BBC | 18 October 2010 | 16:32 GMT
The British filmmaker Mike Leigh has cancelled a visit to Israel in protest against controversial plans to compel non-Jewish new citizens to swear loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. The director, 67, had been due to spend a week at a film school in Jerusalem in late November. But in a letter to the school’s director, he said Israel’s government had gone "from bad to worse". He called the loyalty oath "the last straw".
Speaking on Monday at the London Film Festival, where he is showing his new film Another Year, Leigh said he wanted to send Israel "a very clear message". The bill, which has been approved by Israel’s cabinet but still has to be passed by the Israeli parliament the Knesset, would add a phrase to the citizenship oath taken by non-Jews, requiring them to pledge allegiance to Israel as a "Jewish and democratic state".
Critics say the move is discriminatory and will largely target Palestinians marrying Israelis. Some suggest that there is a contradiction in describing the Israeli state as both Jewish and democratic.
Leigh said on Monday "When the time comes that Israel behaves respectably, and when there is a just peace for the Palestinians, and when Gaza is returned to humanity, then I will be first in line to go and share anything that anyone wants to with my colleagues, the Israeli filmmakers and other artists. But until that happens I think it’s appropriate for all of us to leave a very clear message that we shouldn’t and can’t do that."
BBC | 18 October 2010 | 17:53 GMT
Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have obtained anti-aircraft missiles, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said. He told a meeting of his Likud Party that the new weapons had compromised Israel’s aerial freedom over Gaza. Any future peace agreement would have to include security arrangements to deal with the threat, Mr Netanyahu said.
Hamas dismissed the remarks as propaganda. Correspondents say this is the first time an Israeli official has said openly that Hamas possess anti-aircraft weaponry – although intelligence officials have privately suspected this is the case.
"Today we are trying not to fly near Gaza because they have anti-aircraft missiles there," Mr Netanyahu said. He warned the missiles could also
BBC News | 30 August 2010 | 06:59 GMT
A senior rabbi from a party within Israel’s coalition government has called for Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas to "vanish from our world". Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas, spoke out as Middle East talks are poised to begin in Washington. The United States condemned the remarks as "deeply offensive". Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu distanced himself from the comments with a statement saying that his government wanted peace with the Palestinians. The attack on Mr Abbas, delivered in the rabbi’s weekly sermon, also prompted chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat to condemn the remarks as "an incitement to genocide". Mr Erakat urged the Israeli government "to do more about peace and stop spreading hatred", the AFP news agency reported.
‘Regret and condemn’
Rabbi Yosef expressed the wish that "all the nasty people who hate Israel, like Abu Mazen (Abbas), vanish from our world". He went on to say: "May God strike them down with the plague along with all the nasty Palestinians who persecute Israel." The remarks come as Mr Netanyahu is due in Washington this week for direct peace talks with Mr Abbas. US President Barack Obama hopes to bring the leaders together on Thursday for the first face-to-face discussions since December 2008, when the Palestinians broke off negotiations over Israel’s offensive against the Gaza Strip. The US response to Rabbi Yosef, a founder of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was swift. In a statement, US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: "We regret and condemn the inflammatory statements by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. These remarks are not only deeply offensive, but incitement such as this hurts the cause of peace."
BBC News | 26 August 2010 | 14:10 GMT
The European Union has criticised Israel for convicting an organiser of weekly Palestinian protests against the West Bank separation barrier. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was "deeply concerned" about Abdullah Abu Rahmeh, who now faces several years in prison. She said he was a "human rights defender" committed to non-violent protest. Israel’s foreign ministry described her statement as highly improper.
Jailed since December, Abdullah Abu Rahmeh was convicted by a military court on Tuesday of inciting protests in the West Bank village of Bilin and of participating in the protests without a legal permit. Lady Ashton expressed deep concern "that the possible imprisonment of Mr Abu Rahmeh is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner," her office said. "The EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal," it quoted her as saying in a statement. Her statement drew a sharp rebuke from Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, who said that any "interference with a transparent legal procedure is highly improper". Sentencing is scheduled for next month, after which Abu Rahmeh – a 39-year-old schoolteacher – will appeal the conviction, his lawyer has said.
ABC News | 17/08/2010 | 5:08 pm IST
Two Israeli soldiers have been wounded in a mortar attack by militants in Gaza. The Israeli military says both soldiers were taken to hospital but neither was seriously injured. A group affiliated with Hamas, called the Popular Resistance Committees, has claimed responsibility for the attack.
It comes a day after Israeli troops killed a Palestinian who Israel says was planting explosives along the border fence. Hamas officials said after the incident, six Israeli tanks crossed into the Palestinian territory and fired a shell at a house in Gaza’s south. No one was injured in that attack.
Deutsche Welle | AFP | AP | 10/08/2010
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has told a special Israeli commission that a Gaza-bound aid flotilla seized in a bloody commando raid in May was a “planned provocation” and that Israel had expected a violent dispute weeks in advance. Barak said during discussions going back to April “the image that emerged… was that the organizations [behind the flotilla] were preparing for armed conflict to embarrass Israel.”
The former prime minister was the second of three top officials to give sworn testimony before an Israeli investigative panel established to examine the legality of the raid that left nine Turkish activists dead. “We regret any loss of life,” Barak told the panel. “But we would have lost more lives if we had behaved differently.” Skirmished erupted on the flotilla vessels on May 31 after Israeli commandos rappelled aboard in an attempt to stop the ships from breaking a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Activists on board the ships say the troops began firing immediately, whereas military personnel say they were retaliating after being attacked after boarding.
In ‘accordance with the law’
On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyhu testified that Israel had done nothing wrong. “I am convinced that at the end of your investigation, it will become clear that the state of Israel and the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] acted in accordance with international law,” Continue reading
Bertrand Russell On Israel
1970The latest phase of the undeclared war in the Middle East is based upon a profound miscalculation. The bombing raids deep into Egyptian territory will not persuade the civilian population to surrender, but will stiffen their resolve to resist. This is the lesson of all aerial bombardment. The Vietnamese who have endured years of American heavy bombing have responded not by capitulation but by shooting down more enemy aircraft. In 1940 my own fellowcountrymen resisted Hitler’s bombing raids with unprecedented unity and determination. For this reason, the present Israeli attacks will fail in their essential purpose, but at the same time they must be condemned vigorously throughout the world.
The development of the crisis in the Middle East is both dangerous and instructive. For over 20 years Israel has expanded by force of arms. After every stage in this expansion Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations”. This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annexe foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.
The refugees who surround Palestine in their hundreds of thousands were described recently by the Washington journalist I.F. Stone as “the moral millstone around the neck of world Jewry.” Many of the refugees are now well into the third decade of their precarious existence in temporary settlements. The tragedy of the people of Palestine is that their country was “given” by a foreign Power to another people for the creation of a new State. The result was that many hundreds of thousands of innocent people were made permanently homeless. With Continue reading
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday ordered Israel’s attorney-general to investigate embarrassing leaks about a feud among generals vying for the role of army chief. He told cabinet ministers Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein would “examine information from media reports regarding the appointment of the next chief of staff”, a spokesman said. Israeli generals have a history of campaigning publicly for promotions and bad blood is nothing new. But the latest race took a nasty turn with a report — quickly denied — that one candidate had hired a publicity agent to smear his rivals. The spectacle was seen as a threat to cohesion in the military’s top ranks. The mass-circulation daily Yedioth Ahronoth called it “a great embarrassment”.
Rivalry among the top brass of the Israel Defence Forces has intensified with Defence Minister Ehud Barak’s launch of consultations to replace the current army chief, Lieutenant General Gaby Ashkenazi, whose term ends in February. Two war veterans are seen as leading contenders for the job: Yoav Galant is the commander of Israel’s southern front who led a month-long Gaza war last year; Benjamin Gantz was leader of ground forces in the 2006 war with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Channel Two television said it had obtained a letter showing Galant had engaged a publicist to mount a campaign to discredit his rival, a charge he denied. The agent in question has also filed a complaint charging the document is a forgery and denying contacts with Galant. Continue reading
BBC News – Rockets hit Israeli resort of Eilat and Jordan’s Aqaba 02/08/2010 | 09:57 GMT
Police in Israel say at least five rockets have been fired at the southern Israeli tourist resort of Eilat from the Sinai desert in Egypt. One was reported to have struck the nearby Jordanian port of Aqaba, injuring four civilians. There were no casualties in Eilat. Two rockets landed in the sea, an Israeli regional police commander said. Egypt has denied that its territory was used to launch the apparent attack, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. An Egyptian official said his country had a heavy security presence in the Sinai peninsula, particularly close to the border, and that no suspicious activity had been reported anywhere in the area.
However, the Egyptian denial will be viewed sceptically by those who know the area, our correspondent says.The government is in dispute, and sometimes conflict, with the Bedouin who live there. The Bedouin use their local knowledge to engage in widespread smuggling and are suspected of having helped those who carried out previous attacks in the area, he says. Eilat Mayor Meir Itzhak Halevi told Israel Radio there was no sign any of the rockets had hit inside Eilat’s city limits. Israeli media and police reported that some of the rockets fell into the Red Sea and others in open spaces.
Eilat, which is a popular tourist resort, has largely been spared from rocket and other attacks. In April, rockets were fired toward Eilat and Aqaba from Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, an area from which Islamist militants have operated in the past. No-one was injured in that attack and the source of the firing was never established. Eilat was hit in January 2007 by a suicide bomber, killing three people. Israel has recently warned of
Deutsche Welle | 31.07.2010
On August 1, the UN-Convention on Cluster Munitions comes into effect. Israel has not yet signed the agreement. In the 2006 Lebanon War Israel is said to have dropped four million cluster bombs. Many failed to explode. Finally Nimr Mustafa can return to his plantation. For the first time in four years, this fall he will be able to harvest his olive trees: "There are 75 olive trees on my plantation. But I haven’t set foot on the land since 2006." According to Mustafa cluster bombs are spread, all over the place. The revenue from his harvest is an important extra income for Mustafa, headmaster of the little local school: $1,500 (1,145 euros) per season – money he could really do with. Eventually a team of minesweepers from an international organisation cleared the lot.
A risk he has to take
Nearby Mustafa’s estate Mohamed Nasrallah lives in a modest cottage. In his backyard there is a small plantation of fruits and olives. He hardly enters it though, and when he does Nasrallah is full of fear and trepidation. "I haven’t had the final cleanup. There are still cluster bombs on my land," the father of four says. "But I have to go there, take care of the trees, water them and harvest the ripe fruits. I can’t let my trees die." His children, however, are not allowed to set foot on the plantation. The courtyard and the surrounding streets have become their playground. Nasrallah and Mustafa live in Southern Lebanon, in Yohmor, a small village a couple of kilometers east of Nabatieh. A few steps from the village, the Al Litani River flows through a steep canyon. No one would guess that only four years ago this idyllic place of 2,000 souls was the site of acrimonious battles and struggles.
During the war between Israel and Lebanon in 2006, this area was among the most hard-fought over regions and there are still traces of shell splinters on some walls or in a few side streets. But all the houses have been rebuilt; most streets have been freshly tarmaced. Pictures of young soldiers who were killed in action are put up on power poles, right next to the Hezbollah logo, with its green letters on yellow background. The posters have been hanging there for a while and have been bleached by the sun. It seems like time has stood still.
Reuters | Sat Jul 31, 2010 | 1:38pm IST
An Israeli air strike has killed a Hamas military commander and rocket maker in the Gaza Strip, the Islamist group that rules the Palestinian territory said on Saturday. Issa Batran was killed by a missile that hit his caravan in the central Gaza Strip. Israel launched air strikes against targets in Gaza on Friday after a rocket fired from the enclave exploded in the city of Ashkelon. The air strikes also hit a training camp in Gaza City used by Hamas and smuggling tunnels along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. Several people were wounded by debris in Gaza City.
Hamas said Batran was a rocket maker and the head of its military wing in the central Gaza Strip. The militant group has a rocket arsenal of crude, homemade projectiles and longer-range rockets smuggled in through tunnels under the border with Egypt. Israel carried out the air strikes after militants in Gaza fired a rocket into Ashkelon on Israel’s Mediterranean coast, blowing out the windows of an apartment block and damaging parked cars in a residential area.
BBC News | 29 July 2010 | 15:25 GMT
The Arab League has endorsed direct Palestinian peace talks with the Israelis, but has left the timing to the Palestinians, officials said. The US has been pushing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to restart the direct talks, suspended since 2008. Mr Abbas has demanded a settlement freeze and a return to 1967 borders as a precondition of direct talks. Correspondents say the move by the Arab League makes it likely the talks will resume in the coming months. The Palestinian president is now expected to return to Ramallah and seek endorsement for the direct talks from a meeting of Palestinian factions, says the BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has publicly stated he wants direct talks to start as soon as possible. In response to the Arab League decision, his office released a statement saying he was "ready to start, already in the next few days, direct and frank talks with the Palestinian Authority".
The Arab League agreed in principle to direct talks with Israel provided the Palestinians saw fit, said Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, who chaired a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. "Of course, there is agreement, but agreement over the principles of what will be discussed and the manner of the direct negotiations," he said. But the timing of the direct talks was "a matter for the Palestinian side to decide", he said. Mr Netanyahu has said he is ready to discuss all the core issues of the decades-old conflict, and has accused the Palestinians of avoiding direct talks. Mr Abbas wants Israel to agree to a complete halt in settlement construction and to accept a Palestinian state in territories seized in the 1967 Middle East war – the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
guardian.co.uk | Thursday 29 July 2010 | 17.15 BST
Israeli settlers took over a Palestinian home in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City today, evicting about 45 members of an extended family which has occupied the building for more than 70 years. The settlers claimed to have documentation to prove they had purchased the building from the owners. The Palestinian tenants, who have been fighting attempts to evict them for many years, were challenging the takeover in court. A police spokesman said the Israelis had entered the home "based on documents claiming that they owned the property".
According to Mohammed Kirresh, 22, a member of the Palestinian family, "Jewish people and Israeli soldiers with weapons" came at 2am, when most of the family was at a wedding. He said the family, which had rented the property since 1936, had won two previous court cases challenging eviction orders. He claimed the Israelis had broken furniture and damaged belongings. "Everything we own is inside – our money, ID papers, clothes, food," he said. Armed police were guarding the entrance to the house. Around 20 members of the Kirresh family pledged to stay on the narrow street outside the house. "We are staying here," said Mohammed Kirresh. "We hope the court will rule in our favour."
Reuters | Sun Jul 18, 2010 | 2:45pm IST
Israel should ease its Gaza blockade further and allow Palestinians to resume exports from the territory, the European Union’s foreign policy chief said on Sunday during a visit to the Hamas-controlled enclave. "The position of the EU is very clear: that we want the opportunity for people to be able to move around freely or to see goods not only coming into Gaza but exports coming out of Gaza," Catherine Ashton told a news conference.
Israel relaxed its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, where its Islamist Hamas enemy rules, after an international outcry over its deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla on May 31. But it still bans exports from the territory. Ashton said she would discuss the issue later in the day with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "At the moment, there is no proposal on the table to open a port," she said. "The best option seems to be, and that is the most supported by Palestinians, is to open the land crossings, and that’s what we’re working on."
BBC News | Monday, 12 July 2010 | 17:28 GMT
An Israeli military inquiry into the naval raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla says commandos were under-prepared and mistakes were made at a senior level. The report says the operation suffered from flawed intelligence-gathering and inadequate planning. But it also praised the commandos involved and found the use of force had been the only way to stop the flotilla. Eight Turks and one Turkish-American died in the naval raid in international waters, which provoked a major outcry. The report criticised the operation’s planners for not having a back-up plan in the event of violence. But it also said the mission had not been a failure and did not recommend any dismissals.
‘Professional and courageous’
It said there had been a lack of co-ordination between military and intelligence bodies, and preparations for the 31 May takeover of the ships had been inadequate. As they dropped from helicopters on to the deck of one vessel, the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces were met with a violent reception, from some of those on board who were armed with clubs and knives and at least one gun, found the report. Presenting the findings to media in Tel Aviv, retired general Giora Eiland, who chaired the investigating panel, had both criticism and praise. “In this inquiry we found that there were some professional mistakes regarding both the intelligence and the decision-making process and some of the operational mistakes,” he said. “But also, we did find some very positive findings, and one of them that should be emphasised is the very professional and courageous way that the Israeli commando behaved.”
General Eiland said the report was intended to help prepare Israel for similar situations which may occur in the future. The Eiland Committee, which began its work on 7 June, scrutinised the military aspects of the raid. A separate inquiry, which includes international observers, is examining whether international law was broken during the military raid. In a statement, Israeli military chief of staff Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi said the Eiland inquiry had not Continue reading