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Palestinian refugees hold Iraq border protest


BAGHDAD, 15 April 2007 (IRIN) - Hundreds of Palestinian refugees who are stranded on the Iraq-Syria border have staged an open sit-in since 12 April to draw international attention to what they say is their ongoing suffering. “Our situation is getting worse from day to day, yet no one sees what we’re going through and helps us get through this ordeal,” Qussai Mohammed Saleh, a 32-year-old Palestinian refugee, told IRIN in a phone interview from al-Waleed border camp. Saleh is a truck driver who was born, and later married, in Iraq. 

Film review: Belonging


“What does it mean to be Palestinian when you have never been to Palestine?” That question was posed during a recent visit to Qatar where I met a number of Palestinian high school students living there. Although each had a very strong sense of pride in his Palestinian identity — as well as an awareness that he was denied access to other nationalities and identities — none had ever visited Palestine. Like millions of other Palestinians in exile these students are forbidden from even visiting the country their families left, due to racist laws that make it freely accessible only to those Israel recognizes as Jews. 

A personal plea to Alan Johnston's kidnappers


What I really want, obviously, is for Alan to be released. One month is an unbearable amount of time in such circumstances and I honestly cannot imagine how much the boredom and solitude might be affecting him, despite his strength of character, his calm nature and sharp mind. To those people who are waiting, hoping, and expecting for Alan’s release every day, however, I want to convey a brief detail of what I went through when kidnapped in Gaza. I can in no way imply that Alan is going through the same: he has been held for much longer and is alone. 

Video: Youth Used as Human Shields in Balata Camp


The Fourth Geneva Convention states that “The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations” and in 2005 the Israeli High Court ruled that “You cannot exploit the civilian population for the army’s military needs, and you cannot force them to collaborate with the army.” However, this video shot in Balata Refugee Camp on 11 April 2007 makes it clear that Israeli occupation forces are still employing this illegal tactic, placing the Palestinian civilian population at great risk. 

Egypt: Israel Seen as Fighting Peace


CAIRO, Apr 12 (IPS) - Israel’s rejection of the Arab peace initiative, which was reiterated at last month’s Arab Summit, drew emphatic criticism from Egyptian commentators. Although Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert later called for peace talks with “moderate” Arab heads of state, most local political observers say Tel Aviv wants to have its cake and eat it too. “Olmert’s response was an attempt to normalise relations without responding to the initiative’s demands,” Mohamed Basyouni, former Egyptian ambassador to Israel and head of the committee for Arab affairs in the Shura Council (the upper consultative house of the Egyptian parliament) told IPS

Mary's Anger


The following is the story of Mary van Teeffelen-Morcos as recorded by Toine van Teeffelen on 10 April 2007: I went to the checkpoint with Yara and Tamer, after getting my Easter permit at the parish. As always, the rings and jewelry had to be put in the basket. Yara, too, took off her bracelet. She went in and out of the X ray each time putting off something new but the machine stayed beeping. Then the woman soldier behind the bullet proof glass asked her to put off her pants. In public. Would you allow your daughter to put her pants off just like that, with everybody around? 

Chipping at foundations of belief


Imagine if Iran decided to build a museum on the site of a 1,000-year-old Jewish cemetery, or if the Egyptian government threatened to destroy an ancient Jewish temple. Both scenarios would likely be met with outrage. Members of Congress might make indignant speeches decrying anti-Semitism. They might even threaten to tighten the spigot on aid to Egypt. They would be right to protest such acts. Yet both offenses against another religion are being committed today — by Israel. And the outrage is conspicuously missing. 

Chicago Palestine Film Festival shorts reviewed


The short films featured at this year’s Chicago Palestine Film Festival neatly demonstrate the wide spectrum of Palestinian cinema and cinema on Palestine. The shorts range from a contemplation of the mloukhieh dish (don’t make the mistake of comparing it to spinach!) to a young Palestinian boy in America trying to join the ranks of the cowboys in his neighborhood’s play of “cowboys and Indians.” Showing with Leila Khaled, Hijacker the opening night of the festival, Make A Wish stands out amongst the shorts. 

Political crisis hampering post-war reconstruction


BINT JBEIL, 11 April 2007 (IRIN) - Abdullah Hassan Nasrallah proudly displays a cheque for US $11,000, compensation to repair his home in Bint Jbeil, a Shia town in southern Lebanon that was bombed by Israel during the 2006 war with the armed wing of Hezbollah. The money was given to Nasrallah not by the Lebanese government, nor by Jihad al Binaa, Hezbollah’s construction wing, nor even by Hezbollah’s strategic Shia ally Iran, but by Qatar, a Sunni Gulf state that maintains trade relations with Israel. 

Palestinian Right of Return: EI co-founder in Doha Debates on BBC


The Palestinian right of return was overwhelmingly supported at the latest Doha Debate on March 28. The issue is seen by many as the most intractable barrier to a Middle East peace settlement. Yossi Beilin, a Knesset member and Chairman of the Meretz-Yachad party, and Bassem Eid, a long-time Palestinian human rights campaigner, argued for the motion. They were challenged by Israeli academic Ilan Pappe and Ali Abunimah co-founder of Electronic Intifada.net. Watch the latest Doha Debate: ‘This House believes the Palestinians should give up their full right of return’ on BBC World on April 14th and 15th.