Palestinians in Israel forced to study Zionist anthem

A leading Arab educator in Israel has denounced the decision of Gideon Saar, the education minister, to require schools to study the Israeli national anthem. Officials announced last week that they were sending out special “national anthem kits” to 8,000 schools, including those in the separate Arab education system, in time for the start of the new academic year in September. 

Israel's plan to wipe Arabic names off the map

Thousands of road signs are the latest front in Israel’s battle to erase Arab heritage from much of the Holy Land. Israel Katz, the transport minister, announced this week that signs on all major roads in Israel, East Jerusalem and possibly parts of the West Bank would be “standardized,” converting English and Arabic place names into straight transliterations of the Hebrew name. Jonathan Cook reports. 

Drug addiction on the rise in besieged Gaza

GAZA CITY, occupied Gaza Strip (IPS) - They are little white, yellow or green pills and are available almost anywhere. At the pharmacies or in the market, they are accessible, addictive and cheap. “I take them because it makes me forget, at least for a little while, that I’m in Gaza,” says Abu Alaa, a resident of the strip and father of four. “There is no alternative.” Looking to escape years of war, searing poverty and an unrelenting economic blockade, medical officials in the Gaza Strip say residents have developed a serious addiction to the narcotic painkiller Tramadol. 

Egypt close to brokering Hamas-Fatah agreement

JERUSALEM (IPS) - Under a complex twin-pronged initiative from the US and Egypt, Israel’s hard-line government is moving towards backtracking on two major planks of its policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories — resisting demands for a blanket freeze on all settlement building in the West Bank, and acquiescing in the end of its tight siege of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. 

Israeli banks accused of Holocaust profiteering

Israel’s second-largest bank will be forced to defend itself in court in the coming weeks over claims it is withholding tens of millions of dollars in “lost” accounts belonging to Jews who died in the Nazi death camps. Bank Leumi has denied it holds any such funds despite a parliamentary committee revealing in 2004 that the bank owes at least $75 million to the families of several thousand Holocaust victims. Jonathan Cook reports. 

Political arrests may derail unity talks

RAMALLAH, occupied West Bank (IPS) - Egyptian mediators have set 7 July as deadline for final Palestinian reconciliation talks in Cairo. The Egyptians say time is running out, and if there is no progress in July, they will no longer be prepared to arbitrate. Continued political detention and abuse of Palestinian prisoners by Hamas in Gaza and by the Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank could, however, derail the talks before they even begin. 

Palestinian in Israeli parliament: "We resist politically"

“We don’t live in the territories, we cannot throw stones and we cannot participate in the legitimate resistance against occupation,” Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) told Stu Harrison of Green Left Weekly. “We participate in the struggle so our own position as citizens. Our unique role is a political resistance and not, for example, an armed resistance.” 

Health risks on Gaza's coast

GAZA CITY (IRIN) - The World Health Organization (WHO) in the Gaza Strip, in conjunction with the Gaza health ministry, began a public awareness campaign this week to warn swimmers and fishermen of raw sewage discharges, and the potential dangers. Signs were placed in seven areas along Gaza’s 42-km-long coastline where untreated sewage is being dumped directly in the sea, according to WHO officer Mahmoud Daher in Gaza. 

Obama talks democracy, endorses dictatorship

CAIRO (IPS) - Egyptian officials are lining up to praise US President Barack Obama’s address to the Islamic world delivered in Cairo last Thursday. But local campaigners for political reform say the speech was disappointingly light on the issues of democracy and human rights. “Obama spoke very briefly and in very general terms on these two subjects,” opposition journalist and reform campaigner Abdel-Halim Kandil told IPS. “Despite the hype, Obama’s speech was little more than an exercise in public relations.” 

Hamas leader to Obama: Policy, not rhetoric

DAMASCUS (IPS) - The head of Hamas’s political bureau, Khaled Meshal, gave a qualified welcome here Thursday to the big speech that US President Barack Obama addressed to the Muslim world in Cairo. “The speech was cleverly written in the way it addressed the Muslim world … and in the way it showed respect to the Muslim heritage,” Meshal told IPS in an exclusive interview. “But I think it’s not enough. What’s needed are deeds, actions on the ground, and a change of policies.”