the UN on Israel-Palestine issues tends to answer that question in the affirmative. This latest disregard for international law is consistent with Australia’s disregard for its international obligations toward the treatment of refugees on Manus and Nauru. It therefore marks a continuing downward slide from its earlier proud role as a supporter of a principled approach to foreign policy issues, and especially issues of international law.

This degradation of policy has not been matched with a reduction in the rhetoric of Australia’s professed belief in the “rules based international order.” The manifest hypocrisy of that position is now exemplified even more by the proposed shifting of the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. Australia’s policies are no more than a hollow sham.

James O’Neill is a Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au

October 18, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , | 8 Comments

Israel Rattled By UNESCO’s Palestinian Protection Pledges

Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem. (Photo: via Twitter)
Palestine Chronicle | October 12, 2018

The executive council of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has left Israel disquieted, after vowing to effect protections for Palestinian heritage.

A statement, issued by Israel’s United Nations ambassador Danny Danon, said:

“This is an additional proof for those who did not understand why the United States and Israel withdrew from UNESCO. This proves once again that UNESCO is a body based on lies, biases and deliberate action against us. Israel will not be a member of an organization that is trying to rewrite history and accept to be exploited by our enemies.”

The protections cover educational and cultural institutions, the need to protect and preserve the monuments, culture and education in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and to show Israeli violations against Palestinian heritage, cultural and natural sites, particularly the Old City of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Compound, the Church of the Nativity, the mosque of Bilal ibn Rabah in Bethlehem, the Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (Al-Khalil) and the Gaza Strip.

Israel sternly rejected the mandate which the council unanimously espoused Wednesday during a Palestine resolutions session at the body’s 205th plenary meeting in Paris.

The disputed resolutions detail, according to Al Ray Palestinian Media Agency, that,

“The Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls, a site inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and on the List of World Heritage in Danger, is the sacred city of the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam,” reaffirming that “all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which have altered or purport to alter the character and status of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and in particular the ‘basic law’ on Jerusalem, are null and void and must be rescinded forthwith.”

The Program and External Relations Commission (PX) of the UNESCO executive also adopted a second resolution to include crimes committed by Israel, such as the destruction of schools and other crimes committed in Khan Al-Ahmar.

The UNESCO declaration stated:

“The two Palestinian sites of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal Ibn Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem” are “an integral part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and shares the conviction affirmed by the international community that the two sites are of religious significance for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.”

It also added:

“The ongoing Israeli excavations, works, construction of private roads for settlers and of a Wall inside the Old City of Al-Khalil/Hebron which are illegal under international law and harmfully affect the authenticity and integrity of the site, and the subsequent denial of freedom of movement and freedom of access to places of worship.”

Both resolutions are supported by Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, and Sudan.

“Tthe spirit of dialogue and the sense of responsibility that led to this result. A trend towards consensus is now emerging,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay added.

October 12, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Israel arrests 500 Palestinians over Facebook posts

Palestine Information Center – October 8, 2018

GAZA – Israel has arrested 500 Palestinians, including women, children and MPs, over their social media posts, the Palestine Center for Prisoners Studies reported.

The center’s spokesman Riyadh Al-Ashqar said that the Israeli authorities began arresting Palestinians for their social media posts since the start of the Jerusalem Intifada claiming such uploads incite terror against Israel.

Israel is using its recently formed “Cyber Unit” to monitor Palestinian social media posts, he said.

This unit, Al-Ashqar said, classifies any Facebook post that glorifies Palestinian martyrs, discloses Israeli crimes, and supports resistance as “incitement of terror”.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been sentenced over the past three years to different jail terms on the ground of incitement on social media, he charged.

Some others were placed under house arrest and denied from using social media platforms, he continued.

Al-Ashqar strongly condemned such arrests that “clearly violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.”

He concluded by calling on the international community to protect the Palestinian people’s right of freedom of expression.

October 8, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 3 Comments

UNRWA concerned about Israel plan to stop its work in Jerusalem

MEMO – October 6, 2018

The UN Works and Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has expressed its concern about a statement made by Jerusalem’s mayor, Nir Barkat, that he would stop the organisation’s operations in the occupied city.

UNRWA’s statement, a copy of which was sent to MEMO, said: “UNRWA conducts humanitarian operations in conformity with the UN Charter, bilateral and multilateral agreements that continue to be in force, [as well as] relevant General Assembly resolutions”.

The statement added: “The Agency is specifically mandated by the UN General Assembly to deliver protection and assistance to Palestine refugees in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, pending a resolution of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.”

It continued: “UNRWA has continuously maintained operations in the occupied Palestinian territory including East Jerusalem since 1967, with the cooperation and on the basis of a formal agreement with the State of Israel, which remains in force”.

“The Agency is recognized for the important work it carries out in education, health-care, relief and social services in East Jerusalem. It is determined to continue carrying out these services”.

Yesterday Barkat, Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, accused UNRWA of “operating illegally and promoting incitement against Israel,” before confirming that UNRWA schools in the occupied city will be closed by the end of the current school year. As well as schools, clinics, sports centres and other services will also be transferred to the Israeli-controlled Jerusalem Municipality.

UNRWA said of Barkat’s statement: “Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained.”

October 6, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Jerusalem: Israel settlers occupy buildings near Al-Aqsa Mosque

MEMO | October 4, 2018

Israeli settlers have occupied two Palestinian buildings near Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem.

In the early hours of this morning, Israeli settlers stormed a building in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. According to Wafa, the “settlers moved into the building owned by the Joudeh family, which was used as a clinic” in the Aqbat Darwish area, near Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This was the second building in Jerusalem to be taken over in the past two days. Yesterday settlers occupied a building in the Wadi Hilweh area of Silwan, situated just outside the walls of the Old City and below Al-Aqsa Mosque.

This is not the first time these areas have been targeted by illegal Israeli settlers, with Silwan in particular repeatedly facing attempts to drive Palestinian inhabitants from their homes. The “City of David” national park – a tourist site and archaeological dig run by right-wing settler group City of David Foundation (also known as Elad) – is situated in Batan Al-Hawa in Silwan and is frequently used as justification for such illegal activity.

In July, the Israeli Knesset advanced a new law that would allow residential construction in the “City of David” national park. According to a report by Haaretz, “the minutes of the [Elad] committee’s previous meeting in January made it clear that Elad and its leader, David Beeri, are behind the bill, which is designed to promote construction at the site.”

In August a “heritage centre” was opened in the park, with the inauguration attended by senior Israeli and US figures. A Palestinian resident of Silwan, Yakoub Al-Rajabi, explained that: “We know that this was a well-orchestrated plan to force us to leave […] And if we stay, it will paralyse us and isolate us in our homes”.

Since 2002, 700 Palestinians have been facing eviction from their land in Batan Al-Hawa. Their land was transferred to the Benvenisti Trust when Israel’s Justice Ministry issued title deeds to the organisation for the land in question. The trust is controlled by Ateret Cohanim, a right-wing organisation that encourages Jewish Israelis to settle illegally in Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem.

In June, Israel admitted that its decision to evict the Palestinians of Batan Al-Hawa was “flawed” and that it had not properly investigated the nature of the trust, or the Ottoman-era law that applies to the case. Despite the admission, a number of families have already been evicted from Batan Al-Hawa or are embroiled in court battles to save their homes.

Other areas of Jerusalem are also targeted for illegal Israeli settlement. According to statistics from the Jerusalem Institute, as of 2015 there were some 211,000 Jewish Israelis living in occupied East Jerusalem, amounting to 40 per cent of all inhabitants in these neighbourhoods. The statistics also demonstrate that the number of Israelis living in illegal Jerusalem settlements has grown consistently since the city was occupied in 1967.

READ ALSO: Israel settlers flood Khan Al-Ahmar with waste water

October 4, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel bans restoration of East Jerusalem sports stadium

MEMO | September 21, 2018

The Israeli authorities yesterday banned the renovation of a sports stadium in the Palestinian town of Issawiya, northeast of East Jerusalem.

A member of the follow-up committee in Issawiya, Mohammed Abu Al-Homs, said that joint teams from the Israeli Jerusalem municipality and police forces stormed the Yasser Arafat sports stadium during renovation work and forced the workers to stop working under the pretext that the renovation was being financed by a terrorist group.

He explained that the Issawiya management club started about a month ago to restore the stadium with donations from the local residents, but they were surprised yesterday when the Israeli army forces stormed the stadium and stopped the restoration work.

He added that the Jerusalem municipality tried to seize the stadium by offering to restore it themselves and turn it into a public arena, but the club’s management and the town residents refused, stressing that they will restore the stadium on their own.

September 21, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | Leave a comment

New report documents ‘torture in the heart of Jerusalem’

Israeli security forces brutally arrest Palestinian protesters in West Bank [Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency]
MEMO | September 20, 2018

A new report by Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer claims that Israeli officials “routinely” carry out the “practice of torture” at a key interrogation facility in occupied East Jerusalem.

The report, “I’ve Been There: A Study of Torture and Inhumane Treatment in Al-Moscobiyeh Interrogation Centre”, is based on the testimonies of 138 individuals held in the Russian Compound of Jerusalem gathered during the period 2015-2017.

“For generations of Palestinians, the Russian Compound has represented the most severe interrogation facility in all of the occupied territory,” Addameer states.

“It has been the place of intentionally inflicted suffering for hundreds of prisoners. Its location in the heart of Jerusalem, next to the Old City, is something of a metaphor for the whole apparatus of the occupation. The domination is hidden in plain sight.”

According to the testimonies acquired by Addameer, eight forms of abuse were identified at the facility: positional torture such as “stress positions”; beatings during interrogation; isolation/solitary confinement, sleep deprivation and long interrogation, threats to family members, being subjected to sounds of torture, deliberate medical neglect, and screaming and cursing.

More than half of those surveyed reported being held in stress positions; one 18-year-old former prisoner was held in a stress position for eight hours a day, for 18 days. A third of prisoners reported being beaten, while a fifth of individuals were subjected to violent shaking.

Addameer noted that “children are no exception when it comes to mistreatment and intimidation”, with 47.8 per cent reporting “that they were beaten during their arrest”, 45.5 per cent experiencing positional torture during interrogation, and 40.9 per cent “threatened with the potentially injuring of their families if they did not cooperate”.

According to the rights group, “the primary conclusion that the above research and indicators provide is that mistreatment, and coercion, amounting to torture, are commonplace and systematic within the occupation’s interrogation systems”.

Addameer added that “as a result of torture’s status in international law, the international community has a distinct responsibility to take action to sanction the perpetrating entity”, urging “the international community to begin sanctioning the occupier for its crimes”.

Read also:

Palestinian man dies after Israel forces beat him at his home

September 20, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Forget Putin, Trump is Acting in Every Way Like Netanyahu’s Manchurian Candidate

By Miko Peled | Mint Press News | September 15, 2018

In the months leading up to the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, the U.S. has colluded with Israel in a string of policies and decisions that completely undermine the legitimacy of the agreement, not to mention Palestinian claims to justice, freedom and ultimately peace. As these policies unfold, one cannot help recalling the words of the great Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, who said that talking with the Israelis is “a conversation between the sword and the neck.”

There is a clear common thread that binds several of the U.S. policies enacted by President Donald Trump since last December. Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; pulling out of the Iran agreement; defunding UNRWA, and closing the PLO mission in D.C. all satisfy the objectives of the Israeli government while not benefiting the United States in the least. One might imagine that the United States is executing Israel’s policy, reading as it were from a menu that was provided by Benjamin Netanyahu. In fact, the Trump administration is every Israeli prime minister’s dream.

Jerusalem

Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was reckless, dangerous and absurd. The occupation and annexation of Jerusalem by Israel was in violation of UN resolution 181 from November 1947, which states in “Part III, City of Jerusalem” that:

“The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.”

Resolution 194 from December 1948 — in other words, more than a year after Resolution 181 was passed and the western half of Jerusalem was occupied and subjected to a total full ethnic cleansing, where not one Palestinian was permitted to remain — reiterates this:

8 | Resolves that, in view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area, including the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern, Shu’fat, should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control …

For this reason all diplomatic missions to Israel are situated in Tel Aviv and not Jerusalem. The diplomatic missions in Jerusalem mostly pre-date the establishment of the State of Israel and are considered sovereign and independent of their countries’ embassies in Tel Aviv. Even the U.S. consulate until recently reported directly to Washington, and the consul general was in fact an ambassador. This was not unlike placing the U.S. embassy to France in Berlin and — according to sources I spoke to at the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem — now that the ambassador’s office was moved to Jerusalem, the place is in a state of confusion and it is not at all clear who is responsible for what.

In addition to all of the above, the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel legitimizes the crime of ethnic cleansing and destruction which Israel has perpetrated in Jerusalem since 1948. This move did not benefit the U.S. in any way but it boosted Benjamin Netanyahu’s political power, and can be viewed as nothing less than a personal political gift from the president of the United States to Netanyahu.

Iran Deal

Israel, and Netanyahu, in particular, have been against the nuclear deal with Iran from the very beginning. Needing a diversion from its own war crimes and violations of international law, Israel has for many years pointed to Iran as a threat to itself and the rest of the world. This was a point of serious disagreement between the Obama administration and Israel and then Donald Trump put the disagreement to rest and the U.S. withdrew from the agreement.

According to a piece in Rand.com, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement “despite a lack of evidence that Iran is violating the agreement. To the contrary, the International Atomic Energy Agency has verified Iran’s compliance numerous times.” The article continues by saying, “the implications of this decision could be disastrous for the Middle East under any conceivable scenario.”

piece in the British Independent bluntly claims that:

“The president’s foreign policy has so far been marked by a significant ratcheting of tensions with Iran, driven by his administration’s noted friendliness towards Israel, which opposes the [Iran nuclear] deal.”

According to a report from August 2018 by the IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency:

“Since Implementation Day, the Agency has been verifying and monitoring the implementation by Iran of its nuclear-related commitments under the JCPOA.” The report states that among other things:

“Since 16 January, 2016 [JCPOA Implementation Day], the Agency has verified and monitored Iran’s implementation of its nuclear-related commitments in accordance with the modalities set out in the JCPOA.”

The report states clearly that Iran was and continues to be compliant in all areas of the agreement. All the other countries that are signatories to the agreement remain committed to it, and they all insisted that a U.S. withdrawal was a mistake. Only one person insisted the U.S. must withdraw, and that is Benjamin Netanyahu, and he is the one person whose claims President Trump decided to accept. Once again, the United States had nothing to gain and everything to lose from the withdrawal and once again Netanyahu personally gained political strength as the sole voice to which the president of the United States listens.

UNRWA

The United States can see no benefit whatsoever in denying UNRWA funding; yet this is what the Trump administration decided to do. The very agency responsible for providing relief, albeit inadequate, to the refugees of Palestine was receiving $300 million per year, which is a drop in the bucket in terms of relief and of course in terms of the U.S. government’s total budget. In an open letter to Palestine refugees and UNRWA staff, dated September 1, 2018, Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General, writes,

“The need for humanitarian action … in the case of Palestine refugees, was caused by forced displacement, dispossession, loss of homes and livelihoods, as well as by statelessness and occupation. … [T]he undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away.”

“The attempt to make UNRWA somehow responsible for perpetuating the crisis is disingenuous at best,” the commissioner said, responding to claims made by Netanyahu that “UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the problem of the Palestinian refugees.” Netanyahu also stated that UNRWA “perpetuates the narrative of the so-called ‘right of return,’” which the state of Israel fears — and therefore, according to Netanyahu, “UNRWA must disappear.”

According to The New York Times, this move was pushed hard by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, “as part of a plan to compel Palestinian politicians to drop demands for many of those refugees to return.”  The right of the refugees to return is enshrined in UN Resolution 194, and one wonders why the U.S. should object to Palestinian demand for return of the refugees to their homes? Once again this is a gift to Netanyahu, who wants to see the refugee issue disappear.

PLO Mission

A product of the Oslo Accords, the PLO mission in Washington is the de-facto embassy of Palestine, the face and the voice of the Palestinian Authority in the U.S. Now, almost exactly on the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Accords, the Trump administration announces the closing of the mission. It could have come as no surprise when Netanyahu, who fiercely opposed the Accords, applauded the U.S. administration decision. This was yet one more insignificant step for the U.S., and one giant gift to Benjamin Netanyahu.

September 17, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A New Capital? Palestinians say Abu Dis is No Substitute for East Jerusalem

By Jonathon Cook | The National | September 11, 2018

From the offputting concrete edifice that confronts a visitor to Abu Dis, the significance of this West Bank town – past and present – is not immediately obvious.

The eight metre-high grey slabs of Israel’s separation wall silently attest to a divided land and a quarter-century of a failed Middle East peace process.

The entrance to Abu Dis could not be more disconcerting, given reports that Donald Trump’s administration intends it to be the capital of a future Palestinian state, in place of Jerusalem.

The wall, and the security cameras lining the top of it, are the legacy of battles for control of Jerusalem’s borders. Sections of concrete remain charred black by fires residents set years ago in the forlorn hope of weakening the structure and bringing it down.

Before the wall was erected more than a decade ago, Abu Dis had a spectacular view across the valley to Jerusalem’s Old City and the iconic golden-topped Dome of the Rock, less than three kilometres away. It was a few minutes’ drive – or an hour’s hike – to Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest site in Islam, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the reputed location of Jesus’s crucifixion.

Now, for many of the 13,000 inhabitants, Jerusalem might as well as be on another planet. They can no longer reach its holy places, markets, schools or hospitals.

Abu Dis, say its residents, is hemmed in on all sides – by Israel’s oppressive wall; by illegal Jewish settlements encroaching relentlessly on what is left of its lands; and by a large, Israeli-run landfill site that, according to experts, is a threat to human health.

The Palestinian authorities do not even control Abu Dis. The Israeli security cameras watch over it and armoured jeeps full of Israeli soldiers make forays at will into its crowded streets.

Perhaps fittingly, given the Palestinians’ current plight, Abu Dis feels more like it is being gradually turned into one wing of a dystopian open-air prison than a capital-in-waiting.

Abu Dis repackaged

Nonetheless, the town has been thrust into the spotlight. Rumours have intensified that US President Trump’s promised peace plan – what he terms the “deal of the century” – is nearing completion. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been drafting it for more than a year.

Back in January Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, confirmed for the first time that the White House was leaning on him to accept Abu Dis as his capital.

The issue has become highly charged for Palestinians since May, when Mr Trump overturned decades of diplomatic consensus by moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

That appeared to overturn a once widely shared assumption that Israel would be required to withdraw from East Jerusalem, which it occupied in 1967, and allow the Palestinians to declare it their capital.

Instead Mr Kushner and his team appear to believe they can repackage Abu Dis, just outside the city limits, as a substitute capital.

How plausible is it that the Palestinians can accept a ghettoised, anonymous community like Abu Dis for such a pivotal role in their nation-building project?

Symbolic power

Ghassan Khatib, a former Palestinian cabinet minister, said Mr Trump would find no takers among the Palestinian leadership.

“A Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital simply won’t work. It’s not credible,” he said. “It’s not just Jerusalem’s religious and historic significance. It also has strategic, economic and geographic importance to Palestinians.”

The people of Abu Dis appear to feel the same way, with many pointing to Jerusalem’s enormous symbolic power, as well as the potential role of international tourism in developing the Palestinian economy.

Abu Dis, however, is unlikely ever to attract visitors, even should it get a dramatic makeover.

The approach road, skirting the massive settlement of Maale Adumim, home to 40,000 Jews, is adorned with red signs warning that it is dangerous for Israelis to enter the area.

The section of wall at the entrance to Abu Dis alludes to the residents’ growing anger and frustration – not only with Israel but some of their own leaders.

Artists have spray-painted a giant image of Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian resistance leader imprisoned by Israel for the past 16 years. It shows him lifting his handcuffed hands to make a V-for-victory sign.

But noticeably, next to him is a much smaller image of Mr Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, whose face has been painted out. He has come under mounting domestic criticism for maintaining Palestinian “security cooperation” with Israel’s occupation forces.

Resentment at such cooperation is felt especially keenly in Abu Dis. Large iron gates in the wall give the Israeli army ready access in and out of the town.

An orphaned town

Under the Oslo accords signed in the mid-1990s, all of Abu Dis was placed temporarily under Israeli military control, and most of it under Israel’s civil control also. That temporary status appears to have become permanent, leaving residents at the whim of hostile Israeli authorities who deny building permits and readily issue demolition orders.

The restrictions mean Abu Dis lacks most of the infrastructure one would associate with a city, let alone a capital.

Abdulwahab Sabbah, a local community activist, said: “We are now a small island of territory controlled by the Israeli army.

“Not only have we lost our schools, the hospitals we once used, our holy places, the job opportunities that the city offered. Families have been split apart too, unable to visit their relatives in Jerusalem.

“We have been orphaned. We have lost Jerusalem, our mother.”

A short drive into Abu Dis and the shell of a huge building comes into view, a reminder that the idea of an Abu Dis upgrade is not the Trump administration’s alone.

In fact, noted Mr Khatib, Israel began rebranding Abu Dis as a second “Al Quds” – the Holy City, the Arabic name for Jerusalem – in the late 1990s, after the Oslo agreement allowed Palestinian leaders to return to Gaza and limited parts of the West Bank.

The Palestinian leadership, desperate to get a foothold closer to the densely populated neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem, played along. They expected that Israel would eventually relinquish Abu Dis to full Palestinian control, allowing it to be annexed to East Jerusalem in a future peace deal.

View of al-Aqsa

In 1996 the Palestinians began work building a $4 million parliament on the side of Abu Dis closest to Jerusalem. The location was selected so that the office of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat would have a view of Al Aqsa.

Reports from that time talk of Abu Dis becoming a gateway, or “safe corridor”, for West Bank Palestinians to reach the mosque. One proposal was to build a tunnel between Abu Dis and the Old City.

However, with the outbreak of hostilities in 2000 – a Palestinian intifada – work on the parliament came to a halt. The interior was never finished, and there is now no view of Al Aqsa. The parliament too is sealed off from Jerusalem by the wall.

Since then Israel has barred the Palestinian Authority from having any role in East Jerusalem.

Khalil Erekat, a caretaker, holds the key to the unused parliament. Once visitors could inspect the building, including its glass-domed central chamber. Now, he said, only pigeons and the odd stray dog or snake ventured inside.

“No one comes any more,” he added. “The place has been forgotten.”

And that, it seems, is the way Palestinian officials would prefer it. With the Trump administration mooting the town as a substitute capital, the parliament is now an embarrassing white elephant.

Requests from The National to the Palestinian authorities to visit the building were rejected on the grounds that it was no longer structurally safe.

Eyesore ghetto

Evidence of how quickly Israel has transformed Abu Dis from a rural suburb of Jerusalem into an eyesore ghetto are evident in the homes around the parliament.

A once-palatial four-storey home next door would be more in place in war-ravaged Gaza than an impending capital. Its collapsed top floors sit precariously above the rest of the structure.

Mohammed Anati, a retired carpenter aged 64, is a tenant occupying the bottom floor with his wife and three sons.

He said the destruction was carried out by the Jerusalem municipality several years ago, apparently because the upper floors were built in violation of planning rules Israeli military authorities imposed after 1967.

Neighbours speculate that, in fact, Israel was more concerned that the top of the building provided views over the wall.

Mr Anati said that, paradoxically, the Jerusalem municipality treated this small neighbourhood next to the wall as within its jurisdiction. “We have to pay council taxes to Jerusalem even though we are cut off from the city and receive no services,” he said.

Asked whether he thought Abu Dis could be a Palestinian capital, Mr Anati scoffed. “Trump will offer us the worst deal of the century,” he said. “Jerusalem has to be the capital. There is nothing of Jerusalem here since Israel built the wall.”

Only pigeons still free

Nearby, Ghassan Abu Hillel’s two-storey home presses up against the grey slabs of concrete. He said cameras on the top of the wall monitored his and his neighbours’ activities around the clock.

His family moved to this house in 1967, when he was 14 years old, and shortly before Israel occupied Abu Dis, along with the rest of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Until the wall was constructed, he spent his time herding sheep and goats on the surrounding hills.

Now he has had to corral them into a corner of the wall. Their improvised pen is daubed with graffiti: “Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.”

His herd of what was once more than 200 sheep is down to barely a dozen. The animals can no longer graze out on the hills, and he cannot afford the cost of feeding them.

Unlike Mr Abu Hillel and the sheep, his pigeons still enjoy their freedom. “They can fly over the wall and reach Jerusalem whenever they want,” he said.

His family owned much of the land surrounding Abu Dis before 1967, he added, but almost all of it had been taken by Israel – originally on the pretext that it was needed for military purposes.

Since then, Israel has built a series of Jewish settlements on the surrounding land, including Maale Adumim, Kfar Adumim and Kedar.

In the early 1980s it also opened a landfill site to cope with the region’s waste. In 2009 the United Nations warned that toxic fumes from waste-burning and leakage into the groundwater posed a threat to local inhabitants’ health.

A bluff from Israel

Some residents are actively finding ways to break out of the isolation imposed on Abu Dis by Israel.

Mr Sabbah is a founder of the Friendship Association, which encourages exchange programmes with European students, teachers and youth clubs. His most successful project is the twinning of Abu Dis with the London borough of Camden.

Mr Sabbah’s prominent political activities may be one reason why his home – along with the local mayor’s – was one of 10 invaded in the middle of the night on September 4.

The operation had the hallmarks of what former Israeli soldiers from the whistleblowing group Breaking the Silence have termed “establishing presence” – military training exercises designed to disrupt the lives of Palestinian communities and spread fear.

Mr Sabbah is sceptical that the Abu Dis proposal by the Trump administration has been made in good faith.

“It’s a bluff,” he said. “Israel has shown through all its actions that it does not want any Palestinian state – and that means no capital, even in Abu Dis.

“It is being offered only because Israel knows no Palestinian leader could ever accept it as a capital. And that way Israel can again blame us for being the ones to reject their version of ‘peace’.”

An oasis of normality

Amid its confinement, however, Abu Dis does have one asset – a university – that now attracts thousands of young Palestinians, though it adds to overcrowding.

The main campus of the Palestinian-run Al Quds university has been operating in Abu Dis since the 1980s.

Sitting on the crossroads between the Palestinian cities of Bethlehem and Nablus to the south, Jericho to the east, and Ramallah to the north, the Abu Dis campus has grown rapidly. It has profited from the fact that West Bank Palestinians cannot access another campus of Al Quds university in East Jerusalem.

The university is enclosed and security is tight. Inside, students enjoy spacious grounds with shaded gardens, a small oasis of normality where it is possible briefly to forget the situation outside.

Nonetheless, the university is not immune from Israeli military operations either. On September 5, soldiers shut down the campus and nearby schools, as they reportedly fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at youths.

Omar Mahmoud, aged 23, a medical student from Nablus, raised his eyebrows at the suggestion that Abu Dis could serve as the Palestinians’ capital.

“It’s fully under Israeli control,” he said. “One side there is the wall and on the other side there are Israeli settlements. There are no services and it just gets more crowded by the year.”

He has shared an apartment with other students in Abu Dis for five years. He said: “To be honest, I can’t wait to get out of here.”

September 11, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paraguay cancels embassy move to Jerusalem, Israel responds by closing its embassy in Paraguay

RT | September 5, 2018

Paraguay will return its embassy in Israel to Tel Aviv, after the country’s previous government relocated it to Jerusalem in May. In a tit-for-tat response, Israel announced it would close its embassy in Paraguay.

National chancellor Luis Alberto Castiglioni announced the move on Wednesday, calling the decision by former President Horacio Cartes “visceral and without justification.” Cartes, a right-winger, made the decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem in May, and was present for its inauguration.

It was one of the last decisions Cartes made before President Mario Abdo Benitez took office last month, and followed the controversial decisions of the US and Guatemala to move their embassies to Jerusalem.

Benitez, the grandson of a Lebanese immigrant, said that he was not consulted about the move.

“Paraguay wants to contribute to an intensification of regional diplomatic efforts to achieve a broad, fair and lasting peace in the Middle East,” said Castiglioni on Wednesday.

The recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is a controversial one. East Jerusalem has been claimed as the capital of the Palestinian state, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the US embassy there as “an American settlement outpost in East Jerusalem.”

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki claimed on Wednesday that he pushed President Benitez to reverse the move to Jerusalem.

Israel responded to Paraguay’s decision by recalling its ambassador to Paraguay and closing its embassy in the Latin American country’s capital, Asuncion. Before the diplomatic spat erupted, the Israeli ambassador, Zeev Harel, had been meeting with the Paraguayan minister for education, discussing cooperation between the two countries.

September 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | Leave a comment

Israel approves plans to build military colleges in Jerusalem

MEMO | August 15, 2018

Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality Planning and Construction Committee has approved a plan to build military colleges on Palestinian land located in Ein Karem village, southwest of the holy city, Safa reported yesterday.

According to the news site, the Israeli Broadcasting Committee has said that the plan was approved despite strong opposition by the Franciscan Church and its followers who fear the construction will drown Mary’s Spring, which is a holy site for Christians.

Ein Karem is one of the largest and most important villages in Jerusalem. It lies along the highway that connects Jerusalem with Yaffa. Palestinians who inhabited the village were forced out of their homes during the 1948 Nakba.

Occupation forces continue to target Islamic and Christian sites in the occupied Palestinian lands through land expropriation and allocating areas as “military zones”.

August 15, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment