Egypt opens Rafah crossing one way for eleven hours

27 Nov

Palestinians climb a gate during a rally calling on Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah border crossing, at the crossing in the southern Gaza StripPalestinians hold Palestinian flags as they climb a gate during a rally calling on Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah border crossing, at the crossing in the southern Gaza Strip November 23, 2014. REUTERS-Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

By Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters, Gaza, 26 November 2014

 Egypt opens Rafah crossing to stranded Palestinians bound for Gaza

Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday for the first time in a month to allow thousands of stranded Palestinians to return to the Gaza Strip, border officials said.

However, the frontier remained closed in the other direction, making it impossible for the vast majority of Gazans to leave the densely populated Mediterranean enclave.

The Rafah crossing was shut on Oct. 25 after Islamist militants in Egypt’s adjacent Sinai region killed 33 members of the security forces in some of the worst anti-state violence since Islamist president Mohamed Mursi was toppled in July 2013.

The month-long closure marooned around 6,000 Palestinians in Egypt and third countries, while around a thousand people in Gaza are desperate to get out for medical treatment in Egypt, officials in Islamist-ruled Gaza say.

Egyptian state television said outbound traffic would be allowed from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday and from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Impatient to return home, hundreds of Palestinians swiftly started to cross as soon as the border offices opened.

“The situation was very difficult. People ran out of money, others were sick, it was tough for everyone. Some went to mosques to sleep because they had no money,” said Fadwa Almoghrabi, who was stuck in Cairo for 20 days on her way back from visiting relatives in the Gulf.

Travelers said a combined 11 hours of openings would not be enough to allow the thousands of stranded Gazans to return.

Rafah is the only major border crossing into the impoverished Gaza Strip that does not go through Israel, which also blockades the territory.

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Gaza gets a second postwar delivery of building materials

26 Nov

289540_345x230A Palestinian man surveys the rubble following an Israeli military strike on Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip on July 15, 2014 (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

[Note: Gaza needs a minimum of 100 trucks every day … not two deliveries comprising of 43 trucks in 3 months! Ed]

Ma’an News Agency report, Gaza City, 25 November 2014

Twenty-eight trucks of cement entered the battered Gaza Strip Tuesday in only the second delivery of building materials for the private sector since a 50-day summer war, an official said.

Raed Fattuh, the PA official in charge of the entry of goods into Gaza from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing, said 28 trucks, each carrying 40 tons of cement, had crossed into the enclave.

It was the first delivery of building materials for the private sector since Oct. 14, when 75 trucks entered Gaza, carrying 1,300 tons of material — 15 trucks of cement, 10 of metal and 50 of gravel.

“This is the biggest delivery of cement since the war ended,” Fatuh told AFP, referring to the seven-week conflict between Israel and Hamas militants which ended with a truce on Aug. 26.

“But it is not enough, it is only a tiny amount for the reconstruction.”

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Israel’s wars on Gaza: what now for Palestinian struggle?

25 Nov

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Richard Falk recently conducted a speaking tour of New Zealand. An international law and international relations scholar who taught at Princeton University for forty years, since 2002 he has lived in Santa Barbara, California, and taught at the local campus of the University of California in Global and International Studies and since 2005 chaired the Board of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He recently completed a six-year term as Special UN Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

A Compilation of Writings Relating to Israel’s 50 Day Attack on Gaza

[Prefatory Note: since the Gaza ceasefire, tensions have not abated. There are renewed signs that Palestinians are increasingly restive and Israelis are moving ever closer to a dual culmination of the Zionist mission—formalizing 1- the Jewish character of Israel regardless of its implications for equal rights (the inequalities embedded in nationality law, hidden beneath the pseudo-equality of citizenship); consolidating control over Jerusalem by settlement expansion, house demolitions, and through the manipulation of residency permits and taxation; 2-proceeding with the annexation or incorporation of either the whole of the West Bank or substantial portions, possibly mainly defined by the territories set aside as Article C in the Oslo process, comprising roughly 60% of the West Bank; these moves reinforced by the selection of Reuven Rivlin as President of Israel, a right wing Likud follower of Jabotinsky who has been long known as an advocate of a Israeli one-state solution coterminous with historic Palestine. These two sets of trends were intensified by the Gaza attack, sharpening Palestinian frustrations with the violence of the occupation and reinforcing Israeli ambitions with security concerns.

Some of the selections below have been published online in [his] blog site [richardfalk.wordpress.com], but the compilation, initially prepared for the POMEAS project of the Istanbul Policy Center at the University of Sabanci.]

Introduction

In July 2014, for the third time in less than six years Israel launched a major military operation against Gaza, causing alarming levels of death, trauma, and destruction. The one-sideness of these attacks makes the language of ‘massacre,’ ‘atrocity,’ and ‘crime’ seem more fitting than that of ‘war,’ much less the Israeli claim that it is acting in legal self-defense. During the 50-day stretch of unfolding carnage I tried to write responsively as the situation developed through its various diplomatic and military phases.

Now that a ceasefire is in place it is possible to reflect upon what is happening and to think about what might be done to avoid a recurrence of this recent intensification of what is already, without any special military assault, an intolerable situation. The 1.7 million people of Gaza have been subjected to a comprehensive blockade and lockdown ever since mid-2007, which is itself a flagrant violation of the unconditional prohibition on the collective punishment of an occupied people, as set forth in Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that sets forth the requirements of international humanitarian law.

A secondary theme that is explored in these essays is the complicity of the international and regional community. While protective action is proposed and undertaken on behalf of those enduring the exploits of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the inter-governmental mention of any responsibility to protect the beleaguered people of Gaza is not even politically permissible to consider. Palestine, in general, has been victimized by what I call ‘the geopolitical veto’ exercised by the United States with varying degrees of support from Western Europe. This geopolitical veto is supplemental to the constitutional veto that is given by the UN Charter to the five permanent members of the Security Council. It can work both to authorize intervention by way of ‘a coalition of the willing’ as was the case in relation to Kosovo in 1999 or it can preclude the protective action needed to mitigate a humanitarian catastrophe as has been the case in relation to Israel and Palestine for many years.

It should be observed also that the people of Gaza have been further victimized by the wider tensions of the region, especially the hostility of the Gulf monarchies to any form of political Islam that rests on a democratic foundation. This reality was exhibited by their strong support for the 2013 military coup in Egypt that overthrew the elected government headed by Mohamed Morsi, the president whose background and leadership was misleadingly associated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. To much of the Arab world, Hamas in Gaza was treated as an offshoot of the Egyptian MB, and its existence was viewed as a threat to the stability of these Gulf states, despite their own Islamic orientations. It was thus shocking, although not surprising, that these Arab governments welcomed the Israeli attack, and lent their silent support, which exhibited the priority of political self-interest over religious and cultural identity. These themes and others are explored in the fourteen essays that appear here. Their aim is to create a coherent picture of what took place during the attacks on Gaza, including the aftermath that has generated some encouragement for Palestinian national ambitions. I wrote these short essays as the events unfolded over the 50 day period, a spectacle of sheer horror that the world was invited to watch. No revisions have been made.

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Former Mossad chief fears for ‘future of the Zionist project’

25 Nov
shabtai-shavit-2
Former Mossad chief Shabtai Shavit

 

Middle East Monitor, 24 November 2014

A former director general of the Mossad has declared that he fears for the future of Zionism, due to “the critical mass of the threats against us on the one hand, and the government’s blindness and political and strategic paralysis on the other.”

In an op-ed Monday for Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Shabtai Shavit, who served as the agency’s director general from 1989-1996, wrote that “for the first time” he is now “truly concerned about the future of the Zionist project.”

According to Shavit, US-Israeli relations have “reached an unprecedented low point”, while “Europe, our biggest market, has grown tired of us and is heading toward imposing sanctions on us.”

Meanwhile, according to the former spy boss, “our public diplomacy and public relations have failed dismally, while those of the Palestinians have garnered many important accomplishments in the world.”

University campuses in the West, particularly in the US, are hothouses for the future leadership of their countries. We are losing the fight for support for Israel in the academic world. An increasing number of Jewish students are turning away from Israel. The global BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions) against Israel, which works for Israel’s delegitimization, has grown, and quite a few Jews are members.

Analysing Israeli political trends, Shavit said he is “seeing haughtiness and arrogance, together with more than a bit of the messianic thinking that rushes to turn the conflict into a holy war.” According to Shavit, “major forces in the religious Zionist movement are foolishly doing everything they can to turn it into the most horrific of wars, in which the entire Muslim world will stand against us.”

The former Mossad man’s suggested solution is for Israel to pursue a peace initiative based on the Arab League’s 2002 proposal, which would form “the basis of talks with the moderate Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.”

Sisi: Egypt could send troops ‘to help out’ in Palestine

24 Nov
img543956Egyptian president al-Sisi says that Egypt could send troops to a Palestinian state to ‘help out’, days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas threatened to dissolve the PA.
Abbas has reportedly grown ‘quite angry’ at Israel’s continued escalations and provocations in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Last week he told the German Foreign Minister: ‘enough is enough! Let them take the keys and manage the occupied Palestinian territories’ (Middle East Monitor 18/11/14). Ed.

Reuters report, Milan, 23 November 2014

Egypt would be ready to lend a hand in securing a future Palestinian state by sending in troops that could help out local police and offer Israel security guarantees, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in a newspaper interview.

Sisi, who is visiting Italy and France this week, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera the creation of a Palestinian state was the best way to protect Israeli security while restoring hope for the Palestinian people.

“We are prepared to send military forces inside a Palestinian state. They would help the local police and reassure Israelis in their role as guarantors,” he said.

Sisi, who is scheduled to meet Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Monday, said any such troop deployment would only be for the time needed to restore trust between the sides.

Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza, is familiar with some of the territory that would likely make up a future Palestinian state. It ruled the Gaza Strip until the 1967 war.

Sisi said he had spoken at length of the idea with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

“I told him (Netanyahu) a courageous step was needed otherwise nothing would be resolved,” he said.

Egypt mediated indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians that led to a ceasefire in August after 50 days of war in Gaza that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis.

The visit to Italy and France is Sisi’s first European trip since the army overthrew elected President Mohamed Mursi in July 2013. Sisi, the former army chief, went on to win presidential elections in May.

Asked about Libya, Sisi said the chaotic situation there was creating the conditions for very dangerous jihadist organizations to take root.

He said NATO had not completed its mission in the country but said he did not believe new military intervention was needed, adding Egypt had not and would not interfere militarily.

“The international community must make a very clear and collective choice in favor of Libya’s national army and no one else,” he said.

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

Israeli cabinet approves law reinforcing racist ‘Jewish state’

24 Nov

 Binyamin Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu The Israeli PM, Binyamin Netanyahu, argues the law is needed because the notion of Israel as a Jewish homeland was being challenged. Photograph: Barcroft Media

Peter Beaumont in Jerusalem, The Guardian, 23 November 2014

Israeli cabinet approves legislation defining nation-state of Jewish people. Opponents say proposed law would reserve ‘national rights’ for Jews and not for minorities that make up 20% of population

A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.

Arab Muslims and Christians make up 20% of Israel’s population.

The cabinet passed the bill by a 14-7 majority after reports of rancorous exchanges during the meeting, including between the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and his justice minister, Tzipi Livni.

The bill, which still requires the Knesset’s approval to become a law, comes as tensions between Israelis and Palestinians rise sharply, and friction within Israel’s Arab minority grows.

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36,000 stranded while waiting for Rafah crossing to open

21 Nov

300750_345x230Egyptian troops have closed the Rafah border crossing for over four weeks

Middle East Monitor report, 20 November 2014

There are 30,000 humanitarian cases that are in dire need of travel, while 6,000 Palestinians are stranded in Egypt awaiting the opening of the Rafah crossing which has been closed for over four weeks, the Ministry of Interior and National Security in Gaza said.

Speaking during a press conference yesterday, the spokesman for the Ministry of Interior in Gaza, Eyad Al-Bozum, said that those who are considered humanitarian cases either suffer from serious illnesses, have residency permits, are students, or have foreign passports.

He added that the continued closure of the crossing has created a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, as it is the residents’ only lifeline and window to the outside world. Al-Bozum explained that many humanitarian aid convoys and solidarity delegations have been unable to enter Gaza, especially after the most recent war which lasted 51 days.

According to Al-Bozum, the crossing has been closed for 208 days this year due to a new Egyptian policy. This has intensified the suffering of the people of the Gaza Strip, who have already been suffering for eight years under due to Israel’s siege on the enclave.

He stressed that there is no justification for the Egyptian authorities’ closure of the Rafah crossing, noting that the crossing has never been a burden on Egyptian security and there have never been any security violations.

Al-Bozum called on the Egyptian authorities to open the Rafah crossing immediately and to facilitate the passage of people and goods in light of the disastrous conditions suffered by the people of Gaza.

Egyptian authorities closed the Rafah ground crossing completely on October 24 citing the deteriorating security situation in Sinai. It is unknown when it will reopen.

The Rafah crossing is the only crossing that serves the 1.8 million Palestinians living in besieged Gaza which is not subject to Israeli controls.

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