Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Fireworks Light Up Dubai as Gaza Sleeps in Darkness

Fireworks Light Up Dubai as Gaza Sleeps in Darkness
Today at 12:18am
Fireworks Light Up Dubai as Gaza Sleeps in Darkness
By Nadia W. Awad for MIFTAH
November 24, 2008

Dubai was the center of attention again last week as it spent $20
million on an exorbitantly lavish, all-night party to celebrate the
opening of its latest hotel, the Atlantis Palm Jumeirah. Described as
the party of the decade, no expense was spared. Two thousand celebrities
accepted an all-expenses-paid invitation to join the celebrations, with
Hollywood stars such as Robert de Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Wesley Snipes,
and at least one Olsen twin found sipping Dom Pérignon with Dubai’s
royal family. Kylie Minogue was paid somewhere in the region of $1 and
$3.5 million for a 45 minute performance, followed by DJ Sam Ronson and
others. The 1,539 room hotel boasts the exclusive Bridge Suite, which
alone costs $35,000 per night to stay in. We all know the Chinese like
to do things big, but the fireworks display at the Beijing Olympics was
dwarfed by the Atlantis’s display, which was seven times the size of the
Beijing show and could apparently be seen quite clearly from space.

But before you start wondering whether you’ve wandered onto the wrong
site or are reading an article from The Insider, rest assured – this
descriptive introduction does have a point! I don’t believe I was the
only person to read about the party and its copious expense without
thinking that the timing of the whole event was in very poor taste. As I
read a description of the elaborate fireworks display, I couldn’t help
but consider the 1.5 million Palestinians living in darkness in Gaza,
courtesy of an Israeli blockade on food, fuel and medical supplies– 20
days and counting so far. Meanwhile, the world is sinking deeper into a
global financial crisis which Dubai seems to be in denial of; millions
of people have and will lose their jobs; and military and humanitarian
crises are still ongoing in places like Darfur, Iraq, DR Congo and
Zimbabwe. Not to mention the 2,000 or so flights to Dubai for the A-list
celebrities that probably chipped off a little more from our melting
polar icecaps. Still, there was no evidence of concern as tycoons and
celebrities streamed into Dubai for what was reportedly the world’s most
expensive private party. In true capitalist style, the rich have once
again found a way to ‘party as the world burns’.

However, this article is not a criticism of capitalism, or the
activities of the world’s rich. There are plenty of other people who are
better adept at doing that job. Rather, my argument is with Dubai
itself, as an emirate of the UAE and a member of the Arab and Muslim
world. There is no denying that Dubai, along with the other emirates,
has given millions in aid to the Palestinians and the Palestinian
Authority, for which Palestinians are ever grateful. There is even a
section of Gaza named after Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the late
ruler of Abu Dhabi, who funded the construction of housing units there.
Nevertheless, there is more than one type of support that can be given.
Unfortunately, Dubai usually resorts to what it does best – it throws
money at a problem, just as it has thrown money to the Palestinian
people. When it comes to moral and political support, it is less
forthcoming. While we are aware that the original residents of Dubai
support the Palestinian cause, we rarely hear their government take a
controversial stance on it. True, like most other Arab and Muslim
nations, Dubai does not have diplomatic or political relations with
Israel. However, it has relations of another kind. In this regard, the
name Lev Leviev comes to mind.

Earlier this year, controversy erupted when Dubai announced it had
allowed the diamond magnate, Lev Leviev, to open two retail stores in
the Gulf emirate, including one just opened in the Atlantis. What it did
not announce was that Lev Leviev is an Israeli billionaire and a major
funder of illegal settlement construction in the Palestinian
Territories, including infamous settlements such as Har Homa and Maale
Adumim. Two of his companies, Africa-Israel and Leader Management &
Development, as well as several other subsidiaries such as Danya Cebus,
have been primary forces in the displacement of Palestinian villagers
from their lands in the West Bank. Leviev is also a major donor to the
Israeli Land Redemption Fund, which is known to use illicit means to
obtain Palestinian land for Israeli settlements. Granted, the Dubai
authorities initially displayed an unwillingness to award the Israeli
billionaire a license to do business in Dubai; but apparently those
feelings of reluctance were dispelled when Leviev used American and
European connections to persuade Dubai officials otherwise.

To donate millions of dollars in assistance to the Palestinians and then
to profit from business dealings with a primary funder of Palestinian
land theft is hypocrisy at its best. The lavish hotel opening last week
was just another example of Dubai’s lack of tact and sensitivity. The
Atlantis itself is owned by Solomon Kerzner, a South African
billionaire, but the cost of the party was split between him and the
Dubai government-owned Nakheel PJSC, also a developer of the hotel.
Perhaps business is merely that, business. But in the heart of the
Middle East, it would have behooved Dubai to express a little solidarity
with the suffering of its fellow Arabs, the Palestinians living in the
Gaza Strip, perhaps by donating some of the firework display funds to
purchase fuel for Gaza’s power plant, or by having a moment of silence.
Or perhaps by kicking Leviev out of the emirate, or at least, putting
pressure on him to refrain from illegal settlement building. Big
business is not the only goal in life.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband infuriated the Israeli
government when he informed them of his intention to press for EU
tariffs to be imposed on produce and products coming from Israeli
settlements. Londoners demonstrated outside a large supermarket to bring
attention to the fact that produce coming from the illegal settlements
is being sold in Britain under the misleading ‘West Bank’ label. On the
other hand, Dubai, who has more in common with us historically,
geographically, culturally and religiously, is helping to bankroll a
major Israeli settlement builder, indirectly causing untold misery for
Palestinians. Dubai is not the first Arab state to have business
dealings with Israelis, nor is it likely to be the last; but to have
dealings with such a man as Leviev helps to undermine efforts to stop
illegal settlement construction. As one Palestinian official in Gaza
said, “We never imagined that a day would come when we would have to
appeal to an Arab country to refrain from harming us and undermining our

To say Palestinians feel a bit betrayed is an understatement. We
definitely need humanitarian aid, but more importantly, we also need
Arab and other international nations to stand by us morally and
politically, shoulder to shoulder, in the face of an ever-worsening
Israeli occupation. And as always, actions speak louder than words.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

the slow ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem continues

Only feeble protest over family's eviction
Jonathan Cook, The Electronic Intifada, 21 November 2008

The middle-of-the-night eviction last week of an elderly Palestinian couple from their home in East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers is a demonstration of Israeli intent towards a future peace deal with the Palestinians.

Mohammed and Fawziya Khurd are now on the street, living in a tent, after Israeli police enforced a court order issued in July to expel them.

The couple have been living in the same property in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood since the mid-1950s, when East Jerusalem was under Jordanian control. The United Nations allotted them the land after they were expelled from their homes in territory that was seized by Israel during the 1948 war.

Since East Jerusalem's occupation by Israel in 1967, however, Jewish settler groups have been waging a relentless battle for the Khurds' home, claiming that the land originally belonged to Jews.

In 1999, the settlers occupied a wing of the house belonging to the couple's son, Raed, though the courts subsequently ruled in favor of the family. The eviction order against the settlers, unlike that against the Khurds, was never enforced.

The takeover of the Khurds' house is far from an isolated incident. Settlers are quietly grabbing homes from Palestinians in key neighborhoods around the Old City of Jerusalem in an attempt to pre-empt any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

What makes the case of the Khurd family exceptional is that it has attracted the attention of western consulates, particularly those of Israel's important allies, that is, the United States and Britain. They have appealed without success to the Israeli government to intercede.

In particular, the diplomats are concerned that the takeover of the Khurds' home will set a dangerous precedent, freeing settler groups to wrest control of most of Sheikh Jarrah. The settlers plan to oust more than 500 Palestinians from the neighborhood and build 200 apartments for Jewish families.

If the settlers can take control of other areas, such as Silwan, Ras al-Amud and the Mount of Olives, the Old City and its holy sites would be as good as sealed off not only to Palestinians in the West Bank -- as is the case already -- but also to nearly 250,000 Palestinians in the outlying suburbs of East Jerusalem.

Because the Palestinians expect East Jerusalem and its holy places to be the core of their state, the Sheikh Jarrah judgment effectively offers the settlers a blocking veto on any future negotiations.

That may be one reason why the Israeli government has shown little inclination to intervene in cases like that of the Khurds. In Israeli law, all of Jerusalem, including the eastern half of the city, is the "indivisible" capital of the Jewish state.

The eviction order also worries western diplomats because it opens up a Pandora's box of competing land claims that will make it impossible for Palestinian negotiators to sign up to a deal on the division of Jerusalem.

The Palestinian Authority has already pointed out to the consulates that nearly two-thirds of West Jerusalem's land was owned by Palestinians before the creation of Israel. Fawziya Khurd, for example, lived in Talbieh, in what is now the city's western half, before 1948.

If the settlers can make property claims in East Jerusalem based on title deeds that pre-exist 1948, why cannot Palestinians make similar claims in West Jerusalem?

The US involvement in the Khurd case demonstrates its desire to mark its red lines in East Jerusalem. The concern is that Israeli actions on the ground are seeking to unravel the outlines of an agreement being promoted by Washington to create some kind of circumscribed Palestinian state.

In the US view, the basis of such a deal is an exchange of letters between President George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon, the Israeli prime minister at the time, in spring 2004 in which the US president affirmed that Israel would not be expected to return to the armistice lines of 1949. Instead, he declared that Israel would be able to hold on to its "population centers" in the West Bank -- code for the established settlement blocs.

As a result, the current US administration has turned a blind eye to continuing construction in the main settlements, home to most of the West Bank's 250,000 settlers. The unstated agreement between Tel Aviv and Washington is that these areas will be annexed to Israel in a future peace deal.

In an indication of Israel's confidence about the West Bank settlements, the Israeli media reported at the weekend that Ehud Barak, the defense minister and the leader of the Labor Party, had personally approved hundreds of new apartments for the settlers in the past few months.

Israel's wall is being crafted to include these blocs, eating into one-tenth of the West Bank and leaving only a few tens of thousands of settlers on the "wrong side."

For the time being, the US is showing indecision only about two settlement-cities, Ariel and Maale Adumim. If the wall encompasses them, it will effectively sever the West Bank into three parts.

In relation to East Jerusalem, the White House has so far appeared to favor maintaining the status quo. That would entail the eastern half of the city being carved up into a series of complex zones, or "bubbles" as they have been described in the Israeli media.

Another 250,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem, though almost all of them reside in their own discreet colonies implanted between Palestinian neighborhoods. These settlements are considered so established by Israelis that most of their inhabitants do not regard themselves as settlers.

However, the more ideological settlers of the kind taking over homes in Sheikh Jarrah refuse to accept partition of the city on any terms. They are trying to erode the Palestinians' chances of ever controlling their own neighborhoods in the eastern half of the city.

Backed by powerful allies in the courts, government and municipality, the settlers look set to continue expanding in East Jerusalem.

Nir Barkat, the millionaire businessman who was elected mayor of Jerusalem last week, forged close ties with some of the most extreme figures in the city's settlement movement during his campaign.

Like his chief rival for the mayoralty, he has promised to build a new Jewish neighborhood, called Eastern Gate, that will be home to at least 10,000 settlers on land next to the Palestinian neighborhood of Anata.

The move, much like the eviction of the Khurds, has been greeted with silence from the government. Both developments are a sign of Washington's powerlessness to force even the limited concessions it expects from Israel in East Jerusalem.

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.

This article originally appeared in The National published in Abu Dhabi and is republished with permission.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Israeli soldier beats Palestinian laborers with rock


Israeli soldier beats Palestinian laborers with rock; three in hospital with multiple fractures

Date: 10 / 11 / 2008 Time: 13:29

Nablus – Ma’an report – Three workers from the southern Nablus governorate were beaten with stones by Israeli soldiers on Monday.

The men were taken to hospital where medical staff confirmed that several bones had been snapped.

When speaking of the incident Palestinian sources recalled the Israeli policy of the first Intifadah. During the late 1980s Israeli soldiers were outfitted with truncheons and encouraged to break the bones of Palestinians participating in protests.

The workers were identified as 20-year-old Mohammad Qawariq from Awarta and 20-year-old Mousa Barham from Beita in addition to another man from Qabalan who asked to remain anonymous for fear that Israeli authorities would take measures against him.

According to the men a group of Israeli soldiers confiscated their identity cards as the men headed towards work in Israel early Monday morning. The men are laborers and were en route to work via the Nil’in checkpoint north of Ramallah.

An eyewitness said that the men encountered the soldiers, who “stopped them with their rifles.”

“Then the Israeli soldiers asked the workers to say “we are not men” and when they refused to, they began beating them with the rifle butts,” the eyewitness continued. He described one soldier picking up a large stone and turning back to the workers, and striking them with the rock repeatedly. The witness said he believed the soldier was trying specifically to break the bones of the workers.

Three were transferred to Sheikh Zaid hospital in Ramallah where they were treated for multiple bone fractures. Medical sources described their conditions as medium to serious.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Demolition of Jahalin Bedouins homes, Palestine, 30/10/2008 / Demolitions d'habitations de Bedouins, 30/10/2008

(c) Anne Paq/Activestills.org, 30/10/2008.

Demolition of the homes of around 100 Bedouins near the Ma'ale Mikhmas settlement. The residents of the community are members of the Jahalin Bedouin clan, which was expelled into the West Bank during the creation of Israel in 1948, and has been forcibly moved several times since.

Démolition des maisons d'environ 100 Bédouins, près de la colonie de Ma'ale Mikhmas. Les habitants de la communauté sont membres du clan de Bédouins Jahalin, qui a été expulsé en Cisjordanie lors de la création d'Israël en 1948, et a été déplacé de force à plusieurs reprises depuis.

Demolition of Jahalin Bedouins homes, Palestine, 30/10/2008 / Demolitions d'habitations de Bedouins, 30/10/2008

(c) Anne Paq/Activestills.org, 30/10/2008