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7th Nov, 2011

Issue No: 3

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7th Nov, 2011

Issue No: 3

Palestinian Weekly Report is a periodical insight into the latest developments of the Palestinian Issue. It’s issued by The Palestinian Cultural Organization Malaysia and iti focuses on the most important news and analysis about the happenings of the Palestinian struggle against Israeli occupation in the Holy Lands of Palestine. The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect PCOM's editorial policy.

Contents

Article of the Week: Resistance is fertile: Palestine's eco-war eco ……...…………………………………... …………………………………... 3

News Tour: Palestine gets full membership of UNESCO ...……………….......... ... ............................ 8 Israeli settlements condemned by Western powers …………………………... ………………………...………….. 9 Activists on Gaza-bound bound vessels detained ………………………………. ……………………………….………... 12 Former Israeli intelligence chief calls for reoccupation of the Gaza Strip ………... 14 One man killed 3 others wounded in an occupation airstrike on Gaza ….………... 15

Caricature: On the remembrance of the ominous Balfour Promise ………………………..…... ……………………… 15

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Article of the Week

Resistance is fertile: Palestine's eco-war By: James Brownsell / Aljazeera

Armed Israelis often help uproot Palestinian olive trees (Aljazeera).

They come from across the planet and meet in the shadow of Israel's 12m concrete wall. They strap olive saplings and water bottles to the back of a donkey, silent under its burden. Former police officers from Sweden, German punks, Australian conservationists, leftist activists from the US, South African priests, and a Celtic fringe of Welsh students join Israeli anarchists and Palestinian pacifists. These are the guerilla gardeners of the occupied West Bank. And it's a growing movement, with more than 120 international volunteers arriving in Bethlehem governorate alone to assist with this year's harvest. "Guerilla gardening" has its roots among the Levellers and the Diggers of mid-17th Century England, but today has branches spanning the globe. From Toronto to Moscow, cabals of city-dwelling horticulturalists have sprung up in most population centres with any form of urban anarchist presence. Seeking to "reclaim public space from its corporate governors", these green-fingered activists plant flowers, sometimes vegetables, in waste ground under overpasses, at the side of roads and in the centres of cities where concrete has long since replaced living, breathing flora and fauna. But in the occupied Palestinian territories, it is a slightly different story. Here, it isn't 3


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merely a symbolic attempt to reclaim pockets of neglected or misused terrain. Here, farmers and their band of globalist shovel-toting supporters are locked into what they see as a life-ordeath struggle to resist an illegal land grab. More than half a million olive trees have been uprooted or destroyed by Israeli civil and military forces in the past 10 years, according to the Palestinian ministry of agriculture, while the fates of hundreds of farming communities are tied to the humble plant - a tree renowned for its symbolism since before the time of Noah. The Palestinians' largely agricultural economy has traditionally been dependent on its harvest - olive oil, soap, lamp fuel - let alone the fruit itself - as well as the olive wood Nativity carvings sold to tourists in Bethlehem's old city - they have all been central to the Palestinian economy for hundreds of years. But the olive tree has now found itself pitted in a battle for survival. Farmers losing their grove As the more-than 120 illegal Israeli settlements expand further into occupied Palestinian territory, it is Palestine's olive farmers who often find themselves facing violence. "When I saw them cutting down the trees I felt as if my heart was being uprooted from between my lungs," said Izzat Abu Latifa, a farmer from Jab'a, near Bethlehem. At 7 am on Tuesday, February 22, Abu Latifa got a phone call to tell him that Israeli troops were on his family's farmland - adjacent to route 367, a road between illegal Israeli settlements - and were taking chainsaws to the trees. When he arrived at the field that his family had cultivated for the past 40 years, he said he found soldiers had cut down 150 trees and were poisoning the roots. "I planted every year as many trees as I could manage and now they come to destroy what I have been working on," he said. "Olive trees are holy; what faith, what religion allows this to happen? How does any human being have the heart to kill trees like this?" The commanding officer told Abu Latifa his trees had been planted on Israeli state land, despite the farmer producing the legal title deeds document. But just a few months later, under the noses of the military - and as the watchtowers loom above - the guerilla gardeners (and their donkeys) get to work. "We've planted 8,600 trees this season, a total of 69,300 since this programme began in 2001," said Baha Hilo, coordinator of the Olive Tree Campaign at the Joint Advocacy Initiative of the East Jerusalem YMCA and the YWCA of Palestine. Ottoman rule There is a law dating from the Ottoman empire in 1853, says Hilo, which states that any land left uncultivated for three years reverts to state ownership. "This law was introduced to boost tax revenues - because the Ottomans wanted food producers to produce," Hilo told Al Jazeera.

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"But Israel applies the same law and blames the Ottomans in order to confiscate land within the occupied West Bank - except that the land becomes 'property' of the state of Israel, not the Ottoman empire. "Our campaign is to help Palestinian farmers maintain ownership of their property - and once olive trees are planted, it is evidence that the land is being cultivated." The joint YMCA-YWCA project is primarily an advocacy campaign, says Hilo. "We take the stories from the ground to the sponsors of the trees," he says. "When a field is taken by Israel, it's no longer just the farmer who it is being taken from, but from all the international sponsors all over the world." On Abu Latifa's land, Hilo's team of volunteers get to digging and planting. "In another example, there is Ahmed Barguth from Al Walaja [another village on the outskirts of Bethlehem]. In June last year, the Israeli military put his family under house arrest, and then destroyed his farmland to build a road. We called up the sponsors of the trees, and a few months later, we went in with about 50 people. The Israelis had destroyed 100 trees. We came back with 300. "We got all the olive trees and we all lined up in an assembly line and we each took a pickaxe and got to work. The army kept their distance that day and there was no confrontation. We had people from Norway, Japan, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands and Italy. Among the group were "church members, retired doctors, youth workers, teachers, retired military men", aged between 18 and 84 years old. "Men and women, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, communist - you name it," said Hilo. "We're not a militia, our weapons are our pickaxes and shovels, our hands and our olive trees." The 'blessed' tree The tree is deemed holy, blessed by Allah, according to the Quran, and can live to be hundreds of years old. In Jerusalem's Garden of Gethsemane, it is claimed the olive trees are the very same plants that Jesus and his followers prayed under. "When you're driving on brand new roads, and you come across a 500-year-old olive tree on a brand new road junction - you have to ask yourself: 'Where did that tree come from? Has it grown there for hundreds of years, and this road just happen to come across it?' The answer is: 'No, of course not. This is a tree which has been taken from somewhere else - from someone else - and probably from someone whose family has been tending to these trees for generations,'" says Hilo. When Al Jazeera contacted the Israeli government for comment, spokesperson Mark Regev denied knowledge of the use of the Ottoman law, and the Palestinian horticultural resistance campaign, saying: "I'm not aware of it." In the 2009 paper Uprooting identities: The regulation of olive trees in the occupied West Bank published in the Political and Legal Anthropology Review, Prof Irus Braverman uncovered some strong opinions on the subject:

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"Like children, their trees look so naive, as if they can’t harm anyone. But like [their] children, several years later they turn into a ticking bomb," Chief Inspector Kishik, of Israel’s Civil Administration, told her. The Israeli quest to "make the desert bloom" is older than the state of Israel itself. Since the 1920s, members of the pre-Israel Zionist movement attempted to massively boost food production, to prove to the British administrators of its "Palestine mandate" that the country could provide homes to more Jewish immigrants. Indeed, since 1901, the Jewish National Fund has planted more than 240 million trees, mostly pine, across Israel - notably in the occupied Golan Heights. Covering up history But the planting of European pine trees was also intended, after 1948, to cover the remains of decimated Arab villages, says Alice Gray, professor of environmental studies at Al-Quds Bard Honors College. "The JNF's planting campaign ensured that farmers would be unable to return to their land, as pines alter the chemistry of the soil - preventing the development of agricultural crops," says Prof Gray. This rezoning of the land to state-owned plantation "de-legitimises" other forms of land use, such as grazing by Bedouin herds or low-tech faming by fellahin [peasants], she told Al Jazeera. "While Israel is widely credited with being at the cutting edge of thrifty water use techniques, such as drip irrigation and wastewater treatment and reuse, and with having 'miraculously' greened the desert, less widely acknowledged is the fact that they destroyed the lower Jordan river system, the Dead Sea and the Coastal Aquifer while they were doing it," said Gray. The latest development in this struggle of eco-warfare is the planting of a 12 km strip of eucalyptus trees, at a cost estimated at 7 million shekels ($2m), along the edge of the Gaza Strip. The planting has already begun, according to the Israeli military. "We are planting trees that will grow and provide cover," Lieutenant Cololonel Ilan Dayan said. "A person firing an anti-tank missile needs a line of sight to the target. If he doesn't have one, he has a serious problem." Jewish National Fund chairman Efi Stenzler added: "We believe that the same JNF trees that have protected Golan Heights residents from the Syrians will now protect the residents of the south." Major General Tal Russo, recently appointed commander of Israel's Southern Command, said the project reminded him of his upbringing on a kibbutz. "For me this is the completion of a cycle," he said. "I was born into the strategic security forestation in the Hula Valley, which was then used to defend from Syrian shelling. This was the first project placed on my desk as I came into this position. The project ... expresses the brave connection to the communities 6


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surrounding Gaza, and allows us to upgrade our mission of defending the southern communities with environmental benefits. "Despite Hamas' recent efforts to challenge us, we stand strong. We are training, preparing and equipping ourselves to defend the residents of southern Israel. We will not accept the threat to [our] communities and will continue operating to preserve the peace in the south." Back in Palestine, the guerilla gardeners aren't the only grassroots green group poised to blossom in the occupied territories' parched valleys. In addition to her classroom teaching, Professor Alice Gray also runs Bustan Qaraaqa, a permaculture-oriented agriculture project which teaches Palestinian and international volunteers innovative water management and farming techniques. "I hope that there is a general increase in the consciousness of the connection between politics and the environment - and a realization that we are not passive actors in all of this, that everyone has the power to take control to some extent over their relationship with the environment and start trying to interact with it constructively. Of course, we think that permaculture provides a tool-set for doing this," says Prof Gray. "It is also about not accepting the power-structures prescribed by the oppressors and trying to creatively circumvent them somehow - which works right up until the point that they bring the bulldozers and the big guns. This is why it is not really enough to 'go home and garden' we also need the political and legal activism that will try to contain the most destructive elements of the occupation. "All we are doing here is trying to ensure that there is a country left that is worth arguing over when all is said and done ... Whenever the hell that is."

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News Tour

Palestine gets full membership of UNESCO 1/11/2011 The Palestinian Authority's application for full membership of UNESCO has been agreed by the UN body at a meeting in its Paris headquarters. With 107 member states voting in favour of Palestine's membership fourteen, including the US and

Israel,

voted

against;

there

were

52

abstentions, including Britain. Eight EU countries voted for the application: France, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Iceland. Cheers filled the hall after each "yes" vote in a process which the US described as "non-constructive and premature". Washington has since withdrawn its funding from UNESCO, amounting to about 20% of the organisation's total income. UNESCO is the first UN agency for which Palestine has sought full membership in the context of the overall bid for independent statehood started in the UN General Assembly in September. Established in 1945, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, to give UNESCO its full name, has 193 member states. Its objective is "to contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, sustainable development and intercultural dialogue through education, the sciences, culture, communication and information."

Source: MEMO

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Israeli settlements condemned by Western powers

Israel decided to build more houses for settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

2/11/2011 The US has joined criticism of Israel's decision to accelerate settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem after Palestinians joined UN cultural agency, UNESCO. White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was "deeply disappointed". Earlier, the EU said it was "deeply concerned" by the announcement. The UK, France and Germany said it would hinder efforts for peace. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu said it was a "basic right of our people". 'Unjustifiable' Mr Carney told a White House briefing that Israel's decision did not help bring peace talks any nearer. "Unilateral actions work against efforts to resume direct negotiations, and they do not advance the goal of a reasonable and necessary agreement between the two parties," Mr Carney said. "That is the only way to achieve the two-state solution that both sides have as their goal." EU policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Israel to reverse the decision and called on both sides to return to the negotiating table.

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"Israeli settlement activity is illegal under international law including in East Jerusalem and an obstacle to peace. We have stated this many times before," she said. British Foreign Secretary William Hague called the Israeli move "provocative and unhelpful". "This settlement building program is illegal under international law and is the latest in a series of provocative and unhelpful settlement announcements," Mr Hague said in a statement. He also criticized Israel's temporary withholding of Palestinian tax revenues, which was announced at the same time, and called for a reversal of both decisions. French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the proposed settlement building "is illegal in international law and is a threat to the two-state solution". Steffen Seibert, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, said building settlements in occupied areas "hinders the goal we all must have of a two-state solution and is unjustifiable". UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also said he was "deeply concerned" by the development. "The secretary general calls on the government of Israel to freeze all settlement activity and to continue to transfer VAT and customs revenues that belong to the Palestinian Authority and are essential to enable it to function, in line with Israel's obligations," his spokesman Martin Nesirky said. 'Not punishment' Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said on Tuesday that a plan to build 2,000 new apartments in the West Bank and East Jerusalem would be accelerated. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has said the move would speed up the destruction of the peace process. The step has been seen by Palestinians as a response to their UNESCO membership bid. On Monday, UNESCO member states overwhelmingly backed the Palestinians' membership bid, despite opposition from the US and Israel. The US says it will no longer make payments to UNESCO. Israel also said it would temporarily freeze transfers to the Palestinian Authority, which amount to around half of the PA's domestic revenue base. An Israeli foreign ministry spokesman said on Tuesday the move was "a response to unilateral measures aimed at confronting Israel at the UN and elsewhere on the international 10


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scene". But Mr Netanyahu denied that his government's decision was "punishment". "We are building in Jerusalem because it is our right and our duty to this generation and future generations, not as punishment but as the basic right of our people to build in its eternal city," he said on Wednesday. "Jerusalem will never return to the state it was in on the eve of the (1967) Six-Day War, that I promise you." Peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel broke down more than a year ago. The Palestinians are demanding an end to settlement building. Almost 500,000 Jews live in settlements on occupied territory. The settlements are illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Source: BBC

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Activists on Gaza-bound vessels detained Pro-Palestinian activists on board two boats intercepted by Israeli navy held in detention centre near “Tel Aviv”.

The Organizers said the fact the boats had reached international waters was a "victory".

5/11/2011 Israeli authorities have detained pro-Palestinian activists on board two "Freedom Waves to Gaza" vessels, foiling the latest attempt to break the four-year Israeli blockade of the territory. The ships were forced to sail into the Israeli port of Ashdod, where all 27 passengers were handed over to the authorities and taken to an Israeli detention facility near “Tel Aviv”. Al Jazeera's Casey Kauffman was among a group of journalists arrested late Friday when the Israeli navy boarded two ships sailing toward Gaza, he has since been released. "The first two or three [Israeli navy personnel] that came on board were very aggressive," Kauffman said on Saturday. The Canadian vessel Tahrir and the Irish boat MV Saoirse were in international waters, between 64km to 96km off the Gaza coast, when they were intercepted and forced to head instead towards the southern city of Ashdod.

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Once the vessels carrying activists, journalists and crew members from nine countries reached Ashdod, they were transferred to the custody of the Israeli police and immigration authorities. They were to be held at the detention facility before being transported to an airport near “Tel Aviv� to be put on flights home. The Israeli authorities said those who refuse to leave the country voluntarily would have access to a lawyer and 72 hours to appeal being sent home. 'Victory'

The Israeli military said the two vessels were boarded peacefully after numerous calls to the activists to turn around. "Following their unwillingness to co-operate, and after ignoring calls to divert to the port of Ashdod, the decision was made to board the vessels and lead them there," the military said in a statement. In a press release issued by organizers shortly after they said they had lost contact with the two boats, David Heap, a member of the steering committee on board the Tahrir, said the fact the boats had reached international waters was a "victory for the movement". Both vessels were part of previous attempts to break the siege on the Gaza Strip that was stalled when the Greek government refused to let a flotilla leave from its shores in July this year. "We are closer to Gaza this time, and hope to get even closer the next time, until we reach our destination," said Heap. "Despite economic blackmail, despite the previous outsourcing of the blockade to Greece, and despite Israel mobilizing a significant portion of its navy to stop us, we are now even closer to reaching Gaza and breaking the blockade."

Source: Aljazeera

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One man killed 3 others wounded in an occupation airstrike on Gaza 5/11/2011 One Palestinian was killed and three others were wounded in an Israeli airstrike on Saturday evening targeting the Qarara village to the east of Khan Younis, in the southern Gaza Strip. The attack was followed by machinegun fire and flares in the skies of the area on the eve of Eid al-Adha. PIC

correspondent

said

that

Israeli

occupation aircraft fired two rockets at a group of resistance fighters affiliated with the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Abdullah Muhanna, the martyr of Gaza on the eve of Eid al-Adha

Islamic

Jihad

in

the

Ghawafeer

neighborhood of Qarara village east of Khan Younis, before opening heavy machinegun fire at the area. The airstrike and the machinegun fire resulted in the death of Abdullah Muhanna (22 years) and the wounding of three others whose wounds were described as moderate. The Israeli occupation forces fired a third rocket while the local residents were trying to evacuate the wounded. Ambulances rushed to the area, and transported the dead man and a wounded man to hospital, while the area was still being searched for other casualties at the time of writing this report. This attack took place after Israeli media sources claimed that a rocket was fired from the Gaza Strip last night and fell in Askalan without causing any injuries. Source: PIC

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Former Israeli intelligence chief calls for reoccupation of the Gaza Strip 5/11/2011 Former chief of the Shin Bet, MK Avi Dichter (Kadima) called on Benyamin Netantyahu’s government to reoccupy the Gaza Strip and dismantle the infrastructure of Palestinian resistance. Dichter said on Saturday that in the absence of a political solution with the help of neighboring countries as it is not possible for Israeli to negotiate with more than one Palestinian authority. The Israeli official added that talk should not be about a military operation that lasts a month, but one that lasts several years and that Israel, will have to return to this option sooner or later. Former chief of the Shin Bet, MK Avi Dichter

Source: PIC

Caricature

On the remembrance of the ominous Balfour Promise

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Issue no 3  

Issued on: 07/11/2011

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