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Bringing the discussion home: The Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project


On 17 April the Olympia, Washington City Council voted 4-2 against official recognition of the Olympia-Rafah Sister City Project. Of the few news organizations following the story, that was the headline. But it wasn’t really the news. Possibly noteworthy was that more than 300 people attended the standing-room only public hearing on the project. People waited outside the building to get in to comment and observe. Forty-eight people spoke in support, 24 people expressed opposition. 

Tell Israeli government that new Hebron settlement is violation of international law


On 19 March 2007, Israeli settlers illegally occupied an empty four-story Palestinian building. This multi-unit Hebron building is close to the Kiryat Arba settlement of 7000 residents and is strategically located to link Kiryat Arba to the smaller enclaves inside Hebron’s Old City. Under Israeli law, settlers need permission from the Ministry of Defense before expanding their presence in the West Bank. Since they have not received permission, this occupation is illegal. 

Prelude to a third intifada?


It’s been more than three weeks since I last wrote. The reason is simple: things have been awful on the ground here in Palestine, leaving little time for reflection. As usual, Passover — the Jewish holiday celebrating freedom from oppression — was accompanied by tightening restrictions on Palestinians. While Jewish Israelis were feasting nearby, travel within the West Bank became difficult if not impossible, except of course for settlers who would breeze by the hundreds of Palestinians waiting for hours at checkpoints on their way home, to work, to the hospital, or elsewhere. Calling the Army was no help since most offices and services were closed for the holidays. 

Humanitarian situation worsened in OPT in 2006


JERUSALEM, 29 April 2007 (IRIN) - A recent United Nations report reveals that the humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) continued to deteriorate in the second half of last year, largely because of a collapsing economy. Many Palestinians fell further into poverty. The Gaza Strip was the hardest hit with about 80 percent of households earning less than US $1 a day, twice the percentage of those earning that little in the West Bank. 

Carry on your struggle: Open letter to Azmi Bishara


Azmi, my brother: You had the good sense to see what was coming — the security forces in cooperation with the judicial system of Israel decided to take steps against, what they call the “strategic threat”, of the Palestinian citizens of Israel, and to do away with their leaders. They want to return us to the days of martial law — to fear, to the permits, to the dark cells of the security forces, to the era in which only collaborators could claim at least some of their rights. 

Tensions Run High After Sunni Killings


BEIRUT, 27 April (IPS) - The killings of two pro-government Sunni Muslims has raised tensions across Lebanon. Rival political leaders have called for calm amidst fear that the killings could spark civil strife. The Lebanese police found the bodies Thursday of a pro-government supporter and a 12- year-old boy abducted earlier this week. The abduction was believed to be in retaliation for the killing earlier this year of a Shia Muslim opposition activist. 

Why Isn't Israel Talking to Hamas?


The blinkered government of Israel continues to undermine normalcy in Palestine and the peace process as the world is slowly but surely reaching out to initiate a dialogue with a new unity government of Palestine still dominated by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas). It is painfully obvious that Israel is no longer interested in a peace process leading to a two-state solution, and in any event won’t make a move in that direction without a push from the US. Meanwhile, the blurring of lines between legal and illegal foreign aid has been made clear for several years. 

Damaging Congressional Silence on Israeli Violations in Lebanon


In late January the State Department delivered a potentially explosive report to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The classified report asserts that Israel may have violated the Arms Export Control Act with its use of American-made cluster munitions this past summer in Lebanon. Multiple contacts to both offices indicate neither Biden nor Pelosi has any intention of pursuing the matter. In contrast, a congressional investigation 25 years ago helped persuade President Ronald Reagan to suspend cluster munitions to Israel for six years. 

One Unexploded Bomb Per Person


SRIFA, Southern Lebanon, 27 April (IPS) - Close to a million unexploded bombs are estimated to litter southern Lebanon, according to UN forces engaged in the hazardous task of removing them. The United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) was created by the Security Council in 1978 to confirm an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and restore international peace and security. After the war last year it has a new job on its hands. 

U.S. State Department Pushes for Palestinian Resettlement


WASHINGTON, 24 April (IPS) - U.S. State Department officials confirmed this week that they have been in discussions with Israel and the Kurdish regional government about possible resettlement solutions for the estimated 15,000 Palestinian refugees currently stranded in Iraq.”At this point, we have had no positive response, but we continue to work on this,” said Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, during a press briefing.