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